August 31, 2017 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1340

School Curricula In The Arab World: The Situation Today

August 31, 2017 | By N. Mozes*
Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, The Gulf, North Africa | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1340


The attacks carried out in the name of Islam by terror organizations such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, both in Arab countries and worldwide, have prompted recurring discussion about whether and how the school curricula in the Arab world have contributed to young Arabs joining these organizations.

The Arab governments are being pressured both from within and without to fundamentally change their school curricula, inter alia by removing content encouraging extremism and rejection of the other, and by introducing content fostering tolerance and pluralism. Arab media have published numerous calls for significant education reform appropriate for the modern era, and public figures and commentators are protesting extremism and incitement in school curricula, saying that the schools are educating a generation sympathetic to Salafi-jihadi movements such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

In advance of the 2016-17 schoolyear, there were signs of a genuine attempt in several countries to make fundamental changes to school curricula. Moroccan King Mohammed VI ordered a reexamination of the curricula, which resulted in the removal of Quranic verses pertaining to jihad from schoolbooks. Jordan's Education Ministry made changes to schoolbooks, including removing jihad verses, and replacing illustrations with Islamic motifs, such as women in hijabs, with pictures of a more secular nature.

Such changes encountered vehement opposition from conservative elements and the countries' Islamist parties, which perceived them as compliance with Western demands and as harming the countries' national and religious identity. In Morocco, objections did not prevent the removal of jihad verses from the schoolbooks. In Jordan, however, a committee established in response to conservative pressure approved new schoolbooks but made some corrections to them, including the addition of content about Islam's early battles, such as the wars with the Jewish tribes Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa.[1]

Except for Morocco and Jordan, the approach of most of the other Arab countries in this matter over the years has been hesitant and feeble, as reflected by the concluding statement of a 2016 Beirut conference that stated, inter alia, that the changes made were "superficial and cosmetic" and "failed in educating for a perception of equal citizenship." It also said that the schools had not succeeded in creating generations that would be "immune to the culture of extremism and ostracism."[2]

In Egypt, for example, despite President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi's instructions to reexamine the curricula, only sporadic changes were made, such as removing several stories encouraging extremism. Only this year did The Education Ministry announce that it intended to perform an extensive examination of the curricula and formulate completely new curricula. In Saudi Arabia, despite the removal of many books by the heads and founders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Education Ministry nonetheless announced that liberalism and atheism were the No. 1 threat to national security – topping even extremist Islamism.

This report will review the situation of school curricula in several Arab countries, as shown by reports and articles in the Arab press over the last two years or so:

Articles In The Arab Press: Our Curricula Are Obsolete, Reform Is Needed

As noted, in the Arab world there is harsh criticism of school curricula, inter alia that they encourage terrorism and extremism, as well as calls for fundamental curricular reform.

Muhammad Daoudia, a former Jordanian minister who today chairs the board of directors of the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, wrote: "We are in the 17th century; we belong to that same dark century, according to our enemies... Our weak point is our inability to extricate ourselves from the abyss of the Middle Ages in order to attain freedom and honor and liberate our land and our holy places. The path is clear: reforming our education and advancing in the sciences of the modern age. Science education... is sometimes replaced, in some schools, by lessons on the prayer [to be recited] when taking a shower."

According to Daoudia, the Arab world has good research centers but does not implement their recommendations. Moreover, the best universities are concentrated in the wealthy Gulf, "not in those places where the population needs to extricate itself from backwardness and superstitions – like in Syria, Iraq, the Maghreb, Sudan, and Yemen. This means that the [Arab] nation continues to live in a coma." He stressed: "We need educational reform and curricular development; [we need] to teach art, philosophy, [and] modern science, [to develop] creativity, critical scientific thought, methods of dialogue, and accepting the other..."[3]

Following the May 2017 Arab-Islamic-U.S. counterterrorism summit in Riyadh, attended by President Trump and Saudi King Salman, Dr. Shamlan Yusuf Al-'Issa, political science lecturer at Kuwait University, wrote: "What actual steps have been taken in practice in order to attain the required goal [i.e. fighting terrorism]? More precisely, have we reexamined our school curricula on religion?" He went on to clarify: "The religion curricula in several Gulf countries is written in archaic and fanatical language that is incompatible with the reality of our lives today, and is inappropriate for education in the modern world. They include direct incitement to hatred of the West, the Gulf countries' main ally. This extremism in the curricula has generated several extremist religious organization in several countries, and recurring attacks in several cities in these and other countries... Is it logical for our curricula to include extremist misogynistic language and language that is against openness to the other, calls for jihad, and statements of about death for the sake of Allah, and for fighting those who oppose Islam's religious precepts?

