Turkey is in the process of including the concept of jihad in compulsory school curricula. According to a recent statement by the Turkish Ministry of National Education, Turkish textbooks will be teaching “jihad” as a “value” in classes at Imam Hatip middle schools (schools that offer an Islamic curriculum to pupils).
The ministry has also removed a chapter on the theory of evolution from a textbook for 12th graders.
At a press conference on January 13, Ismet Yilmaz, the minister of national education, explained the details of the new curricula to members of the press. According to the newspaper Cumhuriyet, jihad will be taught in 7th grade while pupils study the fundamentals of “tawhid and wahdat civilization.” (Tawhid is the Islamic belief in the oneness of God and wahdat refers to Islamic unity.)
The ministry is also making changes to the teaching of the theory of evolution. A chapter titled “The beginning of life and evolution” has been removed from a textbook for 12th graders and replaced by a chapter titled “Living creatures and the environment.”
The new curricula, which will be finalized in February, will be put into effect during the 2017-2018 academic year.
1,500,000 Imam Hatip Students across Turkey
In a speech in 2012, then Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his government wanted to raise a “pious generation.”
Under Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the number of Imam Hatip schools has ballooned from 500 to 3,500 in 13 years, with enrollment surging from 60,000 to 1,500,000 since the AKP first came to power.
First Imam Hatip schools founded in 1924
The first Imam Hatip schools in Turkey were opened in 1924 during the rule of the country’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as vocational schools to train government-employed imams and Islamic scholars.
Islamic jihad ideology
Some Muslims claim that jihad is not a violent concept and merely means “struggling “or “striving.” However, military action in the name of Islam has been common in the history of the religion for well over a millennium and across three continents — Asia, Africa and Europe.
Jihad conquests have been brutal, slaying millions of indigenous peoples and bringing persecution to countless of others. Moreover, many teachings in Islamic scriptures openly condone these practices.
What effect the belief in jihad can have on children
Even in the 21st century, the promotion or idealization of jihad is bringing enormous suffering and causing grave consequences for people worldwide.
Suleyman Tugral, who holds a doctorate in Islamic theology, teaches at a high school in Ankara. In his PhD dissertation “The Value System in the Quran,” Tugral found that the top value in Islam for preserving honor, justice and ideological identity – especially in times of tragic situations – is to engage in jihad for Allah (and to die for Allah when necessary).
Tugral describes in detail the war-related aspects of jihad. “Jihad for Allah is one of the things Muslims are ordered to engage in to escape torment and attain eternal happiness,” he writes, warning Muslims who do not engage in jihad “because of their love for this world” by quoting this Quranic verse:
“Believers! What is amiss with you that when it is said to you ‘Go to war in the cause of Allah,’ you cling heavily to the earth? Do you prefer the worldly life to the Hereafter? Know well that all the enjoyment of this world, in comparison with the Hereafter, is trivial.”
Tugral adds, “Jihad was mentioned in the Quran even when there was no fighting against enemies in Mecca. This shows that jihad includes all efforts to implement the path [way] of Allah. Fighting against the enemy when necessary is one of the concrete manifestations of these efforts. Sacrificing one’s life and property is a behavior liked by Allah.”
Tugral’s son, Rasid, was a graduate of the department of physics from Ankara’s Middle East Technical University. In 2014, he began a master’s degree program in physics at Finland’s University of Jyväskylä.
Early in 2015, he slipped away from his comfortable life and joined Islamic State (IS) jihadis fighting inside Syria. Rasid was killed in a clash with Kurdish defense forces last August. He was 27.
If the Turkish Ministry of National Education really aims to teach pupils about “values,” why does it not begin with some basic humanitarian principles? It could, for example, teach the kids the values of the European Union –“peace, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, and protection of human rights.” The Turkish government has been negotiating with for full membership in the EU since 2005.
Jihad has been commonly associated with warfare and violence – both traditionally and historically. What good can come out of indoctrinating young children in this violent and supremacist practice?
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist formerly based in Ankara. She is presently in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/uzayb