The women of Jordan's school textbooks have taken off their hijabs

Published September 5th, 2016 - 08:26 GMT
The school curriculum, and the role of religion in it, has been a hot topic in Jordan for years (Pixabay)
The school curriculum, and the role of religion in it, has been a hot topic in Jordan for years (Pixabay)

Some Jordanian parents are angry about the creeping secularization of education, after mentions of religion were apparently toned down in the Hashemite Kingdom’s school textbooks.

According to its own report, news website Sawaleif has received several complaints from parents over changes to the school curriculum. They’re anxious about lessons on the Quran being replaced by stories of animals or removed altogether, and alarmed at women pictured in textbooks being stripped of their hijabs.

“Is this new school policy aiming to marginalize Islamic sharia in the curriculum and get our students away from it?” Sawaleif asked, echoing the parents’ concerns. “Will these changes continue bit by bit until we don’t see a single Aya from the Quran or story of the prophets in the curriculum?”

The complaints follow revisions to the textbooks for Arabic from the 3rd Grade in Jordan’s public schools arena-where religion is taught in itself, and often integrated into the curriculum of other subjects.

But the expectations of Sawaleif’s readership risk come into conflict with other interests, and numerous reports have taken the Kingdom’s curriculum to task for laying religion on too heavily in schoolbooks.

A study by Jordan’s Catholic Centre for Studies and Media criticized curricula for marginalizing Christian communities and beliefs, while a report by the US State Department highlighted the fact that non-Muslims must learn verses from the Quran, and noted that revisions had given a “less prominent place to religious teachings.”

But perhaps there are new trends picking up speed in Jordan. In the Sawaelif piece, parents pointed out that in one textbook, an entire lesson had been removed about a chapter from the Quran and exchanged for a lesson about swimming, and that a line about memorizing the holy book had been removed from a text about Ibn Battuta.

Another Quranic text had apparently been replaced by a story about pigeons, and some lessons about memorizing religious texts and prophetic traditions were removed entirely.

Sawaleif’s report further included side-by-side examples showing the textbooks before and after publication, including drawings of women in hijab that had been replaced by photographs of women with their hair visible.

Comments to the Sawaleif article demonstrated that religious loyalty among Jordan’s parents was thriving in defiance of the Education Ministry’s attempts to destroy the morality of the people.

One reader described the changes as a “clear attempt to fight islamic culture,” but expressed relief that teachers had more effect on students than books. Another accused the textbooks of trying to “ruin our kids and show them haram things”.

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