For the first time, textbooks in Turkish school will include the teaching of minority Islamic sects and allow the exception of minorities, like Jehovah’s Witness children, who choose not to take the class, Forum 18 News Service reports. While this is a positive improvement, many human rights activists, including Christians, think more should be done.
By Mine Yildirim
8/23/2011 Turkey (Forum 18 News Service) – When children begin school on 19 September, they should have new official textbooks for the compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics course, for which exemption is highly limited. For the first time the books are due to include teaching not just of Sunni Islam but of Alevi and Caferi traditions, both widely shared movements within Islam in Turkey, Forum 18 News Service notes. This year also saw a slight easing to allow exemption of Jehovah’s Witness children in families who have left the religious section of their official records blank. Yet such changes fail to tackle the fundamental religious freedom problems over the course: the subject remains compulsory, the function of the course – whether it is about religions or the narrow teaching of one faith only (Islam) – is not clarified, exemptions remain limited and require parents to declare their religious or philosophical views, and there is a risk that exempted children suffer bullying from other children and lowered grades from teachers in other subjects. To ensure respect for freedom of religion and belief for all in education, Turkey should consider approaching the matter in a holistic manner.