Why Iran’s hate-filled public school curriculum should be a global concern

Why Iran’s hate-filled public school curriculum should be a global concern
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Updated 04 March 2021

Why Iran’s hate-filled public school curriculum should be a global concern

Why Iran’s hate-filled public school curriculum should be a global concern
  • Teachers use state-designed textbooks that encourage young people to export global revolution using violent means
  • Curriculum encourages political subversion against Arab states and demonizes the US, Israel and Jewish people

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The government of Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and unfortunately its educational curriculum is no exception. Public school teachers in Iran today use textbooks designed by the state to indoctrinate young people to export global revolution using terrorism and other aggressive means. As a result, the content of its textbooks should be a global concern.

Image titled “Let’s Go” from a current Iranian state textbook depicting an IRGC officer killed in Syria named Mohsen Hojaji. Grade 10, Defense Preparation, page 123. (Supplied)

I recently completed the first comprehensive study of hate and extremism in current Iranian textbooks in nearly half a decade as part of my ongoing work with the Anti-Defamation League, the results of which are accessible in full on the ADL website.

Evaluating teaching materials to identify and discourage hateful content is an important trend in the Middle East. Accordingly, this essay reproduces key findings from the ADL research on Iran and adds several notable new examples beyond the content in the original report.

The Iranian state curriculum especially encourages terrorism and political subversion against Arab states in particular. It also demonizes America, Israel and the Jewish people, including in ways that are part and parcel with these same hateful conspiracy theories and calls to violence.

For this reason, condemning the problematic content in Tehran’s textbooks is only part of the solution. We should also redouble efforts to teach peace-building and interfaith tolerance in every country’s textbooks, so that it is harder to exploit suspicions between East and West, between Sunnis and Shiites, or between Muslims, Jews, Christians and followers of other faiths.

The Iranian government’s current textbooks indoctrinate children with messages that put them on a permanent footing for war. The books teach children how to assemble assault rifles, to carry out military maneuvers, and to learn about the importance of cyber warfare.

Graphic from a lesson on cyber warfare. Grade 10, Defense Preparation, p. 126. (Supplied)

The books also idealize young people who sacrifice their lives to sustain or export the Iranian revolution. Often this involves glorifying child soldiers who fought and died under traumatic circumstances during the Iran-Iraq War or displaying children wielding weapons of war, including a rocket launcher.

Diagram listing the parts of a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Grade 10, Defense Preparation, p. 92. (Supplied)

Likewise, the textbooks glorify a 20-year-old Iranian named Muhammed Reza Dehghan as a “model martyr defending the shrines.” Dehghan was killed within weeks of deploying to Syria as a volunteer fighter for the student wing of Iran’s Basij paramilitary. The books also teach that an ideal Basij member always yearns for martyrdom.

Textbook passage depicting Hezbollah’s Mustafa Badreddine and the founder of the Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade as “model martyrs” killed in supposed defense of Syria’s Islamic shrines, shown at bottom right and bottom left. Student Basij volunteer Muhammed Reza Dehghan is depicted middle left. Grade 10, Defense Preparation, p. 45. (Supplied)

Also presented on the same textbook page listing “model martyrs defending the shrines” is Mustafa Badreddine, the deceased terrorist mastermind of Lebanese Hezbollah, as well as Ali Reza Tavassoli, a founder of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, one of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ proxy groups that recruits young Afghan men, including child soldiers, to fight in Syria.

This year Iran’s state curriculum added passages across numerous subjects to celebrate the martyrdom of the IRGC’s late terror master, Qassem Soleimani. For example, an official textbook on military studies now features a graphic under the heading “Templates and Models of Steadfastness and Resistance.”

In addition to Soleimani, the picture includes Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, whom it calls a “model martyr of the Islamic World.” At the time of their death in 2020, both al-Muhandis’s Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq and Soleimani’s IRGC Quds Force were US-designated terrorist groups.

“Lesson 6: Templates and Models of Steadfastness and Resistance”. Qassem Soleimani is shown at center top. Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis is shown at second right, with the label “model martyr of the Islamic world” appended in the associated caption. Image from a current Iranian state textbook, Grade 10, Defense Preparation, p. 45. (Supplied)

Militant language is even applied to policies that Tehran insists have no military application. Remarkably, a current high school textbook presents the work of “young Iranian nuclear scientists” as “a blessing with your great jihad and the blood of your bounteous youths.”

