‘Poisoned Islamist tree has borne fruit’: Jordan scholars urge ridding curricula of ideas that celebrate death

Special to WorldTribune.com

As thousands of its youth join Islamic jihadist organizations, Jordan is being called on to reform an education system entrenched in “a new culture that hates life” and “celebrates death.”

As many as 4,000 Jordanians have joined terror organizations such as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. Only Tunisia has seen more of its citizens join foreign terror groups, according to MEMRI  (The Middle East Media Research Institute).

Boys gather around an Imam at a mosque during a religious class in Amman, Jordan. /AP/Raad Adayleh
Boys gather around an Imam at a mosque during a religious class in Amman, Jordan. /AP/Raad Adayleh

In a November article, Sabri Rbeihat, the former minister of culture in Jordan, “called on Arab society to recognize that terrorism begins with a culture that celebrates death and despises life, and to review the educational and cultural infrastructure in the Arab world in order to understand what drives young people into the arms of the terrorist organizations,” MEMRI reported.

“Many politicians ignore the fact that the problem today lies in the emergence of a new culture that hates life, celebrates death, and attacks and quickly eliminates anything symbolizing liberty, life, and happiness,” Rbeihat said.

“We must all take a close look at our educational, administrative, political, and cultural reality, in an attempt to track the causes of marginalization and exclusion; we must channel reform programs toward increasing inclusion and providing opportunities, towards overcoming discrimination, towards institutionalizing accountability, and towards purging curricula of ideas that denigrate life, aggrandize death, and accuse others of heresy,” he added.

Jordanian writer and educator Zuleikha Abu Risha wrote in the independent daily Al-Ghad that a state of emergency should be declared for country’s education system.

“The poisoned Islamist tree, planted in the 1960s, has borne fruit – in the form of an educational system that opposes creativity and asking questions, sanctifies the past, does not deviate from its [rigid] path, detests logic and anything new or innovative, levels accusations of heresy, and incites to hatred, violence, and killing – to the point where students have become robots who recite prayers to keep themselves from harm, instead of investing efforts in finding solutions,” she said.

“Private schools teach children to pray day and night, before [teaching them] to use their brains and challenge their thinking.

“[Given all this,] why is the education ministry delaying in declaring a state of emergency? [Why isn’t it] calling upon the educational community to fulfill its duty in restoring the cracked educational edifice, before some brainwashed and conscience-less ISIS member comes along and blows it up with everyone in it?”

Al-Ghad daily editor-in-chief Jumana Ghunaimat said in a recent article that Jordan’s schools “spread extremism, as do our universities. Sometimes, a child or youth returns from school or university with horrid ideas that shock even his parents. This price, which is paid by all, is the result of religious thought taking over the curricula for decades, placing future generations in peril.”

Dr. Fayez Al-Rabi’, Chairman of the Education Ministry’s Committee for Curriculum Development in Civics and National Education, responded to criticism of the ministry in a Dec. 10 article in Al-Rai:

“We in Jordan mean to undertake a new and comprehensive examination of all the curricula, including in the humanities: Islamic education, history, civics and national education, Arabic, arts, geography, etc.

“Let me note that removing all the flaws from the curricula does not mean renouncing our values and our tolerant faith; on the contrary, it is necessary to focus on positive values and principles that will address the roots of ideological and religious extremism, and to fortify these values so as to provide an alternative to the negative ideas and tendencies that have no connection with the essence of [the Muslim] religion and its tolerant values.”

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