The Centre College faculty met yesterday to consider revamping our religion requirement.
For years we have required students to take two courses under the General Education heading of "Fundamental Questions." One of those courses must be either REL 110 "Biblical History and Ideas" or REL 120 "History of Christian Thought." For the second course they may choose from a wider array, which includes 110, 120, and REL 130 "World Religions" as well as a variety of philosophy courses. "History of Christian Thought" is an introduction to the whole Judeo-Christian tradition, as a fundamental basis for understanding Western civilization. "World Religions" is primarily about Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
The Religion program and the curriculum committee proposed changing these General Education requirements, which is a fairly big deal here. They proposed that the two basic choices be 110 (the same Bible course) and a new course, REL 150 "Western Religious Traditions." REL 130 "World Religions" would become "Eastern Religions." REL 120 (Christian thought) would move to the second array of courses.
What does this boil down to? Islam is being moved from "world religions" to "western religions" - understood as the Abrahamic faiths.
Coincidentally, my "Macrosociological Theory" seminar is working its way through Edward Said's Orientalism this week. Said's point is that Europeans invented an "Orient" that began with Islam, then incorporated the cultures of India and points east. Islam was made to seem more different from the other Abrahamic faiths than it really is. This has had bad consequences for centuries, and never more so than today.
The faculty passed this improvement to our General Education core without a dissenting vote.