“…With the great ambition and determination of the young Iranian scientists and in spite of the constant conspiracies and oppositions of the enemies of the Islamic Revolution, Iranian nuclear scientists have achieved many successes. Imam Khomeini has said about protecting the achievements of the revolution: ‘I advise the dear nation of Iran to know that you have achieved a blessing with your great jihad and the blood of your bounteous youths’…” [Natanz Nuclear Facilities]. Grade 11, History of Contemporary Iran, p. 230. (Supplied)

Those most immediately impacted by Iran’s radical curriculum are its Arab neighbors. For example, an eleventh-grade history textbook brazenly calls for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Bahrain, proclaiming that “the Bahraini revolution has not yet come to fruition” and that this should specifically include “the overthrow of Al-Khalifa rule.”

“…The people of Bahrain are seriously demanding the implementation of fundamental reforms and the overthrow of Al Khalifa rule, and in this way they have sacrificed many martyrs, but due to foreign protection of this regime and severe repression of the people, the Bahraini revolution has not yet come to fruition. [Pearl Square, the starting site of the Bahrainis’ uprising]” Grade 11, The History of Contemporary Iran, page. 251. (Supplied)

This passage is part of an entire chapter focused on exporting Iran’s revolution across the Arab world. It advocates for uprisings in recent years against what it calls “puppet” governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen in hopes of advancing what the books laud as “the school of Hajj Qassem Soleimani.” The chapter also expresses noteworthy admiration for the Muslim Brotherhood and its founder, Hassan Al-Banna.

These extremist messages are then supplemented with intolerance and conspiracy theories.  For example, a current tenth-grade textbook on Defense Preparation teaches the false allegation that Saudi Arabia and America created Daesh as an act of sabotage against Iran.  A religious law textbook for the same grade suggests that the followers of certain religious creeds are physically unclean, including Buddhists, Baha’is and Saudi Salafis.

A complementary profile of Hassan Al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Page 238 of an 11th grade textbook ostensibly on the topic of Iranian national history. (Supplied)

The Iranian curriculum casts America as today’s leading villain in a perennial conflict between Islam and imperialism. The books characterize America as “the Great Satan” and claim international sanctions against Iran are merely part of Washington’s “Satanic plan” to subjugate the nations of the world and to destroy people’s faith in Islam.

Graphic from a current Iranian state textbook, Grade 10, Defense Preparation, p. 120. The text in red translates to “Sanctions”. The text in black says “Iran.” (Supplied)

The textbooks also claim that America and other Western nations are engaged in a conspiracy to spread disbelief and moral corruption using such tools as drugs and video games, and that Western Christians who try to spread their faith are engaged in this widespread imperialist plot rather than a genuine expression of their religious doctrine.

Such disinformation is even applied to the issue of the global pandemic by Iran’s latest official textbooks, which teach that foreign media has exaggerated the coronavirus to deter Iranians from pro-regime rallies and to create panic about medical shortages.

Activity 3: “Why did the foreign media inhibit people from attending the national celebration of the 22nd of Bahman (i.e. the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on 11/2/20) in a coordinated way with rumors of the spread of Corona?”
Grade 10, Defense Preparation, p. 121. (Supplied)

Unsurprisingly, the state of Israel is targeted for explicit overthrow by Iran’s official textbooks. Graphics in the books today teach the chant “Death to Israel” and feature the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s instruction that “Israel must be wiped out.”

Graphic from a current Iranian state textbook with the Khomeini quotation “Israel Must be Wiped Out”. Grade 5, Heaven’s Gifts: Islamic Education and Training, p. 102. (Supplied)

But Tehran’s animus is not directed solely at Israel. Its curriculum also encourages a fundamentally anti-Jewish narrative of human history from ancient to modern times, selectively presenting Jewish people in an overwhelmingly negative way.

