Sweden: Muslim schools try to 'fit in'

Sweden: Muslim schools try to 'fit in'

The Jordanian students weren't very impressed.


Muslim schools in Sweden are trying to find common factors between Islam and "fundamental values" of the secular state to answer debatable questions on religion that have arisen after 9/11, according to a Swedish professor.

Subjects discussed during religion classes at these schools must abide by rules of "equality, individual freedom and solidarity" of the Swedish community, where some 400,000 Muslims live with Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, constituting a nine million "heterogenic" population, Professor Jenny Berglund told students of the University of Jordan (UJ) last week.

The remarks are results of her PhD dissertation on Muslim schools in the Scandinavian kingdom, which she presented to some 50 members of UJ's Conversation Club on Thursday.

She explained that since 1993 when the first Muslim school was founded in Sweden, some 15 of these managed to couple Islamic teachings with the country's diversity and the state-controlled education system, which has been imposing for 13 years an "informative and unbiased" obligatory religious education curriculum for all schools.

According to this curriculum, students are supposed to learn about different faiths, without promotion of any particular religion, noted the professor.

With nine officially recognised as Muslim schools in Sweden, Berglund said some six to seven can be put in the same category as they are "Swedish-Arabic" institutions that teach Islamic religion. The state finances all public and private schools in the country.

Islamophobia has been going on since the 2001 Al Qaeda-led attacks on New York and Washington and different attacks by Islamist extremists, one of which killed more than 50 in London in 2005. She said that a discussion has been going on in Sweden over the purpose and curricula of Muslim schools.

"Many [Muslim] students have an inner struggle," Berglund remarked, explaining that this struggle has emerged between the religious and the European identity, especially after 9/11 and the Danish cartoons deemed insulting to Prophet Mohammad in 2006.

"Teachers try to tell them that 'it is ok, you can be both Muslim and Swedish'," she told the audience, adding that all Muslim schools in Sweden are mixed primaries that give one to three Islamic religion hours per week, including religious narratives, Koran texts and chanting.

The 40-year-old Södertörn University professor explained that each school writes its own Islamic curriculum, which triggers variation in religion interpretations. She added that many teachers seek the help of curricula coming from Muslim countries rather than develop their own.

"Many people think they are all the same, but in fact they come from different political and social backgrounds," she told the students, adding that the general idea is that these schools are "all extremists".

She said "quite a small" percentage of Muslim students go to these schools, while others are enrolled in public ones.


Source: Jordan Times (English), h/t Muslimska Friskolan

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