Monday, May 15, 2006

A unique academic department ...

in the Muslim world. Sandro Magister relays an interview with Prof. Kazi Nurul Islam, "the creator and director of a department at the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh) that is dedicated to world religions. The major religions are taught by instructors who profess the same faith that they teach." [Christianity is taught by a Catholic priest.] Here's one interesting bit:
Q: One might say that your understanding of religion is essentially academic.

A: That’s not the case. My approach to the religions has never been simply based upon books: I have always wanted to encounter a concrete community living out the faith in question, visiting their temples and participating in their rituals and prayers. For me, the encounter with a religion is primarily a living and existential experience.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: In Varanasi, I was able to enter a temple where Muslims are forbidden access. I don’t have the religion to which I belong written across my forehead! This seems very important to me: it is only by participating in a community’s religious life that I can know that community from within and understand its faith. Following this, I spent some time in China in order to study Taoism and Confucianism. I also learned the rudiments of Mandarin Chinese.
Wow! Read on.

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