Investing in Our Future: The Mosque School

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Last Sunday, the 20th of November 2016, we opened the doors for children of the community to attend the Mosque School. A total of 47 students aged 5 to 12 years were registered by their parents to attend the school to learn Arabic, Qur’an and Etiquette.

It may be asked: why does a mosque in Scotland teach children Arabic and Qur’an? Our answer is: if we want to raise the next generation of youth confident in belonging where they are, and with their religious identity, we should make sure they have the tools to correctly understand their often misunderstood religion. And it just so happens that the language which this religion originally communicated in is Arabic! It’s a language with 300 million speakers, officially spoken in 22 countries, and has at least 11 words for love. Languages connect humans!

In the first week, all the attending students were assessed to determine their Arabic language levels and abilities. The assessment results enabled the school administration to organise the students into three classes taking into account age in combination with Arabic language competency. Currently, the school has a young beginners’ class, an intermediate level and a relatively advanced class.

The primary goal of the Mosque School is to equip the students with the language skills to be ‘conversant’ with the language of the Qur’an – the Book of their religion: reading, writing, speaking and recitation. The school also has an equally important role to meet the student’s social needs of being in an environment where they can feel comfortable with their Muslim identity, make friends and learn about the diverse cultures of the Muslim world.

20161127_124512Many parents have emphatically made the point that some of their own childhood experiences with Islamic schools (Madrasahs) had been negative. Some outlined being ‘scarred’ by some of the experiences to the point that affected their identities as Muslims relating to Islam. We don’t want this to happen in our school. For this reason, we are teaming up with education practitioners in Scotland to help us design our classes so that they teach Islam in as positive, fun and rewarding a way as possible for our children.

We have currently reached our limit for new enrolments to our school. However, inquiries can be sent to [email protected] 

Being Human in Faith: Exploring Hopes & Fears

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On Thursday evening November 24, we participated in an innovative theatre workshop to explore how families and communities respond to religious conversion. The event was part of the ‘Being Human’ festival which is a yearly “national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.”

The theme for the 2016 festival was ‘Hope & Fear’. Amidst the 300+ events organised by over 70 universities and research organisations in 36 towns and cities across the UK, came the invitation to participate in the ‘Transformations in Faith: Exploring Hopes and Fears’ theatre workshop in Edinburgh.

20161124_190147The theatre workshop had two main parts to it. In the first session, the participants went through a series of exercises where they ‘expressed’ their thoughts, feelings and emotions through actual ‘body language’ and performance. The interesting rationale behind this approach was that: using words in ordinary speech to express how we feel does not always reflect how we actually feel. The exercises in the first session therefore prepared us for the second part where we actually began addressing situations involving the theme of religious conversion.

Why did we participate? Well, to learn of course. We live in a world of complex challenges, and religious conversion is certainly something that we as an Islamic institution frequently encounter. Whilst some convert to Islam, we see others leave the religion. We therefore went along to understand ‘being human’ when faith and spirituality cross religious borders. We learnt many things, like: the importance of listening to what others have to say and “disagreeing with respect” – someone may well have full conviction in one path, but they need to recognise that others may well have theirs.

20161124_202015The eye-opening workshop was concluded by a ‘themed meal’ provided by the World Kitchen Team. The participants discussed food choice, religious identity and conversion to end the rich and meaningful event where a mix of people from all faiths and none came to learn from each other and discuss the challenging issues of religion, identity and faith.