"The current religious discourse in the Gulf cannot take in the changes in the Arab and international environment. It does not encourage the students to go with the zeitgeist and take an interest in science. Likewise, it is not clear how the Muslims can compete with others in science and literature without hating them or declaring them infidels!

"The question is, who will manage to spur the clerics and the teachers who benefit from the situation as it is to change the curricula for the good of all, and in order to distance our lands from the stagnation and extremism of the religion?..."[4]

Moroccan writer Sa'id Nasheed contended that the regimes' lack of courage to promote meaningful curricular reforms was one of the reasons the Arabs were losing the war on terror. He wrote in the London-based daily Al-Arab: "There is no doubt about it, we are on the verge of losing the war on terror. We are about to lose it before we even started it... Even worse, when we do get up to act, we do the opposite [of what is required]... Every time we mean to amend the curricula, especially the religious curricula, extremists among us raise their voices and incite [against this]. And what do we do? We quake with fear and formulate curricula even worse than the old ones, in an attempt to avoid internal strife..."[5]

Morocco: King Orders Quranic Jihad Verses Removed From Curricula

In Morocco, which is dealing with the rapid spread of extremist ideas and sympathy for ISIS, as manifested by over 1,500 young Moroccans joining the organization, King Mohammed VI ordered the education and religious endowments ministers to conduct a comprehensive examination of the entire education system, and not just the public schools. The Moroccan press reported that the king had ordered "a reexamination of Islamic studies curricula in public and private schools, and in traditional education institutions, and greater emphasis on the importance of education based on moderate Islamic values, centered on Sunni Islam according to the Maliki school, which champions wasatiyya [the middle path], moderation, tolerance, and coexistence with all cultures." The king also participated in a February 6, 2016 government meeting that discussed the educational system.[6]

This royal order was the result of foreign and domestic pressure. According to Moroccan media, it is being argued increasingly in the country that Islamic curricula could lead to extremist tendencies and encourage terrorism.[7] Thus, following the November 2015 Paris attacks, the Bayt Al-Hikma organization, whose members include intellectuals and civil activists, called on the regime "to comprehend the dangers that could threaten us at any moment... and purge the curricula, including those for Islamic studies, of all material and content that nourish misguided interpretations of Islam or other religions."[8]

Additional criticism of Morocco's curricula came in an article by Taoufik Bouachrine, editor in chief of the Moroccan news website Bouachrine wrote that his eight-year-old daughter's Islamic studies homework featured the multiple-choice question "Which of the following holy texts were falsified?" with the four options given as Psalms, the Torah, the Gospels, and the Quran. He asked: "Do eight-year-olds need to compare religions, and tackle a complex issue in the history of religions?" The problem, he added, lies not just with the curricula in his country, which "despite all the reservations about them, are 100 times more developed than the religious content inserted into the minds of old and young by religious TV channels in the Gulf and by the millions of sermons, fatwas, and programs on YouTube..."[9]

Following the king's order, and in advance of the 2016-17 schoolyear, the Education Ministry ordered the removal from the curricula of all Quranic verses and chapters relating to jihad and warfare, including Chapter 48, and their replacement with content encouraging tolerance and liberty.[10] According to some reports, the ministry intended to completely remove Islamic studies from curricula and to replace it with "religious studies," but these reports were denied by the ministry.[11]

Even though some were pleased by it, the move was also criticized by both Islamic and non-Islamic elements. The main criticism was that the root of the problem could not be dealt with by removing particular Quranic verses or some chapters from the curricula, but that this content must be explained and interpreted to students so that they will have the tools to deal with misinterpretation and mistaken explanations that they might encounter on social media, in mosques, and in the media.

