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Monitoring group: School textbooks in Turkey call Jews and Christians ‘infidels’

Curriculum radicalization began under Erdogan following failed 2016 coup attempt; Israeli-Palestinian conflict described as a religious war against Muslims

Pupils wearing protective facemasks listen to a teacher in a classroom of a school in Ankara on March 2, 2021, after the country lifted restrictions measures against the COVID-19 pandemic in regions with lower infection rates. (Adem ALTAN / AFP)
Pupils wearing protective facemasks listen to a teacher in a classroom of a school in Ankara on March 2, 2021, after the country lifted restrictions measures against the COVID-19 pandemic in regions with lower infection rates. (Adem ALTAN / AFP)

JTA — School textbooks in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been revised to refer to Jews and Christians as “infidels,” according to a new study.

Whereas previous textbooks referred to members of those 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 them by the pejorative, according to the study published Thursday by the IMPACT-se watchdog group.

However, Holocaust studies have been introduced under Erdogan, making Turkey the second Muslim-majority country, after Azerbaijan, to include the genocide as part of the mandatory curriculum. Erdogan has invoked the Holocaust repeatedly in speaking about the treatment of Muslims in Europe today.

The changes coincide with radicalization in Turkish schools following the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, according to Marcus Sheff, the CEO of IMPACT-se.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center-left, his wife Emine Erdogan, center, his son Bilal Erdogan, right, and other family members arrive for a ceremony at a school in Istanbul, June 2, 2017. (Presidential Press Service, Pool photo via AP)

“Schoolbooks 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.”

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 the Turkish national independence movement.

Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, who are referred to as “Muslims,” is described as a religious war where Israel is the aggressor.

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