29. Religious fascism and the “talibanization” of the Egyptian education system [1]

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The author discusses the dominance of Islam in the school curriculum in Egypt, considering this a “cultural purification” against people of other religions that contradicts international human rights resolutions. He has prepared a study of the Arabic language curriculum in elementary and preparatory schools and supports his argument with abstracts and examples from the book.

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Jundī discusses the penetration of the Islamic religion in the curriculum of Egyptian schools. Observing the first term Arabic language books at the elementary and preparatory schools in Egypt, he found out that students have 126 Arabic language lessons; 52 of which have direct or indirect Islamic texts and references, which makes up 41% of the Arabic language curriculum in the texts.
Jundī comments that the subject seems to be a merely religious one and has nothing to do with mastering the Arabic language. He supported his argument by referring to the prefaces of all the Arabic language books that, according to Jundī, ignore the value of Arabic as a means of communication and restrict its importance to the fact that it is the language of the Qur’ān.
Jundī also claims that the Arabic language level of school students was better before religion was interjected into the Arabic language lessons. Jundī further argued that the books assert that Islam is the only source of virtue, which he believes, neglects any other source of virtue.
Furthermore, the books demonstrate the Islamic background against which all other issues are being taught and discussed, from moral issues to those related to the environment. In KG1 pupils have to know by heart verses one to three of the ‘Alaq Sūrah of the Qur’ān [90:1-3]. The author believes that Muslims and non Muslims need to follow Islamic values in daily life instead of those of citizenship. As such, Muslims and non-Muslims become obliged to honor and follow the Islamic rules and obey God and his Prophet Muhammad.
The curriculum also implies presenting doctrinal issues and dogmas that may contradict Christian doctrine, yet they are imposed as part of Christians’ education. In the curriculum, Jundī also claims there is a distortion of historic facts and an enforcement of an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy and a fascist ideology similar to that of the Tālibān. The author cites the idea of disobeying the ruler when he does not rule in accordance with God’s will and that of Prophet Muhammad, giving no education of the constitution, law and human rights resolutions, as an example of this phenomenon.
Jundī further argues that the world, or at least Egypt, is represented as a world of only Muslims and Islam; where nobody else exists. Even when prominent Egyptian figures, who have significantly altered the history of Egypt are mentioned, they are all Muslims. Throughout the nine years of education covered by the study only one Coptic name was mentioned; namely Majdī Y‘qūb [Reviewer: Famed Egyptian-born, British nationalized cardiologist who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain.]. The term “Coptic civilization” is mentioned only once in the entire curriculum that Jundī studied.
Jundī claims that the younger generations in Egypt are more fundamentalist than before because of the curriculum that promotes the idea that Muslims are the masters of the world and everyone else does not have any rights, but exist because of the good morals of Muslims who allow them to exist.
Jundī also mentioned the negative impacts of imposing Islamic elements on non Muslims at schools that he believes is akin to an academic brainwash throughout the education system. He mentioned the testimony of a Coptic young man who expressed his hatred for Islam and Muslims, arguing that he feels aggressively surrounded by Islam at university, on public transport, on the streets and even at home where the aggressively noisy mosque loudspeakers next door to him pierce the air. All these, Jundī reports on the anonymous Coptic young man, “make me resort to the church to have some peace of mind.”
Jundī presents the Coptic young man’s testimony as evidence of his assumption that Copts are being indirectly forced to isolate themselves from society. In addition, Jundī argues that the prevailing Islamic mentality has its negative impacts on the Christians’ mentality represented in what he calls the Islamization of thinking. Christian youth has become more concerned about the superficial religious appearance than the real core of religion. Jundī believes that the Coptic youth has become more concerned with literal meanings than spirituality and that they look for fatwás to avoid the effort of thinking and discerning.
Jundī then highlights the contrast between the open minded curriculum of al-Zaytūnah University in Tunisia, which is the Tunisian equivalent to the Azhar University, and what he calls the “talibanization” of education by the Egyptian Ministry of Education. He praised the comparative religion courses at al-Zaytūnah University, citing the writings of lecturer al-‘Afīf al-Akhdar as an example.
Jundī believes that this Islamization of education began in the late eighties when an alleged agreement was made between the Islamic fundamentalist leadership and the Egyptian regime. Jundī claims that the agreement guaranteed the long-lasting dominance of the regime’s political authority in exchange for the social and educational dominance of the Islamists.
Jundī called this Islamic dominance in education a cultural purification banned by all international human rights resolutions. He also considers it to be a crime against humanity.
Jundī then present samples of the school textbooks that support Islamic ideas like: Islam is the only source of values and Muslims are the only good people. In a KG2 book, the third lesson of the second unit is entitled, ’plant a tree.’ In the lesson’s exercises and under the section ’read, memorize and learn,’ a hadīth was written saying that it is considered a beneficiation when a Muslim plants a tree that will later feed human beings or animals. Jundī asks: “What about a non Muslim? Would he also be rewarded if he planted a tree?
He also mentioned an example from the fourth grade textbook which has a lesson entitled ’My mother.’ Under the section ’information and enriching examples’ there is a hadīth and a Qur’ānic verse that stress the high rank and honor that parents and mothers in particular should enjoy. Then students are asked to make a poster in which they cite a hadīth that calls for honoring one’s mother and then hang it on the classroom wall.
Jundī’s comment on the lesson was: “Aren’t there any commands to honor mothers and parents in the other religions.
Furthermore, one of the aims of the third unit entitled “the ancient handicrafts” is “to mention a hadīth that points out the significance of honesty. Jundī questions why should the exercises of a lesson about ancient handcrafts refer to an Islamic text that points out the significance of honesty?
Jundī states that it is only in the fourth grade in elementary school that the student learns that religions other than Islam exist, when textbooks state that all religions honor honesty as an important value.

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