Egyptian textbooks exalt jihad, demean Jews

Sunday, April 4, 2004

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 endeavor.

"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 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 in one case, even after the conclusion of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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