Turkey’s education minister has announced details of the country’s new curriculum, stating that it will include the concept of jihad as being patriotic, rather than a “holy war.” It will also lack any reference to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“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,” Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said during a Tuesday press conference, as quoted by Hurriyet.
“The real meaning of jihad is loving your nation,” he said, according to Reuters, adding that the concept will be included in lessons on Islamic law and basic religious sciences.
“What our Prophet [Muhammad] says is that while returning from a war, we are going from a small jihad to a big jihad. 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 tranquility,” he said.
Although the term jihad is often translated as “holy war,” Muslim scholars also teach that it refers to a personal struggle against sin.
Information about last year’s failed coup attempt – which resulted in a nationwide crackdown by President Erdogan’s government – will also be included in the curriculum, according to Yilmaz. The day of the coup attempt, July 15, has been officially named ‘Democracy and National Unity Day.’
“When the subject of winning democracy is covered in social sciences classes, we will want the July 15 National Unity Day to be covered, too,” Yılmaz said.
He added that the new curriculum will also include information on the Hizmet movement led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt. Turkey refers to the Hizmet movement as FETÖ (Fethullahist Terror Organization).
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara and the US have labeled a terrorist organization, and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) will also be included in the curriculum.
Yilmaz’s comments come after the head of the Turkish Education Ministry’s education board, Alpaslan Durmus, announced last month that the new curriculum would also exclude references to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
Addressing the decision to eliminate Darwin from textbooks on Tuesday, Yilmaz said that it is being done “because it is above the students’ level and not directly relevant.”
Under the new curriculum, Darwin will not be mentioned in Turkish educational institutions until students reach university.
Mehhmet Balik, chairman of the Union of Education and Science Workers (Egitim-Is), has condemned the new curriculum, saying it is an attempt to avoid raising “generations who ask questions,” Reuters reported.
“The new policies that ban the teaching of evolution and requiring all schools to have a prayer room, these actions destroy the principle of secularism and the scientific principles of education,” he said.
The new curriculum will be rolled out for first, fifth and ninth graders this school year, and will extend to other classes in the 2018-2019 school year.