Call me crazy—or a heretic—but I always thought that religious studies were more within the field of the social sciences than the hard sciences. But at Aliah University, an institution of the Indian government, Islamic and Arabic studies are part of the engineering and science courses:
“A very basic knowledge of Islam and Arabic will be a part of the course structure of even engineering and science disciplines. Even in the IITs, the students take up one foreign language. So there is no harm in talking Arabic, which is spoken across 22 countries,” said Syed Shamshul Alam, the vice-chancellor of the university, who was once the head of department of mathematics at IIT, Kharagpur.
The university, set up in 2008, has introduced 12 integrated post-graduate courses from the ensuing academic session. Four courses of mathematics, physics, chemistry and statistics, of the 12, are aimed towards basic sciences while disciplines like computer science and engineering, electronics and communication, electrical engineering and civil engineering along with conventional courses on Islamic Theology, Islamic Studies have also been started.
But to maintain the character of a minority institution, the university will also incorporate Arabic and Islamic studies in the syllabi of the engineering and science courses. The V-C said that there is no problem in students taking up science with Islamic studies. On the contrary it would clear misconceptions about Islam among educated Indians, he added.
I’m not sure what those misconceptions are. If it’s that Islam is nothing but a bloody, war-waging religion, that is something that could be cleared up in a course offered through a religious studies department. If, on the other hand, it is a belief by Hindu Indians that Islam is not, as a discipline, rooted in scientific reality, well then I guess Aliah University has picked the correct venue.
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