BELGIUM - The Islamic Development and Research Academy in the city of Ghent (60 kms from Brussels) Saturday night organised a ceremony to mark a quarter century in the teaching of Qur’an and Islamic education.
The director of the Academy, Ibrahim Letoush told KUNA that the academy, founded in 1989, is considered to be one of the most important institutions in the teaching of the Qur’an not only in Belgium but also on the European level.
"It is a great day for me because my 17-year old son Anas today has become an Hafiz (one who memorizes the whole Qur’an)" he said.
The ceremony in particular honoured Mustfa Al Diwani from Morocco who is engaged in teaching the Qur’an since 1975 earlier in France and now in the Academy in Ghent.
Up to 15 young boys and girls who are now huffaz (memorized the whole Qur’an) were also awarded prizes including a trip for pilgrimage to Mecca. The youngest one is 15 years old. Another two hundred are now learning the Qur’an at the Academy.
Letoush said they were all born and brought up in Belgium and can now become Imams or scholars. He noted that it is very difficult to find Imams and scholars who were raised in Belgium and understand the Belgian and European context.
"But what we saw here today is that it is possible to train and educate Imams who are born and brought up in Belgium," he said.
Letoush stressed that "all of them are going at the same time to Belgian schools and are doing good in their studies. They are combining the two studies and the two disciplines," he said.
"Most of our young Muslims who take the extreme path know hardly anything about the Qur’an. If you ask them how much of the Qur’an you memorized, they will say perhaps a few surahs (chapters) and their understanding of the Qur’an is not correct," he said.
"We have to invest in our generation. The only way is to teach the correct understanding of the Qur’an," he added. There are about 25,000 Muslims mainly from rom Morocco living in Ghent. An estimated 600,000 Muslims live all over Belgium.
Dr. Tijani Boualaouali, Director of academic affairs at the Academy, is from Morocco and studied Arabic language and literature before moving to Netherlands where he lived for 15 years and then he moved to Belgium. He studied also religion and theology in the university in Amsterdam.
Tijani who was also a poet told KUNA that they are also training teachers of Arabic language. The Academy also issues cerficates for Halal products.
"When I moved to Europe I found that the situation is not in need of a poet but to serve the cause of Muslims in the West. From there my journey in the service of Islam began," said Tijani who has written about ten books on integration of Muslims in western societies, women in Islam, education, dialogue with non-Muslims, Islamophobia, etc.
He said the first generation migrants who came to Europe from countries like Morocco in the 60s and 70s played a major role in preserving the faith by building mosques and Islamic centres all over Europe.
He said that Moroccans are leading the Muslim world in memorizing the Qur’an.
There are 429,000 students learning the Qur’an in Morocco in 29,000 centres around the country in the traditional Moroccan way, he noted.
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