September 11 is indeed an apt day to be reporting that Saudi Arabia’s Islamic University of Medinah, is conducting courses in moderate Islam. The students are both Saudi and international, which is a good thing because extremist Islam is an international problem.
Now, all that needs to be determined is how ‘moderate’ is being defined and taught. It became apparent 12 years ago, that moderation was not being taught in Saudi schools. Instead, a xenophobic, hyper-conservative, and hate-filled interpretation of Islam had made its way into at least some of the schools and universities. Since Saudi Arabia became the victim of extremist attacks in 2003, however, reforms have been put into place, textbooks revised, extremist teachers and preachers removed from their positions. The name of Usama bin Laden has gone from one which received favorable popular mention to one that is popularly scorned.
More needs to be done, however. Saudi clerics continue to pop up on TV, in online forums, and it Twit-streams spouting both ridiculous and extremist screeds. While many efforts to rein in the extremists have been taken and continue to be taken, the task is not finished.
The Islamic University of al-Madinah in Saudi Arabia has sponsored 2,053 students from more than 130 countries to be enrolled in the new academic year in programs dedicated to values of moderate Islamic teachings and research.
The university, founded in 1961, has been enrolling 168 students born to expatriates working and living in the Kingdom.
“The application process is made online and can be accessed anywhere in the world,” Mohamed al-Aqla, the dean of the university said, quoted by Gulf News on Tuesday. However, “all applications listed are thoroughly reviewed by the admission committees,“ he added.
Potential candidates are provided with necessary scholarship aids based on their countries need of specific Islamic teachings. “ Once an applicant is admitted, he receives and email informing him about the admission and providing them with visas approvals and flights tickets” al-Aqla told Gulf News.