Islam students at LUC

Archive for April 2015

I took this course with the understanding that I would gain a greater understanding of Islam from a theological perspective.  I am from a small, fairly homogenous town in the South so my current knowledge of the religion and tradition are minimal at best. What I did not know is that the course would also include a more cultural component. My initial reaction to watching films in class was slight annoyance, but it made me realize that I already “know” something about Islam. However, that “knowledge” is wrapped up in narratives that are not always the most favorable to the Islamic tradition and the Middle East in general. Viewing both films with certain questions in mind (interaction of race and religion, how the Iranians are portrayed, etc.) has highlighted biases within myself that I was previously unaware of. Despite initially being a little off put by watching films in class, I see that participating in exercises such as that while holding a certain mindset can be a valuable educational opportunity. It provides an opportunity, both in the classroom and in daily life, to look at things with a slightly different perspective.

In response to audirs7:
I had also never really considered the interconnections between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I had especially not thought there was a connection between the Abrahamic traditions and Buddhism and Hinduism. I was happy to be introduced to this concept. It was very interesting to think about how the various traditions viewed one another. As an individual raised in a Catholic household in an almost exclusively Christian community, I had never before considered that the Christian tradition could be viewed as just an offshoot. It was also a new concept for me to consider the other major traditions being in a historical relationship with my own. On the matter of Argo, I agree that it heavily utilized Islamophobia. When viewing the movie with certain questions in mind (about how various religious/ethnic groups are portrayed) it was quite apparent how even entertainment based media can become a source of negative influence against certain groups of people. ​

This week of class was our last lecture. We finished the film Wadjda. I really liked the ending, as it did turn out to be kind of a Disney movie. On a somewhat deeper level it was meaningful to see an individual flourish even in circumstances that were maybe not all that favorable to her. However, it was sad to see a situation where something like religion is being utilized to oppress people. Individuals should be free to pursue the things that make them happy, so long as they are not interfering with the similar freedom of others. If riding a bike makes you happy and brings you joy and fulfillment, then you should be able to ride a bike to your heart’s content. It is not beneficial to have a system that systematically keeps people from reaching their full potential with regards to leading a joyful life. Individuals should be allowed to flourish free of unnecessary restrictions.

In response to enternamehere,

It was very interesting to analyze who was enforcing the norms in the film. If a situation exists that has a system that oppresses women, you would think it would be the ones in power who continue to enforce it. It would make sense for the men to perpetuate a system that keeps them on top. However, we saw in the film that is sometimes women who are the direct enforcers. The society and system have reached a self-perpetuating point where the oppressed are so far in their oppression that they think they actually should continue to be oppressed. As such, the oppressed are the ones who mainly help to maintain the status quo. I am reminded of a book called Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire that expresses this sentiment exactly. It is only when the oppressed recognize the liberative force that they hold within themselves that they can began to change the oppressive situation.

We did not have class this week so instead I decided to do some self-reflection on my experience within the class. It has been both academically stimulating and personally rewarding. It has been so interesting to learn about the many different aspects of Islam and the tradition surrounding it. My knowledge of the religion and its practices is so much clearer than it was just a few months ago. I still do not know a ton about Islam, but I feel like I am definitely better informed. I now have a little bit more of an idea about what is really going on when I see some news headline that is pertinent to Islam. I also feel like I can relate to individuals who practice Islam in a new way because of the knowledge I have gained. I appreciate that the class has not only increased my knowledge of what the nuts and bolts of Islam are, but also that it has let me find personal meaning in some of the aspects of Islam that we have discussed.

In response to enternamehere,

I really enjoyed the sentiment you expressed about having a hard time relating to a Creator that had name and a face. It really personally resonated with some of the experiences of struggle I have had. I too find it difficult to relate to God when we put the divine in a box. That is a very human thing to do. I think most of us are inclined to label things and categorize them. You simply cannot do that with something like the divine. And if you do try to do that, you just end up realizing that the divine is in everything. Everywhere you look the divine is present. Further, everything around you can serve as a signpost to the divine.

This week for part of class we attended a lecture by Dr. Brannon from Northwestern University. He was discussing the involvement of various Islamic communities in the apartheid transition in South Africa. He told us about how various groups viewed the situation. He also explained some of the responses particular Muslim communities had to the situation at hand. This week we also started watching a film called Wadjda about a little girl in an Islamic community. She was not necessarily conforming to the situation around her. As such, she ran into problems with individuals in her community. In particular, the principal of the school she attended greatly disapproved of some of her behavior. Wadjda also wanted to buy a bike and learn how to ride. This was very against the norm for a young girl in her situation. The movie also featured some aspects of other traditions pertaining to appropriate behavior as well as particulars about some married couples.

