Kashmiri imams learn English to spread Islam
23 October 2006
The Daily Times
Awantipora: Islamic scholars and clerics in Indian Kashmir are learning English in what they say is a bid to propagate Islams true message and remove misconceptions in the West about their faith. The one-year intensive course is being taught at the new Islamic University of Science and Technology just south of Srinagar. English is a global language and once we speak it, well be able to easily convey Islams true message through this language to people of other faiths, said student Irshad Ahmed who heads a seminary in Awantipora town, where the university is situated. The long-bearded students believe Islam has been wrongly portrayed as a religion of violence since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The university is run by a board that manages Islamic shrines in Kashmir and is open to students of all faiths. In the classroom of the university overlooking the riverside town, the imams listen attentively as their teacher tells them about parts of the body. As these students who speak Urdu and Kashmiri have never learnt any English, they need to start with the basics. This is a hand, teacher Nazia Majeed, who wears a scarf, slowly enunciates. At first, the clerics who have few dealings with women outside their families, were very shy with her but now they are used to her presence and are vocal in asking questions, she says. The one-year course which began in August has drawn 21 imams and Islamic scholars from different parts of Kashmir. University officials say next year more are likely to join as they have been fielding many calls from imams enquiring about the start of the next session.