Contribution of Islamic Religious Education to Intercultural Values in Pluralistic European Cultures: Insights from Bosnia and Herzegovina
2. Literature Review
O mankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most godfearing of you. God is All-knowing, All-aware.(Qur’an, Al-Hujurat/The Apartments: 13; translated by A. J. Arberry)
4. Confessional Islamic Religious Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina Public Educational System and Intercultural Context
4.1. The Status and Goals of Confessional Islamic Religious Education from 1992 until Today
Coexistence based on the suppression of individual identities during the Communist era failed in BH, despite 45 years of concerted efforts. Only authentic pluralism and multiculturalism that simultaneously affirms individual identities and patriotism through promotion of BH supraidentity can succeed.
4.2. Affirmation of Intercultural Values through Islamic Religious Education in the Public Education System of Bosnia and Herzegovina
4.2.1. Affirmation of Intercultural Values through IRE Curriculum
- Understanding multiculturalism as a value in contemporary globalization trends and building relationships imbued with love, appreciation, respect, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue with all people, especially with others and those who are different. These values are reflected through thematic units such as: My behavior—“Good child” (1st grade); “Relation to man—Allah’s most chosen creation”, “Respect for the Other” (2nd grade) and “Caring for a neighbor, respect to the members of other religions” (2nd grade); I behave Islamic—“Let’s respect and tolerate others” (3rd grade) and “Faith teaches us to respect others” (5th grade);
- Values of common life—“Me and others together“; “Respect and good relations“ (6th grade) and Life in community—“A believer wants the same for others as he wants for himself” (7th grade);
- The understanding that one’s relationship towards others is also understood as part of belief, as an expression of love for God, as a source of positive emotions and one’s own happiness. The following thematic and teaching units align with this core value: For the love of God—“Unity and equality” (7th grade) and The search for happiness—“Religious tolerance” (9th grade);
- Seeing diversity as wealth and a sign of God’s grace: Diversity of the world—“Wealth and diversity of languages” (4th grade) and “Diversity among people as a sign of God’s grace”, “The value of human life” (4th grade);
- Valuing and preserving the cultural heritage of the homeland, state, European and world cultural heritage through developing a sense of belonging to Bosnia and Herzegovina. These lessons support elaborated values: Journey through Bosnia and Herzegovina—“My homeland Bosnia and Herzegovina”, “Bosnia and Herzegovina—a country of rich diversity” (3rd grade); “Tradition, culture and coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, “My contribution to protecting the homeland” (4th grade); Our homeland and identity—“Bosnian encounter with Islam” and “Ahdnama—Bosnian freedom map” (9th grade);
- Universal religious values, giving value to other religions and emphasizing the continuity of faith. Through the IRE curriculum, students are sensitized to the recognition of universal religious values and the understanding of different ways of expressing faith, prayers, holidays, traditions and so on. This education is facilitated through numerous thematic and teaching units: God’s Messengers before Muhammad—“God’s Messengers—teachers of their nations” (3rd grade); “Revelations are a grace to people” (5th grade); Faith in human life—“Faith ennobles us“, “Continuity of belief“, “Messengers of God”, “Living with differences“ (6th grade); My prayer to God—“Different forms of prayer”, “Occasions in which I address God”, “Places of praise and glorification of the Creator“ (6th grade); Diversity in my neighborhood—“Homeland is built with love”, “Catholic and Orthodox holidays”, “Jewish holidays”, “Holidays of members of other beliefs“ (5th grade) and I learn from others—“Wisdom in judgment”, “The melody and messages of the Psalms”, “The graces of God bring us closer to God”, “Refreshing understanding through the Bible and the Gospels“ (8th grade);
- Encouraging solidarity towards members of other beliefs and recognition of the contribution of non-Muslims in the protection of Muslims at the time of Muhammad, p.b.u.h.: From the life of Muhammad—“Christians have encouraged and supported Muslims”. This topic discusses the solidarity of the Christian king Negus in Abyssinia who kindly received a group of Muslim refugees from Mecca persecuted by mushriks (polytheists), giving them full freedom to practice their religion (5th grade).
- Islamic Religious Education emphasizes dialogue as a dynamic component of intercultural education and as a feature of Islam. This emphasis can be observed in the following teaching units: Islam and the culture of dialogue—“Islam the faith of dialogue” (1st grade, secondary school) and History of Islam—“The meeting of Islam with other cultures” (3rd grade, secondary school);
- Islamic Religious Education promotes peace and elimination of violence. Students learn about people’s mutual relations and people’s relations to the world, as well as issues related to achieving fair and peaceful interpersonal and social relations: “Violence, Injustice, War and Terrorism” (4th grade, secondary school);
- There are no stereotypes regarding religions, women or minorities within the curriculum. For instance, the topic “Women in Islam” promotes the idea that women are the honor of the Muslim community and more broadly humankind.
4.2.2. Inclusive Intercultural Practices and Projects within IRE
- Intercultural values are fostered through Professional Development of IRE Teachers. Professional Development of IRE Teachers through annual mandatory and supplementary seminars included interreligious and intercultural themes in programs. The Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo periodically organized seminars following the Memorandum on cooperation between the Ministry of Education in Sarajevo and the Faculty. Some related topics for professional development of teachers presented by different specialists, practitioners and representatives of NGOs included: Presentation of the lesson Respect and Good Relations as part of Education for Peace project (2011); Religious Education and Culture/s; Peace Education and Religious Education; Workshop on Conflict Resolution; How to Talk About Religion to Young People and Inclusive Education as a way of overcoming prejudice and social distance. (Data from the Pedagogy Institute of the Ministry of Education in Sarajevo and the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo.);
- Affirmation of interreligious and intercultural dialogue through joint programs and educational projects in schools.