Thus, Amina Maa Al-Ainine of Morocco's ruling Justice and Development Party, which is Islamic in nature, argued: "It is a mistake to think [that this can be dealt with] by ignoring Quranic verses related to jihad or to the treatment of Jews and others, and trying to conceal them from students, with the shallow justification that the students should be rid of the roots of terrorist thought. The student reads and hears the Quran everywhere, and if we do not read all of it with him and explain it to him properly, tomorrow he will fall prey to channels, websites, and other means that could place devastating ideas into his mind."[12]

Jordan: Amendments To Religious Texts Spark Protests Against "Secularization Of Curricula"

Following calls in 2015 in Jordan to overhaul the education system and purge the curricula of texts that glorify death and encourage extremism and hatred of the other,[13] the Jordanian education system announced, in August 2016, that it had finished amending most of the curricula, but did not specify what changes had been made. Mohammad Thneibat, Jordan's education minister at the time, said that there had been changes to the Arabic, Islam, history, and civics curricula, and noted that the new curricula included content on other religions and on Muslim-Christian relations.[14]

According to reports in the media, including social media, the changes are to both the form and content of the curricula. For example, religious texts, including Quranic verses, have been omitted or replaced with technical or literary texts; Jordan's Christian population is acknowledged, unlike in the old curricula that described the population of Jordan as Muslim only; the requirement to memorize Quranic verses and hadiths has been removed; traditional Muslim names have been replaced with modern ones, and images of mosques and religious figures (i.e. figures with visible indications of Muslim identity, such as beards or veils), have been removed.[15]

Title page of chapter on "Living Together" in a 6th-grade civics textbook before and after the curricular reform: Photo with mosque (left) is replaced with photo of mosque and church (right) (Source:, September 4, 2016)

First grade textbook: Illustration of teacher wearing hijab (left) is replaced with photo of teacher without a veil (right) (Source:, September 4, 2016)

The changes sparked outrage among conservative circles in Jordan and among teachers and parents. The teachers' union, many of whose members belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose relationship with then-education minister Thneibat were strained even before the reform for other reasons, described the curricula amendments as "the last straw" and demanded Thneibat's dismissal.[16] In a message it issued, the union called the reform a disaster and accused the minister and his team of trying to "harm our national curricula" by replacing traditional texts with "Western texts devoid of content." The union also accused the ministry of tolerating "the most humiliating kind of subordination and accepting political dictates that will harm an [entire] generation of Arab Muslim Jordanians that is beset with dangers from every direction – [dictates that] are intended to undermine the self-confidence [of this generation] and everything that strengthens its spirit."[17]

Teachers and students demonstrated against the reforms throughout the country, protesting what they called "the secularization of the curricula."[18] A Jordanian news website reported that parents were complaining about the reforms, and asked: "Is this a new educational policy intended to marginalize the shari'a in the curricula and to distance students from it?"[19]

In an attempt to quell the wave of protests, the minister formed a committee to review the issue.[20] Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki also addressed the issue, saying that the changes to the curricula were meant to develop them while preserving national and Islamic values, and that if the changes prove to harm these values the government will rescind them.[21] On November 14, 2016 Jordanian media reported that the Education Council, headed by Thneibat, had adopted the conclusions of the committee that had been appointed to review the new textbooks. The committee approved the textbooks, including Islamic studies and Arabic textbooks that had sparked much controversy, saying that they conformed to "the philosophy of the education ministry and the values and principles of Islam." However, it recommended making some corrections, including adding Quranic verses relevant to the study material, as well as information on the battles of the early Islamic period, including the wars with the Jewish tribes of Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa.[22]

Despite these changes, conservative elements in the kingdom have continued to protest, calling to reinstate the curricula from 2014, with small amendments. At a press conference, the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary faction and the movement's Islamic Action Front claimed that the changes made to the curriculum constituted "capitulation to foreign dictates" aimed at harming the identity of Jordan and the Islamic nation. A senior official in the Islamic Action Front urged teachers to fight the influence of these changes.[23]

Egypt: Minor Changes, Without Reaching The Root Of The Problem

The regime of Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi has waved the banner of reexamining the curricula as part of its call to renew the religious discourse and fight extremism. But it has come up against a great deal of resistance, primarily from the religious establishment but also from the Egyptian street, the majority of which is traditionally minded. Over the years, many committees to reexamine the curricula have been established, some of them led by Al-Sisi himself, but none have produced results.

