Thursday, September 13, 2007

I should be doing homework right now.

This could alternatively be titled, Marie Gets Smacked Down By Her Islamic Civilization Teacher.

This semester I'm taking a course called Intro to Islamic Civilization, which so far has been history of the Islamic religion, and today in class we covered things like how Islamic law developed. This is an 80 person lecture class, but the teacher still encourages participation--in fact, it's around 15% of our grade. So there is a good bit of question and answer going on.

Question: Do non-Muslims come under Muslim courts?
Answer: For most civil things they have their own community courts

Question: What happens when a Muslim and a non-Muslim have problems--say, a non-Muslim murders a Muslim.
Answer: That would come under the Sharia (Muslim courts). Anything involving Muslims comes under Sharia.

So I sit there and ponder that little exchange (btw, those weren't my questions). Much brou-ha-ha is made in our textbook about the Islamic ideals of equality and justice. So I raise my hand and ask:

"What about the other way around? If a Muslim were to hurt a non-Muslim...?"
"That would be Sharia. Everything with Muslims is Sharia."
"I meant, what chance would the non-Muslim have of being heard...?"


"How are Muslims treated in Europe? What chance would a Muslim have outside Muslim lands? Don't ask that. Don't ask charged questions." And then she changed the subject while I sat there feeling a little stunned. I'd like to say that I looked studious and unflustered, but in truth I probably either had bright red ears or an open mouth. Possibly both. I've never had a teacher tell me not to ask charged questions. Irrelevant questions, maybe, but I've never been told to avoid questions that made the teacher feel uncomfortable.

I have a personality such that my initial reaction to this situation is to be embarrassed and feel bad about myself. I went to the TA's office hours after lecture (because I am lost on this week's material), and the first thing he told me was to keep asking those kinds of questions.

If I hadn't gone to office hours, if he had reinforced what the teacher had said, I'm not sure I would have said anything in that class ever again. Now, after a day of thinking about it, I'm--not mad, exactly, but something close to it. Of all places, university should be a place where you're free to ask questions...

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