An Investigation of Non-Muslim Religious Educators’ Attitudes, Perceptions and Experience in Relation to Teaching about Islam

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Non-Muslim educators who teach about Islam in programs of religion face
particular challenges due to the influence of distortions,
misrepresentations and stereotypes of Muslims in the media on their
students’ understanding and perspectives about Islam and Muslims. The
tendency to conflate the religion of Islam with the ideology of Islamism
posed certain epistemological and pedagogical issues which teachers in this
study were keen to address by advancing counter narratives about Islam
and Muslims.
This study has addressed a gap in the literature in the Australian
educational context concerning the influence of non-Muslim religious
educators’ experiences and sources of learning on their perceptions,
attitudes and pedagogy in teaching about Islam.
Drawing on the knowledge theory and ‘Ways of Knowing’ thesis of Jürgen
Habermas, this study interviewed fifteen teachers working in different
programs to investigate the types of learning represented in educator
experience and the cognitive interests which were reflected in the types of
learning which teachers reported. The study investigated the ways in which
a participant’s knowledge base, including pedagogical content knowledge,
and unique religious (or non-religious) positionality influenced his or her
pedagogical approach.
Themes which arose from the data highlight the importance which non-
Muslim educators attached to teaching about Islam adequately,
authentically and with integrity. A key theme was the value which
educators placed on sourcing and presenting authentic examples of the
lived practice of Muslims and Muslim perspectives, especially from
Muslims themselves or Muslim voices. A second theme concerned
educators’ disposition to advance a perspective of openness and respect
for Muslims and their religion and a disposition of fraternal interest and
appreciation. A third theme concerned educator advocacy for promoting
renewed ways of knowing about Islam and Muslims, often arising from their own experiences of meeting and talking to Muslims and self-reflection
leading to questioning prior ways of thinking and understanding.
Educators who had interrogated their own assumptions or those of their
lifeworld displayed a disposition to make a difference to others’ ways of
understanding and appreciating the religion of Islam.
The evidence demonstrated the value which educators place on
opportunities for dialogue with knowledgeable Muslims and supports the
argument and recommendation for the provision of targeted, relevant
professional in-service learning opportunities to enhance educator self-efficacy
through deeper encounter and dialogue with Muslims and self-reflectivity
on one’s own understanding and appreciation of Islam as a lived
Although this study did not set out to investigate the role of curriculum in
education about Islam, the findings demonstrate the significance and
necessity of strong curriculum goals and learning objectives to ensure that
education about Islam is sound, rigorous and relevant and not marginalised
within the religion program. Further research in this area of professional
practice is highly recommended.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Ministry
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Douglas, Brian, Principal Supervisor
  • Doherty, Bernard, Principal Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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