We have been following the gradual erosion of Turkey as a symbol of secularism in the Islamic world under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan was elected by Muslim parties and has steadily broken down secular traditions and introduced more and more Islamic influences in government. That effort has now reached the schools, where Erdogan and his party faithful are seeking to turn schools into training grounds for Islamic orthodoxy. The story below discusses the impact of new rules on Christian Pastor Ahmet Guvener who has learned that, even after securing an exemption for his daughter from mandatory religious classes at her school, she is still required to make Islamic classes in the new Turkey being shaped by Erdogan. If she does not learn Islamic courses on the life of Mohammad or the Quran, she will fail. Erdogan calls it all part of his stated goal of raising “pious generations.”
If Guvener’s daughter, 17, does not want to take Islamic classes at her school, she will have to choose from three electives: the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the Quran or basic religious knowledge. — or fail the year.
The ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party insists that the majority of Turks are religious Muslims and that the majority will must prevail. Of course, it entirely ignores the concept of minority rights and the separation of mosque and state. Secularists have protested but Erdogan’s government has met them increasing violence and intolerance.
Erdogan’s party has also taken control of the country’s national education advisory council, which is dominated by a teacher’s union supporting Erdogan. The council has pushed for the rapid dismantling of secular rules and the introduction of Islamic teachings and values as part of the national curriculum.
While forcing the teaching of religion, the government shows less commitment to improvement of basic courses. A 2012 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report found that Turkish students are performing poorly in reading, mathematics and science. They are now 44th out of 65 countries in the rankings.
Hopefully, Erdogan will not also be adding his insights to the history curriculum. You may recall Erdogan recently declaring that Muslims discovered America and that there was proof of a Mosque in Cuba when Columbus arrived).