Jordan has introduced reforms to school curricula to curb the influence of Islamic extremists on society and improve its education system.
However, the Ministry of Education has faced a backlash from conservatives such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic Action Front, which described the reforms as “an affront to our heritage and values [which is] aimed at distancing future generations from its religion, its Arab identity, its history and traditions,” Al-Monitor reported on 21 September.
Educators have revised school textbooks for the three primary years in such topics as Islam, Arabic, history and civic education. In civic education, for example, “reference is made to acknowledge Christians as a demographic component of the population with pictures of churches as well as mosques. In religion, entire texts from the Qur’an and sayings of the [Islamic] Prophet Mohammad are left out and in Arabic literature a picture of a veiled woman is replaced by one of an unveiled woman.”
Henriette Kats, analyst at the World Watch Research unit of Open Doors, said the changes implemented by the Jordanian Ministry of Education are a “bold and important move.”
“In many countries of the Middle East, the region’s Christian community is not even mentioned in school books, leading to the impression that Christians are a non-indigenous, foreign group,” Kats said. “The question is to what extent the ministry will be able to hold on to this decision in the face of so much opposition from conservative Islamic elements in society.”
Although Christians in Jordan enjoy better levels of social and professional integration than in most other countries in the Middle East, government officials have at times marginalised Christians. A study by scholar Andrea Pacini found that when Muslim Brothers occupied key positions in the country’s Ministry of Education following elections in 1989, they propagated an ideology that aimed to reduce the rights of the Christian communities in order to assert the political superiority of Islam, and instituted “a regression of democratic practices”.