It was only in August 2017 that the Egyptian Education Ministry announced that it intended to launch a "comprehensive plan for fundamentally developing and renewing the curricula." According to Dr. Nawwal Shalabi, head of the ministry's curricular development center, at this time guidelines are being formulated that will determine the curricula, set out the requirements for education in Egypt, and determine the outcomes to which it aspires.[24]

This approach is very different from how the problem has been approached to date; changes have involved merely omitting specific sections of the curricula. For example, in March 2015 the Education Ministry announced that "in the framework of amending the Arabic-language curricula for all grade levels," all topics encouraging violence or extremism had been removed, as well as "political or religious content," such as the conquests of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyoubi and 'Uqba bin Nafa', some of the greatest military leaders in Islam.[25]

In advance of the 2016-17 school year, the ministry ordered the removal from the third-grade Arabic curriculum of a story titled "The End of the Falcons," about a struggle between falcons and other birds with the birds symbolizing those who love their homeland and the falcons embodying its enemies. At the end of the struggle, the triumphant birds set the falcons on fire in a closed tent and ignore their calls for help.[26] The story was removed because of claims that it "cultivates amongst the children the idea of burning [people alive], and vengeance."[27]

This approach of removing parts of the curricula while avoiding an extensive overhaul was the target of much criticism, mostly accusations that it was piecemeal and a slow way of attacking the problem. For example, a highly critical article published September 27, 2016 in the London-based Al-Arab daily, which is funded by the UAE, described the Egyptian school curricula as "anachronistic and encouraging [students to engage in] takfir," that is, to accuse other Muslims of heresy. The article stated that even though "the Egyptian government repeatedly, and under various circumstances, announces its wish to renew the religious discourse, it disregards school curricula justifying jihad, slavery, takfir, and immolation, and these are taught in public schools and at Al-Azhar institutions..."

According to the article, the curricula include texts and stories encouraging extremism and feeding a tendency to violence as well as hatred of the other. Following considerable protest against parts of the study material, some of the content was changed, but many curricula, it said, still include texts on religious law concerning slavery, dhimmitude, and the jizya poll tax levied on non-Muslims, and on the death penalty for Muslims who renounce Islam.[28]

Protests About The Inclusion Of The Novel Wa-Islama In 10th-Grade Arabic Curriculum

A prominent example of a text whose inclusion in the curriculum sparked criticism is the novel Wa-Islama ("Oh Muslims"), which is part of the 10th-grade Arabic study material. The novel, which tells of the Medieval Egyptian Sultan Saif Al-Din Qutuz and his war against the Crusaders, includes violent scenes, including one in which the Sultan's young nephew beheads the captured son of the Mongol leader Genghis Khan. The novel is by 'Ali Ahmad Bakhtiar, an Indonesian who was raised in Egypt and resides there. First published in 1945, it became very popular and even won an education ministry award. It has been part of the Egyptian curricula since 1966, and has been made into a play and a film.

In January 2017 Egyptian MP Mona Munir presented the novel as an example of extremist material in the curriculum and called on the Education Ministry to develop and amend the study material. In a question she presented to the Education Minister, she wrote: "[This story] is not one of ISIS's massacres but a story included [in the curriculum] for tenth graders in Egypt, which presents itself to the world as a country that fights terrorism... People may read whatever they want, but school curricula must instill reason and a sense of belonging to the homeland. This is at odds with expecting children to be impressed with the heroism of a boy who beheads people and plays with skulls and is not moved by the sight of heads flying and veins spurting blood like fountains. If a child writes on an exam that he is not impressed by this or expresses opposition [to the story] he will fail and be held back... The Egyptian curricula must be amended and developed in order to confront the violence and extremism that have become rampant among our youth today..."[29] On another occasion, Munir said: "We are in the age of technology and the information revolution. Why do we teach our children stories about swords and spears?"[30]

Khaled Al-Montasser, a columnist for the Egyptian Al-Watan daily, wrote in a similar vein about this story: "It is not a passage about one of ISIS's massacres or a transcript of a video by [the late Al-Qaeda leader] Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, but a story that has been approved [as part of the curriculum] for 10th graders in Egypt... that markets itself to the world as a country that fights terrorism... This is the meaning of the term heroism that we put into the heads and the hearts of [our] children...

"I have a question for President [Al-Sisi]: How will we renew the religious discourse when your ISIS-like [Education] Minister cultivates in his schools millions of children of [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?... Our public schools and the Al-Azhar schools are cultivating an ISIS-like generation. How then do we expect to become civilized, make progress and renew our thinking?... Our conscience must be oriented in a national-Egyptian direction that [treats] everyone as equal and is free of blood and body-parts, for no country can become civilized once its children have become enamored of blood..."[31]

Education Ministry edition of Wa-Islama for the 10th grade, 2016/2017 school year (Source:

Munir's demand that Wa-Islama be removed from the reading list sparked a debate in the parliamentary education committee. Some MPs claimed that the book had been included in the curricula for years and does not encourage terror or extremism. Committee member MP Ibrahim Hijazi said: "I studied this book and did not become a terrorist or an extremist, and so did many others..."[32]

Ahmad Shalabi, an education ministry advisor on Arabic studies, said that the regime had formed a committee to examine the stories included in the curricula, including this one, and had decided to omit all the passages in this novel and in other texts that contain violence and can be misinterpreted.[33] Despite this, the Ta'limak website, which posts online editions of Egypt's textbooks, noted that "no changes have been made to the novel Wa-Islama this year." The version of the novel posted on the website – is which described as taken from the Education Ministry site and as part of the reading list for the 2016-2017 schoolyear – includes the violent passages that sparked the debate about the book.[34]

It should be noted that Education Ministry official Mahmoud Al-Khabiri instructed the education administration heads in all districts to act immediately to remove from schools all books on the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran's Islamic Revolution, as well as books that encourage violence, and threatened that anyone violating this directive would be punished.[35] However, this directive presumably reflects Egypt's political hostility towards the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran more than it reflects a comprehensive plan for developing and reforming the curricula.

Saudi Arabia: Calls To Purge Curricula Of Religious Extremism, Hatred

Following several terror attacks carried out by ISIS supporters in Saudi Arabia, Saudi MPs and journalists recently called to reexamine the curricula, which they regard as partly responsible for the rise in support for ISIS in the kingdom. 'Abdallah 'Abd Al-Karim Al-Sa'doun, chairman of the Shura Council's security committee, urged the education ministry to formulate new curricula that would "seek to create a moderate and balanced individual with a capacity for critical thinking that allows him to distinguish right from wrong."[36] Shura Council member 'Issa Al-Gheith called to "purge the schools, universities, pulpits, mosques and social media of all the inciting extremists, and especially of certain curricula that helped the extremists shape the students' minds as they pleased..."[37]

Several columnists in the Saudi government press wrote in a similar vein. Al-Watan columnist 'Ali Al-Shuraimi argued that the curricula in Saudi schools inculcated hatred for the other. He wrote: "One of the main causes of our problems is the methods and the quality of the education we give our children... who rely almost exclusively on 'copying and pasting' [the material they learned] in order to succeed in exams. Our children grow up avoiding many questions and fearing to discuss many scientific and philosophical topics, which the curricula mark off with many red lines and surround with many prohibitions. The curricula are only one reason of many for the problem [of extremism], but by changing and amending them [we can] save what can still be saved and reduce the levels of racism and extremism. There is no choice but to reexamine the religious curricula and purge them of the flaws of religious extremism... and hatred for those who espouse a different religion or [religious] school. We must reexamine the concept of jihad and redefine it as jihad against backwardness and ignorance, while confining military jihad to [cases where] the state and the people are under attack." Al-Shuraimi called to include in the curricula material about other religions and based them on values of human rights, tolerance and morality. He concluded by saying: "There is no choice but to reexamine the curricula and develop them, out of a pressing internal necessity and in order to match the progress of the modern age by [providing] education that can meet the challenges and is immune to notions of extremism and killing."[38]

Also in Al-Watan, 'Abir Al-'Ali called on the education ministry to "count the how many times the phrase 'jihad for the sake of Allah' appears in the curricula and explain to us why [it appears so frequently]... at a time when the state is waging an all-out war against those who promote strife and harbor political ambitions and while bloody conflicts are raging in the neighboring countries. We must adopt new methods in education, completely different [from the present ones], based on rational thinking rather than rote learning and eschewing praise for death and hatred for the other, [methods that] strengthen values of citizenship and [teach to] prefer the interests of the homeland and defend it above all else..."[39]

Saudi Education Ministry: Modern Perceptions Are The Number One Threat To National Security

Over the years the Saudi education ministry took various measures but did not devise a definite, uniform and comprehensive policy for combating extremism. In December 2015, the ministry reiterated the instruction to remove books by the founders and chief ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Sayyid Qutb, Hassan Al-Banna and Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, from school libraries and educational centers.[40] A similar instruction issued in 2002, following 9/11, was not fully implemented.[41] Obviously, this instruction is motivated, inter alia, by political factors as part of Saudi Arabia's struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood.

In fact, a measure taken by the ministry recently seems to fly in the face of any attempt to make curricula more moderate. A 2016 education ministry project which aimed to "consolidate national values, address extremist ideas and destructive principles and identify any extremist activity among the students and deal with it," stated that the greatest threat to Saudi Arabia's national security is posed by "the modern perceptions: Westernization, atheism, liberalism and secularism," while the takfiri extremist groups (such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda) and partisan and sectarian streams are identified as a lesser threat.[42] Moreover, it seems that teaching methods in government schools remain largely unchanged. In July 2015, Saudi liberals decried the decision of Education Minister 'Azzam Al-Dakhil to introduce Quran-memorization classes in government schools, saying that this decision would "take Saudi education back by years and create an extremist generation that prioritizes religion over science."[43]

Kuwait: Institutions Evasive On Necessity Of Changing Curricula

Kuwait, too, does not appear to have made any essential changes to the curricula in recent years, and its government seems to be avoiding an in-depth and serious debate on this issue and confining itself to general and vague statements about the need to base the curricula on values of tolerance and respect for the other.[44] In June 2016, Jassim Al-Mesbah, the general professional supervisor for Islamic education at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education, announced that the ministry had finished amending Islamic curricula for grades 2 through 6, and that changes would be made in more grades next year.[45] The next month, it was reported that Education Minister Badr Al-'Issa had ordered the rollout of middle school curricula, starting in the 2016-17 school year, "that are based on tolerance, respecting the other, and uprooting extremism." Deputy Minister Sa'id Al-Harbi said that the goal is to teach students basic skills on a high level, which will transform them into good citizens that adopted the values of Kuwaiti society and abide by them; respect the other and human rights and liberties; and commit to the values of peace and tolerance.[46]

The nature of these changes, and whether education ministry officials are seriously working to implement them are unclear. Thus, in response to an MP's question in July 2016, Al-'Issa said that "the Islamic studies curriculum has nothing that encourages extremism. On the contrary, programs on this topic promote values of tolerance and humanism in the religion, and call for peace, tolerance, pluralism, coexistence, and mutual respect."[47] Separately, Al-'Issa also said that there was no escaping changing curricula in the Middle East and other areas where extremist ideas flourish in an conscious and real way, but clarified that "we in Kuwait and the Gulf employ a policy of human rights and dignity, and rear our children in accordance with this in our schools, but what our children see in the media contradicts what they study in their schools."[48]

Another example of the dissatisfaction with enacting major changes to the curricula was Jassim Al-Mesbah's response to a question regarding reports that U.S. embassies in several Arab countries determine the general framework of Islamic curricula in schools. Al-Mesbah replied: "We have not seen this ourselves, but it could be true in several Islamic countries, according to what I have read on the ratification of agreements on this topic. In general, globalization exists and is in control, which means an imposition of ideological, cultural, political, economic, and military authority. Anyone who says otherwise is unaware of reality. This is a new colonialism... There are attempts to impose authority... Some [in Arab and Muslim countries] champion a secular and liberal attitude and do not desire Islam."[49]

As expected, this issue sparked a debate in the country. Liberal Kuwaiti journalist Ahmad Al-Sarraf, writing for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, praised Morocco for its decision to reexamine curricula, and wondered when Kuwait was going to do the same. Under the headline "When Will It Be Our Turn?" he wrote: "Are our curricula, as the Kuwaiti Minister of Education claimed and stated, indeed clean of encouragement to terrorism, killing, jihad, and permission to kill the other? The answer is obviously no – neither with regard to the texts or the people [in the field]. Politicized teachers are a dangerous element shaping our students' perceptions. The strange thing is that the Ministry of Religious Endowments has asked mosque preachers not to discuss certain topics or deal with politics, but has issued no warning to teachers – [even though] the teachers association has long been considered a home for pro-Muslim Brotherhood thought... A few days ago, students confronted security personnel, raised ISIS banners, and sang ISIS anthems in front of security personnel and cellphone cameras... since they know, or think, that they are the strongest..."[50]

Dr. Ibtihal Al-Khatib, a Kuwait University professor and liberal secular activist, even called for abolishing religious classes in schools, saying that they constitute "a suppression of the rights of other religions" and calling instead for establishing a neutral educational institution. According to her, Kuwaiti schools "still teach about the [death] penalty for reverting from Islam, [although] we are an open society where many change their religion... Additionally, there are mistaken views of women... and harsh texts that incite violence..."[51]


* N. Mozes is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1], November 14, 2016. Banu Nadir and Banu Qaynuqa were Jewish tribes living in Al-Madina who, according to Muslim tradition, betrayed the Prophet Muhammad and violated treaties they made with him, and as a result Muhammad expelled them from the city.

[2] Al-Ghad (Jordan), March 7, 2016.

[3] Al-Dustour (Jordan), August 16, 2017.

[4] Al-Ittihad (UAE), July 2, 2017.

[5] Al-Arab (London), December 27, 2016.

[6], February 7, 2016.

[7], February 7, 2016.

[8], November 19, 2015.

[9], March 1, 2016.

[10], July 1, 2016.

[11], July 1, 2016.

[12], July 8, 2016.

[14] Al-Ghad (Jordan), August 24, 2016.

[15] Al-Ghad (Jordan), August 24, 2016;, August 19, 2016;, September 4, 2016; Al-Sabil (Jordan), September 18, 2016, October 5, 2016, February 4, 2017.

[16] Al-Sabil (Jordan), September 17, 2016.

[17] Al-Sabil (Jordan), September 18, 2016.

[18] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 30, 2016; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), October 1, 14, 2016; Al-Sabil (Jordan), October 6, 2016.

[19], September 4, 2016.

[20] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 11, 2016; Al-Sabil (Jordan), October 1, 2016.

[21] Al-Ghad (Jordan), October 9, 2016.

[22], November 14, 2016.

[23] Al-Sabil (Jordan), February 4, 2017.

[24], August 25, 2017.

[25] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 18, 2015. Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyoubi (1137-1193) ruled Egypt and Syria, and was the founder of the Ayyoubi dynasty; he took Jerusalem from the Crusaders after they had controlled it for 88 years. 'Uqba bin Nafa' (622-683) was governor of northern Africa under the Umayyads, and conquered extensive areas of the Byzantine Empire in northwest Africa.

[26], February 25, 2017.

[27], March 1, 2017.

[28], September 27, 2016.

[29], January 29, 2017.

[30], February 10, 2017.

[31] Al-Watan (Egypt), November 19, 2016.

[32] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), January 29, 2017.

[33] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt, January 29, 2017.


[35] October 12, 2016.

[36] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 25, 2016.

[37] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 25, 2016.

[38] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 5, 2016.

[39] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 28, 2016.

[40], December 12, 2015.

[41] Al-Hayat (London), April 28, 2014.

[42] Makkah (Saudi Arabia), October 28, 2016. On this project, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1288, Saudi Education Ministry Project To 'Inoculate' Schoolchildren Against Liberalism And Secularism Causes Furor In The Country, December 13, 2016.

[43], July 30, 2015.

[44] On a debate about the Kuwaiti school curricula in 2004, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 224, The Public Debate on Kuwait's School Curricula: To Teach or Not to Teach Jihad, June 1, 2005.

[45], June 16, 2016.

[46], July 4, 2016.

[47], July 12, 2016.

[48] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), September 19, 2016.

[49] Al-Rai (Kuwait), September 4, 2016.

[50] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), July 16, 2016.

[51], September 24, 2016.

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