CAIRO (Dispatches) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is causing controversy by ordering education officials to restrict verses from the Qur’an to Islamic religion textbooks in the schools of the predominantly Muslim nation.
Sisi has ordered education officials to remove verses from the textbooks of all other subjects, a Ministry of Education official revealed recently.
Reda Hegazi, the deputy minister of education, said that the Egyptian president had asked the Ministry of Education to allow "moderate” schoolteachers only to teach Islamic texts to pupils at the nation’s schools.
The commands of the Egyptian president are the latest in a series of disrespecting the holy book.
The schools supervised by the Ministry of Education, numbering close to 50,000, lay stress on natural and social sciences, whereas the schools and institutes of al-Azhar, around 65,000, place the stress on religion and religious studies.
Nevertheless, the textbooks taught at the schools supervised by the Ministry of Education contain many references to the Qur’an, sometimes quoting verses from the holy book and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The argument over whether non-religious textbooks should contain verses from the Qur’an or sayings of the prophet is a sensitive issue in Egypt.
There are fears that the decision would constitute an attack on the religious identity of Egypt.
Around 23 million pupils are enrolled in schools nationwide, according to the Ministry of Education. This means that there is a school pupil in almost every Egyptian home.
Ahmed Abdel Aziz, an adviser to the late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, said that Sisi wants to secularize the Egyptian society.
"This is true after the Egyptian state itself was secularized,” Abdel Aziz said.
Secularism has negative connotations among Egypt’s religious parties, which view calls for reducing religious teaching at the schools as an attack against the Islamic identity of the majority of Egyptians.
The al-Nour Party says removing Islamic texts from school textbooks is totally unacceptable.
"The removal of these verses will weaken the curricula, especially the Arabic language curricula,” Salah Abdel Maaboud, a senior member of the party, told MEE.
"Educational authorities can easily solve the problem of misinterpreting religious texts by committing schoolteachers to specific interpretations.”
Some citizens share the same view. They say the presence of verses from the Qur’an in school textbooks is necessary for the educational process itself.
"These verses back the information mentioned in the textbooks,” said Shaimaa Sayed, a housewife and a mother of three schoolchildren. "The presence of these verses puts textbook information beyond doubt,” she told MEE.