Author: Heugh, Kathleen, Memon, Nadeem
Type of paper: Symposium
Universalist assumptions of the nation state and the scientific method are assumed to have origins in Ancient Greece. Yet, the philosophical footings of the Hellenic Empire were of plurality and relationality held in triangular balances of epistemology, ontology and cosmology; and of logos, pathos and ethos. The pyramids of Egypt and earlier prototypes in Kush demonstrate this relationality much earlier, and it continues in the present for many communities in Africa, the Américas, the Asia-Pacific, and minoritised peoples in Europe and North America.The difficulty with universalist assumptions in western-northern public education, is that a singular epistemology, stripped of relationality with ontology and cosmology, implicated in the ‘colonizer’s model’ (Blaut, 1991), has little to offer. It is alienating for communities with world views in which pasts, presents and futures do not require temporal boundaries, where being in and with community and belief are essential to sustain life. Secularisation of education, coinciding with the end of overt European colonisation, and the rise of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and Asia, serves to prolong rather than release coloniality and totalitarianism. We consider secularisation of public education in relation to communities that observe Islam. Some of these communities exist in precarity, as mobile pastoralists on the fringes of the Somali and Afar deserts, and conflict-prone borders of East Africa. Ironically, borders become frontiers of opportunity for spiritual leaders and teachers to provide Islamic education far from the metropole. In contrast, the dismantling of Islamic wisdom and ways of knowing in education in the metropoles is being met with a rise of independent Islamic schools in which Islamic traditions, and conceptions of knowledge and epistemologies require different pedagogies to teach ‘in different ways’ (Ogunnaike, 2018). The purpose of Islamic schools is to protect Islamic identities, wisdom, and practices, and balance state-mandated curricula with religious worldviews. A public secular education devoid of faith-based epistemologies is inadequate and inappropriate for Muslim students. Effort to redress secular erasures thus requires a remapping of content with method. Gesturing towards decoloniality may require a double consciousness, what Kusch refers to as ‘mestizo consciousness’ to secure safe passage across ‘the abyssal divide’ (Santos, 2012). Re-engagement with ‘cosmological argument’ may guide public education towards solidarities and pluriversal philosophies. These are ones that include students for whom faith is inseparable from life, and students who have not yet encountered the value of belief and being held in balance with knowledge.