The Egyptian government made a move to eliminate a few prominent Muslims in history from the educational curriculum in an attempt to stop radical Islam. The education ministry believes these heroes could encourage young children to join jihad.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his clerics suggested the schools remove the biography of Saladin, who led the Muslims during the Crusades. He prevailed at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, “which paved the way for Islamic re-conquest of Jerusalem and other Holy Land cities in the Near East.” They also deleted the biography of Uqba ibn Nafi from the seventh grade requirements, even though he “began the first Muslim conquest of the Maghreb region of North Africa.”
“The cut backs have two reasons: The first is that some of the material was inciting violence and was first entered into the curriculum during the Muslim Brotherhood’s era, the second is to simply relieve the burden on the student,” explained a ministry spokesperson.
Officials are currently facing immense backlash from Islamists in Egypt. The Salafists claimed the omissions are a declaration of war on Islam.
“The decision to stop teaching the stories of Saladin and Uqba ibn Nafi hurts our own history and erases our identity,” insisted one member of Al-Nour, a Salafi party.
The Salafists wanted the president to stop the ministry, but the education spokeswoman claims the decision “was made based on the directives of a governmental committee that included representatives of Al-Azhar to review the schools’ textbooks.” Said spokeswoman Nivine Shehata:
The main goal was to shift the educational curriculum’s focus on the values of tolerance in Islam and Christianity, calling for love and rejecting violence and extremism. The decision did not provide for omitting the entire stories, only the parts inciting or glorifying hatred and violence and upholding radical ideologies and extremism. Under former President Mohammed Morsi, a number of courses were added to the curriculum reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideas and values, which necessitated a comprehensive review and amendment of all the educational curricula.
However, it is not only the Muslims who are upset by the move. Academics and teachers believe censorship is not the answer to combat radical Islam.
“The process of removing some courses necessitated a set of well-defined standards and principles instead of randomly omitting certain phrases or educational subjects,” said professor Kamal Mughith. “Educational curricula should not be lightly dealt with this way, by omitting a few sentences without focusing on the overall content and meaning.”
Government officials first altered textbooks in January. The ministry targeted psychology and sociology, which were first changed under President Morsi, and removed the course “The Difference Between a Revolution and a Coup.”