As an Islamic religious teacher who has worked in several schools over the course of 25 years, I have rich experience in dialogue and interreligious projects. One of the projects is the workshop for parents on “The Richness of Diversity”, which was co-organized by a teacher of Orthodox religion and me. At the workshop, along with the dialogical conversation, we participated in holiday festivities such as exchanging holiday recipes, painting Christmas eggs, and preparing Eid packages. The goal was to strengthen parents’ and students’ intercultural and interreligious competences, as well as our own. The second co-teaching project alongside a teacher of another religious tradition involved exploring intercultural topics with our students. With the help of a teacher who instructs a non-confessional alternative subject, “Society, Culture, Religion”, I organized dialogic meetings among students through various extracurricular activities, such as visits to religious buildings (mosques, churches, cathedrals, and synagogues). Dialogue between students of different religious affiliations and non-religious students attending both the alternative subject and IRE resulted in a rich reflection of personal experiences and appreciation of diversity.(EF., IRE teacher at M. M. Bašeskija Primary School, Sarajevo)
My teaching of Islamic Religious Education is recognized by the fact that some students of other religions, as well as students who are children of mixed marriages, voluntarily come to IRE classes even though they are not formally enrolled. They attend IRE classes either out of curiosity, or the need to learn more about Islam in general, be that Islamic values or the view of interpersonal relations. Of course, these students are not graded within IRE classes. The most important thing is communication, respect, and dialogue in these situations. Within the framework of certain topics that are represented in the curriculum of Islamic Religious Education, we visit religious buildings of other religious traditions (churches, cathedrals, synagogues) together with the History teacher from our school and in cooperation with representatives of religious communities.(ED., IRE teacher at Medical High School Jezero and High School of Transport and Communications, Sarajevo)
In Islamic Religious Education classes, when we cover intercultural and interreligious topics, I invite students and teachers of other religions from our school to our dialogical classes. We talk about celebrating religious holidays with various cultures, customs, traditions, and experiences within our families and communities. This dialogue in the classroom between students and teachers of different religious traditions and cultures within IRE classes deepens and refines our relationships, develops our ability to interact sensitively and competently.(SH., IRE teacher at Alija Nametak Primary School, Sarajevo)
5. Higher Islamic Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Intercultural Context
5.1. Development of Higher Islamic Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina—Background
5.2. Religious Teacher Education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies (Sarajevo University) and Affirmation of Intercultural Values
- Integration of intercultural values in the curriculum: Intercultural competencies intended to be developed through the content of various courses of the curriculum;
- Collaborative and participatory projects: Participation in collaborative projects that favor the acquisition of intercultural competencies;
- Educational seminars and workshops related to intercultural education;
- Dialogue groups hosted by the Faculty.
5.2.1. Integration of Intercultural Values in the Curriculum
5.2.2. Collaborative and Participatory Projects
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
The concepts of tolerance have various meanings and can be used in different ways and for different purposes. Classical tolerance also implies the existence of boundaries because not everything can and should be tolerated, such as injustice, oppression, and harming others, according to Cohen (2004). More modern understanding of tolerance is common in social psychology and sociology and defines tolerance as openness, being well disposed toward cultural others, or having a generalized positive attitude toward them (Verkuyten and Kollar 2021).
International organizations proposed policies that promote tolerance. For example, in 1996, the UN General Assembly invited member states to observe November 16th as the International Day for Tolerance, following from the UN Year for Tolerance in 1995. Tolerance in Declaration of Principles and Follow-up plan of Action for the United Nations Year for Tolerance (Article I, 1.1), is defined as “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the endless richness of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and liberty of conscience…” (UNESCO 1995). In this work the term tolerance is used based on the definitions proposed by international organizations.
Focus groups involved primary and secondary school religious teachers as a part of a seminar and workshops for Professional Development of IRE teachers organized in 2018 at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo. Focus groups of forty two teachers were undertaken in the workshops related to intercultural values to explore the most common intercultural and interreligious educational activities within the confessional IRE school subject. Part of the workshop included teachers describing and reflecting on their personal experiences in the classroom. Among the teachers were also those who are mentors in schools for the teaching internship students of the Faculty of Islamic Studies.
Participants’ names provided in the paper are pseudonyms.
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Sijamhodžić-Nadarević, D. Contribution of Islamic Religious Education to Intercultural Values in Pluralistic European Cultures: Insights from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Religions 2023, 14, 453. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040453
Sijamhodžić-Nadarević D. Contribution of Islamic Religious Education to Intercultural Values in Pluralistic European Cultures: Insights from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Religions. 2023; 14(4):453. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040453Chicago/Turabian Style
Sijamhodžić-Nadarević, Dina. 2023. "Contribution of Islamic Religious Education to Intercultural Values in Pluralistic European Cultures: Insights from Bosnia and Herzegovina" Religions 14, no. 4: 453. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040453