Sunday, 11 Apr 2021 - 29 of Nisan, 5781

New report on changes introduced by President Erdogan in Turkish curriculum shows radicalization, antisemitic messaging and demonization of Israel

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‘’The Islamization of the curriculum by Erdogan is in line with his grand narrative of an Islamic Turkish revival. Jihad is inserted into religious studies and it is characterized as a nationalist pursuit. Democratic values are denigrated while Western civilization and non-Muslims are maligned as ‘infidels’ and funders of terrorism. Textbooks have become a primary vehicle for Erdogan’s Turkish revolution.’’

A new report of the current school curriculum in Turkey shows that the curriculum has been radicalized in recent years and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made significant changes in textbooks ,includin antisemitic messaging and demonization of Israel.

The report was carried by IMPACT-se, a Jerusalem-based research and policy institute that analyzes schoolbooks and curricula within the prism of UNESCO-defined standards on peace and tolerance, in conjunction with the Henry Jackson Society.

“School books have been weaponized in Erdogan’s attempts to Islamize Turkish society and to harken back to a nostalgic age of Turkish domination. We note increased demonization of Israel and anti-Semitic aspersions that must make Turkish-Jewish school students feel unsafe,” said Marcus Sheff, CEO of IMPACT-se.

The institute notes that this is the first time that President Erdogan has made significant changes to Turkey’s state approved school textbooks since taking power in 2003.

Here are the main findings of the report:

  • The Turkish curriculum has been radicalized in recent years.
  • There has been significant Islamization of the curriculum – jihad war is introduced as a central value; martyrdom in battle is glorified.
  • Islam is seen as political, using science and technology to advance its goals.
  • Jews are now characterized as infidels instead of previously being described as “People of the Book.”
  • The curriculum demonizes Israel and verges on antisemitic messaging, describing some post-WWI Jewish schools as hostile to Turkey’s independence. The curriculum continues past practices of showing respect for Jewish civilization and the Hebrew language.
  • For the first time, the Holocaust is specifically mentioned, albeit briefly.
  • An ethno-nationalist religious vision, combining neo-Ottomanism and Pan-Turkism, is taught.
  • Concepts such as “Turkish World Domination” and Turkish or Ottoman “Ideal of the World Order” are emphasized.
  • The curriculum adopts an anti-American stance and displays sympathy for motivations of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
  • Turkey is depicted as Anti-Armenian and Pro-Azerbaijani. The Kurdish minority’s identity and cultural needs are largely neglected. Pogroms against the Turkish-Greek community are ignored.
  • Religious studies are dramatically enhanced via the system of “mandatory elective” courses. Darwinian theory has been removed.
  • Subtle anti-democratic messaging is conveyed (e.g., condemnation of the Gezi Park protests).

Dr. Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, commented in the foreword to the new report: “Education is a prime pillar in Erdogan’s efforts to throw a membrane of sharia over the country.”

‘’The Islamization of the curriculum by Erdogan is in line with his grand narrative of an Islamic Turkish revival. Jihad is inserted into religious studies and it is characterized as a nationalist pursuit. Democratic values are denigrated while Western civilization and non-Muslims are maligned as ‘infidels’ and funders of terrorism. Textbooks have become a primary vehicle for Erdogan’s Turkish revolution.’’

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