Special Religious Education: A justified option for Muslim youth facing unjustified pressures

Year: 2019

Author: Khaled, Leila

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The welfare and education of Muslim youth raised in Australia should be a concern to parents, educators, and society at large. Muslim youth have been unjustifiably affected by the destructive realities of Islamophobia. In research published in 2018, Australian Muslim youth are deemed to belong to the most disliked minority group in Australia (Markus, 2018, p. 69). Additionally, half of the Islamophobic attacks reported between 2014-2015 were aimed at Muslims under the age of 18 years or at Muslim mothers with their child/ren (Briskman et al., 2017).

To make matters more complex, Muslim youth have developed issues with identity and belonging, and some are involved in drugs, crime, and more recently violent extremism. Former NSW Police assistant commissioner Mark Murdoch, who headed the Counter-Terrorism and Special Tactics Command said, ""We are no longer dealing with people in their 30’s but we're seeing people of much younger ages becoming involved…so it stands to reason that any of these young people would be in the education system or may have recently been at school”. Furthermore, a Sydney Morning Herald report claims that most radicalised Australian youth attended state-run public schools and not religious schools.

The few turning to violent extremism were consistently found to be religiously non-practicing or newly practicing individuals who, with limited Islamic knowledge, misused Islam to justify violence. Conversely, most Muslim youth who practice Islam, display resilience and a more positive attitude towards Australia (Atie, Dunn, & Ozalp, 2017).

International Research and the United Nations agree on the importance of Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education. One of the overarching goals of such programs is to build resilience and promote global citizenship among youth.

Since quality religious education plays a crucial role in addressing some of these issues,my research aims to investigate the effectiveness of Special Religious Education (commonly known as scripture) as an intervention to develop character, identity and active citizenship of Muslim students in public high schools. This could reveal a mass scale, cost-effective and more appropriate measure for preventing violent extremism, countering effects of Islamophobia, and in turn addressing the education and welfare concerns of Australian Muslim youth.