Egyptian textbooks required for state schools exalt
Islamic war and portray Jews disparagingly, a new report said.
The report by the New York-based Center for Monitoring of the Impact of
Peace asserted that textbooks used in both Egypt's regular and religious
educational system applaud jihad, or Islamic war, and exalt those who die in
the fight against those regarded as non-believers. The report said jihad was
described in the textbooks in military terms, rather than as a spiritual
"Jihad is encouraged and those who refrain from taking part in it are
denounced," the report, entitled "Jews, Christians, War and Peace in
Egyptian School Textbooks," said. "In the context of the Middle East
conflict, the ongoing violence in the Holy Land is termed jihad. Also,
Jerusalem is destined to be liberated by jihad."
The center, part of the American Jewish Committee, reviewed 103 Egyptian
textbooks for use in primary, preparatory and secondary schools. The report
also examined 16 textbooks used in the religious school system, overseen by
the state-sponsored Al Azhar religious seminary.
The center concluded that the textbooks failed to conform to most of the
criteria recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization, UNESCO, and were "marked by a biased, stereotyped and
hostile stance toward the other." At the same time, the report cited what it
termed positive elements in the textbooks, such as respect for Coptic
Christians, the need for tolerance and discouragement of religious
extremism. Copts comprise about eight percent of Egypt's population.
The majority of the textbooks were published in 2002, the report said
Over the last six months, Egypt, in an effort financed by the United States,
has been reviewing textbooks to remove disparaging references to foreigners
and praise for Islamic war.
The report said Egyptian textbooks rejected what they term terrorism and
encouraged students to cooperate with security authorities. But the books
distinguished between what the report termed terrorism inside Egypt and that
abroad, particularly those of Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians.
The Palestinian attacks were described as jihad.
"The idea of jihad has several interpretations in the Islamic tradition,
of which some could be used in the service of peace," the report said.
"however, it is interpreted in the Egyptian school textbooks almost
exclusively as a military endeavor. In religious terms, it is war against
God's enemies, i.e., the infidels."
The report, which provides numerous examples, said Egypt's schoolbooks
were extremely disparaging toward Jews. The only Jews portrayed in a
positive manner, the report said, were biblical figures and Albert Einstein.
"Malice, greed, treachery, exploitation of others, fomenting of
dissension, deception, racism, arrogance, hypocrisy, trickery and
hostility Ñ all are presented as characteristics of Jews," the report said.
"In the context of the Middle East conflict, the Jews are referred to as a
treacherous people and as enemies of the Egyptian people Ñ in one case,
after the conclusion of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel."