MEMRI has reviewed the Qatari Islamic Education textbooks for grades 1-12, taught in state schools in Qatar during the first half of the 2018/2019 school year.
The Qatari Islamic Education textbooks for grades 1 and 8
The textbooks were produced and approved by Qatar's Ministry of Education and Higher Education, bear the symbol of the Education Ministry, and appear on the ministry's website. They were edited and overseen by Education Ministry committees, headed by Dr. 'Abdallah 'Ali Al-Marri, director of the ministry's Islamic Education Department. The textbooks for grades 1-10 are also copyrighted by the ministry. The title page in all the books features a portrait of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and the words of the Qatari national anthem. In the books for grades 11 and 12, this page also includes a Qatari flag, with an explanation of the significance of its colors and design.
Title pages of the grade 1(right) and grade 12 textbooks
The books' preface states that they have been reedited by the ministry and adapted to the spirit of the modern age, so as to teach students about the religion and its sources while also meeting the challenges posed by the contemporary world and realizing the aims of "Qatar National Vision 2030," adopted in 2008, which seeks to develop the Qatari individual and society. The preface for the books for grades 1-10 states: "In this current stage of our beloved state and Arab Muslim nation, and in light of Qatar National Vision 2030 and prevailing developments, we feel obliged to examine how our religion, Islam, and the Quran and the Sunna, can benefit us in raising the young generation of Muslims to meet the present and anticipated challenges. We saw a need to present the sources of the Islamic teachings in ways which are appropriate to the spirit of the age and which reflect the lofty goals of the political-social-educational revival in the state of Qatar..." The preface of the books for grades 11 and 12 states, in a similar vein, that "there was a need to formulate curricula reflecting the lofty goals of the political-social-educational revival in the state of Qatar. To this end... the [ministry's] Education Council tasked the best jurists and pedagogues at Qatar University and the Higher Education Council, and in the field of education, with formulating curricula that meet these lofty goals, in cooperation with the Ministry of Islamic Endowments and Affairs..."
The opening pages of the books for grades 11 and 12 also feature an explanation about Qatar National Vision 2030, which seeks to develop Qatar by that year into "an advanced state that can achieve sustainable progress" based on "human, social, economic and environmental development." It adds that, as part of human development, Qatar seeks to cultivate educated citizens, a developed and excellent education system and academic research in cooperation with distinguished international organizations and academic institutes, thus gaining a prominent place in the international arena in cultural and academic spheres.
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The preface to the textbooks for grades 11 and 12 states further that their authors aimed to meet the needs of Muslim society, such as consolidating the Muslim and Arabic identity and culture, while also promoting "the openness of consciousness of other cultures rather than self-isolation," and while "nurturing such values as love of beauty and virtue, helping others and caring for the environment."
However, a review of these books, especially those for junior high and high school (grades 7-12), reveals that much of their content does not promote these goals, and in fact undermines them:
- The textbooks for grades 6, 8, 9 and 12 glorify jihad and self-sacrifice for the sake of Islam, presenting them as virtues and as divine commandments that earn Allah's favor and rewards, chief among them admittance into the highest level of Paradise.
- The textbooks for junior high and high school repeatedly stress the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims, describing the latter as "unbelievers" who will suffer terrible tortures in Hell and whom the Muslims must renounce, based on the Islamic principle of al-wala wal-bara, namely loyalty toward fellow-Muslims and the disavowal of non-Muslims.
- The books stress the superiority of Islam over other religions, especially over Judaism and Christianity, which are presented as false and distorted religions, and also feature anti-Semitic motifs, presenting Jews as treacherous, dishonest and crafty, and at the same time as weak, wretched and cowardly. It should be noted that these anti-Semitic motifs, and the principle of disavowing the non-Muslims, are not presented only in the context of Islamic history, but are also associated with the modern era and with the students' daily lives. One of the assignments at the end of the chapter requires the students to compare the Jews' attitude toward the Muslims in the time of [Muhammad's] prophecy and their attitude toward the Muslims today, in light of the material learned in the lesson. (The students are apparently expected to infer that the traits ascribed to the Jews in the chapter – treachery, cowardice, etc. – are also applicable to the Jews today.) Similarly, after learning about the principle of al-wala wal-bara, the students are asked how they would implement this principle today in their relations with non-Muslims in Qatar and abroad.
- Starting in grade 8, the books stress the importance of death in Islam, as well as the horrors of Hell and the pleasures of Paradise.
- The grade 11 textbook presents the West as a hostile force that introduced heretical ideas into the Islamic world, such as secularism and orientalism, with the aim of destroying Islam, casting doubts on the prophesy of Muhammad, distancing the Muslims from their faith and cultivating generations disconnected from Islam, and distorting Muslim history by disregarding its golden ages.
As for the members of the committees that oversaw the books' production, an investigation reveals that many of them are Education Ministry officials, mostly from the Islamic Education Department, as well as officials in the Ministry of Religious Affairs and lecturers at Qatar University. Some are clearly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its ideologue Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who until recently headed the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), which he established in 2004, as is evident from their activities, writings, and social media posts. For example, Dr. Ramadan Khamis Al-Gharib, a member of the committee that oversaw the production of the books for grades 1-10 and a lecturer on Islamic Studies at Qatar University, was a member of the IUMS in 2014, and two months ago met with Yousuf Al-Qaradawi. His MB connection is also evident from his social media posts. Another committee member, Hassan Al-Mayloud Yashu, a Moroccan jurist and lecturer on Islamic Jurisprudence at Qatar University, likewise met recently with Al-Qaradawi, and in the past signed petitions supporting Al-Qaradawi and protesting his inclusion on Interpol's wanted list.
This MEMRI book presents research on Qatari school textbooks for Islamic Education. To view the book in PDF form, click below.