Students in Turkey begin school this week with a revamped curriculum courtesy of the Erdogan government, which removes the theory of evolution from biology courses, as well as teaches the concept of jihad as the ‘love of homeland.’

The new guidance also reduces the emphasis on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey’s secularist founder who instituted a firm separation of church and state, the Associated Press reports. The educational reforms come at a time when the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appealed to more fundamentalist and conservative ideas in Turkey.

Many educators in Turkey oppose the change, saying Turkey was already lagging behind other modern industrialized nations in the teaching of math and sciences. Turkey’s education minister disputes the claim that removing evolution from schools will hurt students, saying that the ‘mechanisms’ of evolution remain part of studies.
While religious classes on Islam have always been a part of compulsory education in Turkey, the new changes include more religious courses. It also includes new material referencing Turkey’s ongoing battle against the Kurdish terrorist group the PKK, as well as the failed 2016 coup against the Erdogan government, a pivotal catalyst for many of the changes being instituted by Erdogan.

The coup is reportedly taught as a heroic and legendary victory on behalf of the Turkish people, and blamed on U.S.-based Turkish expatriate Fethullah Gulen, a common target of Erdogan’s.

The inclusion of jihad as part of official studies is also particularly controversial. While the education minister insists jihad refers to a patriotic sense of duty to one’s country, critics say the concept of jihad is universally understood as a religious holy war.

Orhan Yildirim, leader of a prominent teacher’s union in Turkey, said “Ask anyone coming out of a mosque today what he understands by the word jihad – 99% would say that they see jihad as the main reason for war in the Middle East. We will not let the government put a spin on the word and normalize the concept of jihad.”

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Turkey’s slide towards authoritarianism and renewed emphasis on Islamist values have concerned NATO allies, who decry Erdogan’s efforts as an attack on democracy.

 

Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov via Wikipedia