Academics cite role of Islam as a key concern for global education community

March 4, 2005

The role of Islam in universities in developing countries is emerging as a central issue for the international higher education community, writes David Jobbins.

States such as Pakistan base their education systems on "sound Islamic principles" while Turkey's secular system is under sustained pressure. In others, fundamentalism is seen as a threat.

Colin Bundy, director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, told a conference in London on higher education in developing countries last week that universities in the Islamic world shared with their counterparts in the West the role of providing a place where ideas and opinions were exchanged and the turbulence of passionately held beliefs and disagreements was permitted.

Professor Bundy said that universities did not simply hold up an "admiring mirror" to the society in which they functioned.

"They provide a lens through which to view it - an appreciative, informed, reflective, critical and sceptical viewing mechanism," he said.

Other speakers at the conference, which was organised by the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, argued that universities in Muslim contexts offered an alternative to existing models without compromising academic freedom and institutional autonomy.

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