The idea is that young children will become used to diversity naturally and hopefully grow to become adults who are respectful of religions other than their own.
FOR three consecutive years I’ve been invited to speak to a group of Norwegian students visiting Malaysia about the work that my colleagues and I do on Muslim women’s rights.
These students are learning about different faiths in order to be better able to teach comparative religion back home in Norway.
Instead of merely learning about all these religions in theory, every year, their university organises a trip for them to visit various South-East Asian countries to observe first-hand how these religions are lived and practised.
In Norway, every child learns about comparative religion from the age of six with the idea that they will grow up understanding the diversity of faiths and beliefs in their society and the world today, and respecting all the faiths equally.
The books they use are vetted and approved by the respective religious authorities, so, for example, the Norwegian Islamic authorities approve the books on Islam.
The students who came to listen to me will eventually become the teachers of those Norwegian school kids.
Lest anyone think they only get to listen to “liberals” like me, they also meet and talk to all sorts of people with knowledge on the religious landscape in our country, including in our universities.
This is to ensure that they get a balanced picture of things in Malaysia.
I was really impressed by this approach by the Norwegian government to address potential issues in a rapidly diversifying society.
Obviously, one of the ways to avoid conflict in society is by ensuring that everybody understands each other.
by MARINA MAHATHIR.