The Islamic Vocational Academy reaches out to the community
Jalalabad, January 29th 2013: Early in 2009, a conference of Islamic scholars from all over Afghanistan was held in the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad.
The Islamic Vocational Academy came into being as a direct result of that conference. Among other things, the conference called for Islamic scholars to “adopt other legitimate professions, such as the practice of medicine, trade and journalism.” The conference supported the efforts of PACT Radio, who organised the conference in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, in its establishment of media training centres in madrassahs and radio stations affiliated to madrassahs. It called for a narrowing of the gulf between religious (madrassah) education and maktab (school) education. These differences, the conference stated, “have created divisions in Afghan society.”
Four years down the road, the Islamic Vocational Academy is now ready to hold its first graduation ceremony. Along with giving certificates to its graduates, the Islamic Vocational Academy will be looking at progress made and problems encountered over the last four years. More importantly, it will be looking to the future.
The Islamic Vocational Academy was established by John Butt, an English convert to Islam who went on from a madrassah education to a successful career in the media. “All the skills that served me in my media career, I learned in madrassah,” John Butt says. “Why can’t other Islamic scholars have the opportunities that I had? More often than not, Islamic scholars are considered to be a backward force in society. That should not be the case. We are seeking to modernise the outlook of Islamic scholars, so that they be a powerful force for prosperity and progress – in accordance with the principles of their faith – in today’s world.”
Progress is inextricably linked with economic resources. As the Islamic Vocational Academy seeks to expand its work, so it can become a national and even international resource for graduates of Islamic madrassahs, it depends on the support of Afghans, both at home and abroad. “The benefits of the Islamic Vocational Academy for Afghans are self- evident. But are they ready to support this effort and invest in the future of their country?” John Butt says.
The answer will be determined at a conference to be held on Tuesday, January 29th, in the very venue in Jalalabad that saw the launch of the Islamic Vocational Academy some four years ago. The theme of the conference is The Role of Religious Scholars in Society. The conference will also determine the part that the Islamic Vocational Academy will be able to play in facilitating that role.