As Turkish students began its next school year this month, they did so with a new curriculum. It is one that no longer teaches the scientific principles of evolution, but instead teaches the concept of “jihad” as prescribed by Islam.
In July, Turkey’s Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz handed down an updated national curriculum for 1st, 5th and 9th graders starting from this year which excluded evolution, “because it is above the students’ level and not directly relevant.”
“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,” said Yilmaz at the time, as quoted by Hurriet Daily News.
Muslim-majority Turkey has a population of around 80 million and has historically had a reputation for liberal Islam. It is professedly secular and is seen as the meeting place for Middle Eastern and European cultures.
Under current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, many observers say that the country has slid away from its traditions of pluralism and tolerance towards Islamic populism.
Critics say that textbooks under the new curriculum are “sexist” and “anti-scientific”, reported the BBC.
“By embedding a jihadist education of values, they try to plague the brains of our little children, with the same understanding that transforms the Middle East into a bloodbath,” said opposition lawmaker Bulent Tezcan as quoted by the British public broadcaster.
But Yilmaz said the government is proud of its “conservative-democrat” stance on education.
In July he said: “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.”