Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, schools in Turkey have now revised their syllabus to include portions that refer to Jews and Christians as “infidels”. Earlier, these very books referred to members of these religions as “People of the Book”.
Textbooks such as “Fundamental Religious Knowledge,” a publication released after 2017 that is part of the mandatory curriculum in Turkish elementary schools, have switched to calling Jews and Christians infidels, according to the study published Thursday by the IMPACT-se watchdog group.
According to the other findings in the study, the curriculum now demonizes Zionism and verges on antisemitic messaging by describing some post-WWI Jewish schools as hostile to Turkey’s independence. One book, “A Contemporary Turkish and World History,” states that Israel is seeking to “reconstruct Solomon’s Temple” on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Another accuses the Alliance Jewish schooling network and the Maccabi sports association of working against Turkish national independence movement. Israel’s conflict with Palestinians, who are referred to as “Muslims,” is described as a religious war where Israel is the aggressor.
But on the other hand, the curriculum also continues to show respect for the Jewish civilization and the Hebrew language. For the first time, the Holocaust is specifically mentioned, although briefly. This makes Turkey the second Muslim-majority country, after Azerbaijan, to include the genocide as part of the mandatory curriculum.
According to Marcus Sheff, the CEO of IMPACT-se, the changes coincide with radicalization in Turkish schools following the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party. “School books have been weaponized in Erdogan’s attempts to Islamize Turkish society and to hark back to a nostalgic age of Turkish domination,” Sheff wrote, adding that his group has identified “increased demonization of Israel and antisemitic aspersions.”
Meanwhile, the curriculum has also adopted an anti-American stance and displays sympathy toward the motivations of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, Jihad war is introduced as a central value; martyrdom in battle is glorified and Islam is depicted as political, using science and technology to advance its goals.