Egypt’s school curriculum, laden with anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sentiment,
must undergo drastic reform to comply with international standards, according to
a new report to be presented this week at the Hebrew University of
“Egypt has to conduct fundamental reforms in its curricula,
which present a national identity based solely on the Islamic religion,” said
Yohanan Manor, chairman and co-founder of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and
Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), the Jerusalembased
think-tank that compiled the report.
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“Egypt’s schools present Islam as
the ‘only true faith,’ and believers in other religions – including Coptic
Christians – as infidels,” he said.
Manor and his colleagues will present
the report at the conference, “School Textbooks in the Greater Middle East:
National Identity and Images of Self and Other,” to be held Tuesday and
Wednesday at the Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the
Advancement of Peace.
A year before the ousting of president Hosni
Mubarak, Egypt’s government announced plans for comprehensive reforms to “purge
school curricula of erroneous views and material that incites extreme
The government’s first step was to remove references to “jihad
in God’s name.” These changes, the report found, have fallen far short of the
comprehensive reform Cairo had pledged.
Anti-Coptic violence in Egypt
reached a crescendo over the past six months. A bomb in an Alexandria church on
Christmas Day last year killed 21 people, and anti-Christian attacks have grown
in scope and frequency since Mubarak’s resignation in February. The new report
by IMPACT-SE, formerly the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, found that
internecine violence is fueled largely by education.
messages also run deeply through Egypt’s education system. In many textbooks
Copts are denigrated as infidels, yet in those same works are praised for
participating in Egypt’s independence campaigns throughout history. Students are
taught that the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament are holy books, but
also taught that those same texts were “forgeries” penned by
“Egyptian textbooks define Christians and Jews as infidels,”
Manor said. “A year ago, Egyptian authorities admitted as much in a joint
conference by Education Minister Dr. Ahmed Zaki Badreldin and the grand mufti of
Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa.”
In April of last year, he said, the two officials
announced reforms to purge the curricula of Quranic verses “encouraging jihad
and the murder of polytheists and infidels.”
The press conference sparked
an uproar in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood flatly rejected any talk of
education reform, while several news outlets took positions in favor.
state-owned Al-Ahram daily called for an end to “teaching our children to
denigrate the Christian religion and even Judaism...
They must stop
describing believers in other religions as infidels, as that is a dangerous
designation that effectively grants permission to kill.”
IMPACT-SE is an
independent, non-partisan and nonprofit think tank founded in 1998 that seeks to
examine school curricula worldwide, with a focus on the Middle East. Its
methodology is based on the international standards determined by UNESCO, the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
institute is based at Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus.
conference brings leading scholars from Israel, the US and Europe to examine
prevailing trends in international education. On Wednesday, IMPACT-SE
researchers will present country-specific research on school curricula in five
Middle Eastern states – Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Iran.