Starting from a historical perspective, Dr. Mahmud explained that English literature was first introduced as a subject in colonial India in 1830s, some 90 years before such subject was taught at Oxford University. Referencing Robert Eaglestone’s Doing English (Routledge, 1999), Dr. Mahmud underlined the use of English as a civilizing force by the British Empire. By making English the official medium of instruction in colonized India, the British aimed at Westernizing and civilizing the native population. Over time, teaching English literature became a prestigious profession in many colonies.
Dr. Mahmud called for a critical intervention in teaching English literature developing a three-pronged approach: (1) Molding the self and others with Islamic/religious values; (2) Looking at literary texts from an Islamic perspective, and (3) reforming the curriculum. With respect to first point, Dr. Mahmud singled out the importance of a teacher in Islamic tradition. A teacher should also be a murabbi, i.e., someone who instills noble values in his/her students. By looking at literary texts from an Islamic perspective, a Muslim professor provides a critical engagement with and reading of the text. Finally, reforming the curriculum would involve inclusion of prominent Muslim writers in English literary courses. Dr. Mahmud specifically mentioned two towering Muslim writers, Marmaduke Pickthall and Martin Lings, both of whom produced numerous literary works.
During the Q&A period, the discussion turned to the question of dichotomy and if there was really a problem in reconciling teaching English literature with Islamic values. The question of whose Islamic values are to be infused into an Islamic perspective was also considered.
Md. Mahmudul Hasan is Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He did a PhD in feminist comparative literature from the University of Portsmouth (UK) in 2007, and then taught at the University of Dhaka before joining IIUM. He was Scholar-in-Residence at the Centre for Contemporary Theory in Baroda, India (2008) and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies (KJC), University of Heidelberg, Germany (2009 – 2010). In 2008–09, he was Associate Editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (Humanities). His research focuses on postcolonial feminist literature, contemporary British Muslim literature, South Asian literature, and Islam and English studies. Some of his published works are: “The Islamization of English Literary Studies: A Postcolonial Approach,” The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 30(2), 2013 21-41; “Islam’s encounter with women’s rights and feminism: The need for greater engagement of Muslim women,” International Journal of Islamic Thought, 2(1), 2013 81-94; “Marginalisation of Muslim Writers in South Asian Literature: Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s English Works,” South Asia Research, 32(3), 2012 179–197; “Feminism as Islamophobia: A review of misogyny charges against Islam,” Intellectual Discourse, 20(1), 2012 55-78; “Free Speech, Ban and ‘Fatwa’: A Study of the Taslima Nasrin Affair,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 46(5), 2010 540 – 552; “Women and Domestic Confinement in Rokeya’s Work with References to Monica Ali’s Brick Lane,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (Humanities), 53(1), 2008 63-76; “The Orientalization of Gender,” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 22(4), 2005 26-56. He edited and introduced Crossing Boundaries: Musings on Language, Literature and Culture, Kuala Lumpur: IIUM Press, 2011. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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