Turkish and non-Saudi textbooks under review
(April 28, 2021 / Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies) According to a recently published analysis of 28 Turkish textbooks, the education system in this country – once a model of secularism that taught evolution, cultural openness, tolerance towards minorities and Kurdish as a minority language – has furthermore in addition replaced these concepts by notions of jihad, martyrdom in battle and a neo-Ottoman and pan-Turkist ethno-religious worldview.
The report, written by the Israeli research group Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) and the British Henry Jackson Society, claimed that recent programs – in a long-aspiring NATO country to become a member of the EU – include anti-American agendas and anti-Armenian messages, display “sympathy for the motives of [Islamic State] and Al-Qaeda ”, focus exclusively on Sunni Muslim teachings and replace electives such as Kurdish with religion.
The Kurds are said to represent between 15 and 20% of the Turkish population.
The textbooks promote concepts such as “Turkish world domination” and “the Turkish or Ottoman ideal of world order,” the report says.
“Education is an essential pillar [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s efforts to drape the country under sharia law [Islamic religious law]… The Ministry of Education has pressured citizens to conform to conservative Islamic practices in public schools, ”Turkish researcher Soner Cagaptay commented ahead of the study.
The study was published as Turkey tries to repair relations with Europe and Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, which have been battered by the aggressive assertion by Ankara in Libya, Syria, the Caucasus and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Erdoğan spoke with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen via video conference in March, before a European summit to discuss relations with Turkey. The conference took place a day after the European Union sidelined plans to blacklist senior executives at Turkish state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) in retaliation for Turkey’s drilling for natural gas in disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean.
The report is likely to add to skepticism about an 11-point human rights action plan recently unveiled by Erdoğan that he says would strengthen legal freedoms and protections.
Erdoğan has undermined press freedom and the independence of the judiciary and has arrested thousands of people on often narrow charges since he defeated an attempted military coup in 2016. As a result, Turkey today ranks as one of the world’s largest jailers of journalists.
Turkish police recently arrested several officials of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), days after a senior prosecutor required the dissolution of the party for alleged links with Kurdish nationalist militants.
Parliament also kicked out an HDP MP, undermining Erdoğan’s efforts to suggest he adheres to the values projected by Europe and US President Joe Biden.
Biden, since coming to power in January, has kept Erdoğan in limbo by refraining from giving him the usual head of government call. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would call Erdoğan “at some point”.
Critics link the decline in Turkish textbooks to Erdoğan’s Islamist inclinations and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has made Istanbul its home since Egypt’s brutal crackdown on the group in 2013.
The fact that Turkey recently warned Fellowship figures and the group’s media outlets based in Istanbul to tone down their rhetoric will do little to convince them or for Egypt, the Gulf states and Israel that the leopard is changing places.
Erdoğan walks a fine line. His efforts to mend differences with his critics threaten to undermine his claim to rule the Muslim world in competition with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Indonesia.
His projection of himself as the leading advocate for Islamic causes has earned him significant credibility on the streets in various Muslim-majority countries.
The reorientation of Turkey’s curriculum serves its purpose of raising a “pious generation” in its country as well as its positioning of Turkey on the international stage.
Yet if references in Turkish textbooks to Jews and Christians as infidels rather than as a common reference, the “People of the Book”, may suit segments of Muslim public opinion, they call into question his efforts. to reduce rhetoric and appear more cooperative and constructive.
The point is that the textbooks, despite positive references to Hebrew, Jewish civilization and, for the first time, the Holocaust, contrast sharply with the latest reformed curricula in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as ‘with the efforts of Indonesia. Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim civil society movement, to remove legal categories such as “infidel” from the jurisprudence of the faith.
The contrast with Saudi Arabia is particularly stark given that improvements to Saudi textbooks are the only bright spot in the kingdom’s otherwise tarnished effort to present itself as a moderate and tolerant Muslim ruler who has set the supremacist concepts ultra – conservatives behind him and embraced human rights and human rights. the rule of law.
Impact-se and Human Rights Watch recently reported, for the first time in two decades of post-9/11 pressure on Saudi Arabia to remove supremacist references to Jews, Christians and Shiites that the kingdom had made significant progress in reviewing manuals.
Both groups focused in separate reports on explicit references to other religions, but noted that further revisions were needed to remove language that disparaged practices associated with religious minorities, particularly Shia Muslims and Sufis. , sects considered heretics by the ultra-conservatives.
Likewise, the UAE changed its textbooks last year by forging diplomatic relations with Israel. “The treaty is not simply presented as fact in the manual. Students are presented with religious, ethical and national reasons to support the agreement and use critical thinking to complete an exercise on the importance of peacemaking, ”said Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se.
“The idea that jihad is now part of the Turkish curriculum, that martyrdom in combat is now glorified, is perhaps not surprising given what we know about Erdoğan… But seeing it in black and white is a shock ”he added in a separate interview, noting that the Turkish president has fired some 21,000 teachers and arrested a large number of academics in recent years. “There was no reason to think he wouldn’t try to influence the textbooks,” Sheff said.
Dr James M. Dorsey, Senior Non-Resident Associate at the BESA Center, is a Senior Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Co-Director of the Institute for Fan Culture of the ‘University of Würzburg.
This article was first published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.