The Islamic world, a term that seems to describe a belt that crosses the north of Africa and into the Middle East and sometimes all the way into South-East Asia. When we hear it on the news, in movies, in video games, in any pop-culture, most people imagine the same sorts of things, women in veils, male-dominated society, towns ravaged by war, Islam being practiced openly and defining every moment of peoples lives, but is any of this true? Is that really how an entire region should be defined, how 1.8 billion people should be defined?
The goal of the Muslim world study tour was to answer these questions and to give me and 14 other Islamic studies students the opportunity to experience the Islamic world and gain insights that cannot be achieved through research completed within Australia. The 28-day trip took the group though Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, and Spain.
This blog will explore each county though three key topics before finally summarising the tour as a whole and how the trip has impacted on views previously based on assumptions and research.
The key topics chosen were;
Before continuing on to the trip itself however these topics need to be better understood, while they may seem simple when taken at face value as they address ideas that we might find common in Australia, in reality, the ideas themselves are far less simple, describing concepts far deeper than I initially believed.
Firstly, Democratisation, going into the tour describing democratisation was simple, it was the act of moving from one state of government, no matter what that might have been, into another, democracy. However, after experiencing the differing opinions of locals and seeing first hand how four different counties address the idea of democracy it is clear that democracy isn’t so black and white. With that in mind then, this topic will be addressed with far more nuance, not only looking at what the current state of the democratic process the countries are in, but also how they involve democratic processes, intuitions, and the will and voice of the people, into government and religious systems that at first glance may seem to be the antithesis of democracy.
Next, Modernisation, this topic underwent the most drastic change whilst on the tour, all thanks to a single lecture conducted by Professor Najib Bounahai, the lecture took place at EGE Rabat on the final day in Morocco. This lecture fundamentally changed how I approached this topic. Initially, this topic was to explore how the country had adapted and accepted modern technology, the internet, green energy production, cell phones, apps, things typically accepted to be ‘Modern’. However, Professor Bounahai raised a single point in his talk that completely changes this idea “A country can be technologically advanced, without being Modern”. With this in mind then the Modernisation section will address two points, firstly, a quick overview of the countries current technological standing before secondly a much more in-depth look at how the country is addressing modern ideals, this could include the Right to freedom of expression, Women’s rights, and LGTB rights, etc.
The final topic that will be covered is Architecture. This topic is being covered because it is the visual representation of the history of a nation. Being able to look at a countries architecture can answer so many questions; how they view their history (Are older buildings/architectural ideas maintained), how practical a culture is (Do buildings emphasise form or function?), what is the current state of the nation’s wealth (What is the state of recent development and construction), and even how conservative a people can be in demonstrating their wealth (Are homes and structures acting as a demonstration and declaration of wealth).