In response to micks05,

I also thought it was interesting to think about all the different ways that the Islamic tradition in particular has been adapted by various societies. It is interesting to consider how much the society has shaped the practice and schools of thought within the religion. Conversely, it is interesting to consider the extent that the practice and thinking of the religion has impacted and shaped the particular society. I think there is always some degree of humans taking things and twisting them to their own ends. I think this is particularly easy and harmful in top down situations like many religious traditions have. This makes it easy for a few not so good people to corrupt and pervert something like Islam to oppress others and increase power and wealth for themselves. I think many bad things that come from religions actually just come from certain people within the religion.

This week we Professor M. taught us about the different steps one has to take on the path to the Divine.  We discussed how the Islamic paradigm really focuses on the transformation of the creature. This requires a lot of reflection and sometimes we have to do this reflection with varied viewpoints. It was interesting to think about getting to a point where you see the divine everywhere. You can see it in a flower, a tree, a relationship, a picture, in a breath or word. It is so interesting to think that where ever you look you can see something that is made by the divine. As such, every single thing can be a sign post towards the divine. Each experience can show a new truth about the divine. Only by seeing the divine in everything can we truly appreciate how expansive and all-encompassing the divine is. This process of seeing the divine also allows us to look back on the presence of the divine even within ourselves.

In response to enternamehere,

I too was interested in the concept of needing reassurance of the divine’s presence in order to truly believe. It is also interesting that that reassurance that is necessary is not always present in our lives. That is why we have to have faith in all that we do. There is a path that is laid out before us that can lead us to the divine. The path is not always the easiest, but we must stay on it, even through the hard and difficult times. We have to have faith that the path we are on is the correct and true one. We can reaffirm ourselves on that path through sharing in our faith with those that are also on the path, helping one another along on the journey towards the divine.

During class this week we finished the movie “A Separation.” We also spent time in class doing some self-reflection. We were asked to compile a list of the ten most impactful moments in our lives. I did not have much trouble coming up with that many. It was interesting how so many of those moments are skewed closer to the current time. I am not sure if this is because I am more capable of having impactful moments because I am more mature. It might also be because I am at a place in my life where I have more opportunities for them. One of the most impactful moments in my life was on my trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. I was able to go on that trip as part of the Alternative Break Immersion program. That is only possible because of the institution I am currently studying at.

In response to drcucumber21,

I also found the exercise of identifying moments to be a pretty interesting one. It revealed to me some of the ways I have changed as a result of these moments. I think it is pretty telling that a lot of these moments have happened during my time at Loyola. A lot of them were good moments, but not all of them were. It was a good exercise in self-reflection to look at my life and see some of my greatest consolations, but I also had to look at the times of desolation as well. I am glad to be in a class room environment that encourages moments of self-reflection like we had. It is a blessing to be at an institution that is so focused on academics while also understanding that there are other things that factor into a meaningful college experience, and ultimately a meaningful life.

This week we talked about the concepts of justice and injustice in terms of Islam and Islamic culture. We learned a number of specific ways that justice can be created and maintained. Justice is really all about a wholesome balance. It is conceptually about establishing a harmony and an equilibrium with the world around you. We learned some specific ways that justice can be carried out that I found very interesting. In a just world, people can be assured of things like safety, fair trade, freedom from fear, and the freedom of practice of religion. Many of these things line up with what secular individuals would consider justice. One thing that we also talked about that was particularly pertinent to students was loans. I thought it was so interesting that something like loans have specific ideas of justice around them. Situations like student loans with insanely high interests rates would be considered wrong in the Islamic tradition.

In response to freefly37,

I think it is interesting how you connected the somewhat abstract ideas we talked about with the concrete examples from today’s world. It was interesting to think about how some of these ideals would be applied to situations like the housing crisis when the housing bubble burst. It is also interesting to consider how someone living by these ideas of justice might look at the CEOs and boards of large international banks that make a great deal of money by using some not so great practices. What would someone living with the Islamic idea of justice think is an appropriate response in that situation? I too think it is interesting how similar some of the ideas of justice are to conceptions in my own tradition or even within the secular realm. It is interesting to think that so many people from such widely varied backgrounds hold the same idea of what justice is.