Gaining Understanding Through Education

July 7, 2019

Written by Samantha Wiedner

 

Education, both formal and informal, shapes the lives of everyone. As soon as we are born, we start to learn things about the world we live in. We learn how to speak to those around us and how to express our emotions. We learn not to touch the stove while someone is cooking because we will get burned. Eventually, we get old enough to learn about beliefs. We are taken to a mosque, church, synagogue, temple, or whatever building correlates to our family’s religion, and learn about what people believe. Generally, children are brought up in the faith of their parents, and they may never learn enough about other peoples’ religions to actually understand them. Abdelkader was fortunate to have parents who wanted him to be well educated in all things– including other religions. His father took him on a two-year pilgrimage where he was introduced to Jews, Arab Christians, and Druze. He took time to talk with the followers of those faiths because he wanted to understand them. What he learned from this experience would be very influential in forming his values as an adult.

 

One of the most famous examples of this is when Abdelkader sheltered thousands of Christians in Damascus from an angry mob of Kurds, Arabs, and Druze. He knew it would be easier to give them up, after all, many of them were from a country he had been at war with not long before. However, Abdelkader knew that despite their nationality, and regardless of their faith, they were people before anything else. He understood their religions were not so different, and that the people themselves might not be either. Abdelkader knew his own religion well and understood that those he was protecting were not the same as those who invaded his country. A shared religion or nationality does not make each individual responsible for everything that was done in the name of their religion or country. Had Abdelkader given up the Christians, he would have been no better than the mob. From this, we see that his education shaped him into someone who brings people together rather than tears them apart. Abdelkader became a unifier and a bringer of peace. He represents what can happen when people are educated about different cultures and religions. Instead of breeding fear and ignorance, we can grow up in a world full of love and understanding.

 

The Abdelkader Education Project hopes to educate the world about the importance of understanding people, rather than just knowing about them. We hope to emulate the Emir in everything we do and lead by his example of being unifiers. By doing this, we hope to promote cultural literacy, civility, and respect between all people. In order to achieve this, we have various collaborators across the United States that work with schools and universities to spread awareness about Emir Abdelkader, his teachings, and his values. AEP offered the “Abdelkader Prize for Educators” between January and June 20019 in partnership with the Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College. Educators created lesson plans utilizing AEP’s curricula, materials, and resources then implemented them in their own classrooms. While the deadline has passed for this year, the educational resources and tools remain available for use. This post was inspired by Lesson One from the Islamic Networks Group Emir Abdelkader: A Muslim Hero for our Time. If you are a teacher or professor and would like to introduce a meaningful and historical lesson in the fall, visit our website for more information and guidance.

 

The more we understand each other and the more we educate ourselves, we are able to overcome many of the obstacles that separate people and cultures. How has education shaped your life? Have you learned new information that has changed a previously held opinion or belief? Comment your thoughts below!

 

Samantha Wiedner is a 2016 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize winner and editor of the AEP Blog.

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