Since studying a wide variety of history at university, when I look back at my years in school, I wonder why I wasn't taught about Islamic history or the Haitian Revolution, naming just two topics! Did you know that the early Islamic caliphates were extremely diverse entities, not just ethnically, but religiously too? Sure, this is somewhat of an oversimplification, but in the Umayyad Caliphate (c.661-750 CE), Muslims, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians lived side by side with each other.
Sure, there were restrictions that non-Muslims faced, such as what they could wear, how tall they could build their homes, and with building new places of worship which they were not supposed to do; though this one especially was flouted often! Despite this, forced conversions of non-Muslim communities was rare. With a payment of the poll-tax, the non-Muslim residents of the Islamic world could continue to follow their own traditions and faiths.
I found this fascinating when I learned this. Far from the forced conversions of Christians, the Islamic world in the medieval period was highly cosmopolitan. Europe at this time was far less tolerant of other faiths, especially when one considers how the Jews were treated in many areas, such as during the rein of Edward I (of England) in 1290 when he expelled the Jewish community.
Yes, I will say it now, the medieval world, and the many Islamic polities was not anywhere near as tolerant as our society is today (that being if our own society is truly tolerant of difference), yet it is amazing at how diverse these polities remained. Still, historians have found that under the Abbasid Caliphs, the dynasty which succeeded the Abbasids following the 'Abbasid Revolution' , ruling from 750 CE, there was more pressure on non-Muslims to convert, as many communities struggled to afford to pay the poll-tax.
What I wanted to highlight here is just a new area of history which I have discovered and which I never expected. Moreover, this area of history is highly is important and needs more school teaching, as is it moves away from western Europe and America, and gives light to a history of the Middle East which many school pupils will probably not currently know.
In today's world, with the age of post-truth, fake news, fears of terrorism and division, why not teach a piece of history that shows diversity, acceptance, and toleration? I believe, and want, if i am to become a teacher of history, to be able to give special lessons to students who were interested in learning something different. One day i hope, such topics may even be on the syllabus. I found this area of history fascinating, but also critically important. In a time when more people seem to be running to the banners of the far right and ignorance, why not teach how historically, difference was not necessarily a negative thing, and the different faiths worked together. We may think that such tolerance is a result of our western democracy and egalitarian values, but imagine telling your parents after school, how diversity was positive in the medieval Islamic world!
I do hope this makes some sense, and I hope that what I am saying is clear. If not, then I guess i'll try to put it more concisely here. I want to teach topics that i believe bear some relevance in our world today. When I was a student, and when hearing of a terrorist attack, the media would often say they were Muslim, or we would see instability and conflict in the "Middle East". I always wondered why this was the case and regularly asked why could we not all get along. I would have loved to have learnt that in the past, and in the "Middle East", we actually did.