By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
July 21, 2017
The final version of Turkey’s national school curriculum has left evolution out and added the concept of jihad as part of Islamic law in books.
Announcing the new school curriculum, Turkish Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz told a press conference in Ankara on Monday, “Jihad is an element in our religion; it is in our religion… The duty of the Education Ministry is to teach every concept deservedly, in a correct way. It is also our job to correct things that are wrongly perceived, seen or taught.”
“In this manner, in the lessons on Islamic law and basic religion sciences, there will be [the concept of] jihad. But what is this jihad? What our Prophet [Muhammad] says is that while returning from a war, we are going from a small jihad to a big jihad. What is this big jihad? It is to serve our society, to increase welfare, to ensure peace in society, to serve the society’s needs. The easiest thing is to wage war, to fight. The skill is the difficult one, which is to ensure peace and tranquillity,” he said.
Speaking about the controversial decision to exclude evolution, Yilmaz said it was not included in the national curriculum “because it is above the students’ level and not directly relevant.”
Yilmaz said the new curriculum will also include topics on the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The Saudi Textbooks
The Turkish inclusion of Jihad in school textbooks is juxtaposition to the Saudi Arabia’s move in recent years to eliminate from the ‘controversial’ definitions of Jihad in kingdom’s school text books. After the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks Saudi Arabia, accused of fostering the intolerance and animosity through its educational system, was under pressure to revise school text books which allegedly teach hate and extremism.
The American government called on Saudi Arabia to reform its educational curriculum, including textbooks in Saudi schools and distributed worldwide, by reviewing and revising educational materials and eliminating any that spread “intolerance and hatred” towards Christians and Jews and promoted holy war against “unbelievers.”
The Saudi government has repeatedly said that it has undertaken extensive educational reform. One Saudi official announced in 2006 that 36 of the 66 major textbooks had been revised. Another official said that Saudi Arabia had removed 31 controversial items from its curriculum.
Dr. Abdulilah Al-Mosarraf, director of planning and evaluation at the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has said that almost all Gulf countries have made major changes in their school curriculums. Saudi Arabia, for example, has removed 31 controversial items from its curriculum. Referring to the educational reforms carried out in Saudi Arabia, he said, Riyadh has removed the offensive books and passages from the curriculum. The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Tellingly, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its annual report of 2017 recommended that Saudi Arabia should make public an annual assessment of the relevant Ministry of Education religious textbooks to determine if passages that teach religious intolerance have been removed.
The Commission also recommended that the US administration should press the Saudi government to denounce publicly the continued use around the world of older versions of Saudi textbooks and other materials that promote hatred and intolerance, and to make every attempt to retrieve, or buy back, previously distributed materials that contain intolerance.
How extremism and intolerance crept into the school text books?
Let us pause here to refresh our memories how the so-called extremism, hatred and intolerance crept into the school text books.
In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation, according to the Washington Post.
The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum.
Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, the Washington Post said adding:
“As Afghan schools reopen today, the United States is back in the business of providing schoolbooks. But now it is wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stirring Islamic fervour to fight communism. What seemed like a good idea in the context of the Cold War is being criticized by humanitarian workers as a crude tool that steeped a generation in violence.”
The text books were published in the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu. They were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Centre for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.
During that time of Soviet occupation, the so-called Afghan Mujahideen leaders in Afghanistan helped the U.S. smuggle books into the country, the Washington Post report of March 2002 said. Children were taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines, agency officials said. They acknowledged that at the time it also suited U.S. interests to stoke hatred of foreign invaders.
“AID dropped funding of Afghan programs in 1994. But the textbooks continued to circulate in various versions, even after the Taliban seized power in 1996,” the Washington Post report concluded.
This is how extremism, hatred and intolerance entered into Afghan, Pakistan, Saudi and many other Muslim countries.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America