Graphic of a boy holding a sign that says “Death to Israel,” from a lesson about Iranian government marches for International Quds Day. Grade 7, Heaven’s Messages: Islamic Education and Training, pp. 120-122. (Supplied)

For example, Saudi Arabia recently instituted textbook passages teaching the Charter of Madinah as a model for Muslim-Jewish coexistence. The Iranian curriculum, on the other hand, still places much greater emphasis on the example of Jewish tribes that broke that pact, suggesting that Jews in general are untrustworthy and seek to destroy Islam.

Iran’s textbooks similarly scapegoat Jewish people for a range of societal ills in a way that propagates longstanding anti-Jewish generalizations such as greed, disloyalty or world domination.

Debates over the appropriate direction for Muslim prayer or the possibility of inaccurate hadiths are each presented as the work of immoral Jewish conspiracies. So are Freemason clubs.

As is global media consolidation. Furthermore, all Jewish people who aspire to any form of self-determination are labeled “enemies of Islam,” even those who advocate for a two-state solution and Palestinian statehood.

The anti-Americanism and anti-Jewish bigotry in Iran’s official curriculum are essential pieces of its radical orientation. This includes its justification for enmity toward Iran’s Arab neighbors, who are depicted unjustly as servants of Jewish and colonial interests.

When the books accuse Saudi Arabia of creating Daesh, they claim this is in service to “Zionism and Global Arrogance.” They present wars in the region as a Zionist conspiracy to incite strife among Muslims, and Arab leaders are portrayed as “ignorant and extremist Muslims” sought out by America, Israel and the West to slander Islam.

Image from a current Iranian state textbook, in a lesson titled “Cultural Attack”. Grade 9, Heaven’s Messages: Islamic Education and Training, p. 105. (Supplied)

The greatest tool nations in and beyond the region can use to combat this incitement would be to redouble efforts at instituting tolerance education and removing any remaining teachings that others could exploit to spread hate, mistrust or extremism.

This includes rooting out vestiges of lessons that present Israel and Zionists as “the enemy” or perpetuate dangerous stereotypes about Jewish people.

It includes ensuring that doctrinal disputes, such as between Sunni and Shiite Islam, are addressed by curricula in ways that recognize and respect important differences while ensuring that minorities are not marginalized by educational messages that could lead to recruitment by extremists or violence from within either community.

And it includes teaching that America, Europe and non-believers worldwide are potential friends and partners, not enemies of Islam per se.

Of course, effectively teaching tolerance can never be a one-way street. America, Israel, and all nations must do more to teach all kinds of tolerance as well, and that should include much greater tolerance toward Muslims, toward Arabs, and toward Palestinians and their legitimate aspirations for statehood as well.

It means teaching our young people to be not only patriots but also global citizens, and that humanity’s future depends upon our collaboration across political and religious boundaries to address shared challenges.


* David Andrew Weinberg is Washington Director for International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League. Twitter: @DavidAWeinberg

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Saudi Arabia, UAE condemn failed coup attempt in Sudan

Saudi Arabia, UAE condemn failed coup attempt in Sudan
Updated 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, UAE condemn failed coup attempt in Sudan

Saudi Arabia, UAE condemn failed coup attempt in Sudan

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia condemned the failed coup attempt in Sudan,  Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday, citing the kingdom's foreign ministry.

The United Arab Emirates also condemned the failed coup attempt in Sudan. 

UAE government eases face mask rules in some public places

UAE government eases face mask rules in some public places
Updated 13 min 55 sec ago

UAE government eases face mask rules in some public places

UAE government eases face mask rules in some public places

DUBAI: The UAE government has removed the mandatory requirement to wear face masks in some public places, the country’s health ministry announced Wednesday. 

The decision means it is no longer obligatory to wear masks while exercising outdoors, sitting at the beach, or by the pool.

Individuals driving in a private car alone or with members of the same household will also not be required to wear them.

Masks will also not be required in indoor places such as hair salons when people are alone. 

The decision came after the number of daily Covid-19 cases decreased by 60 per cent in August this year as compared to the same period last year.

Syrian rebel stronghold Idlib struggles with coronavirus surge

Syrian rebel stronghold Idlib struggles with coronavirus surge
Updated 22 September 2021

Syrian rebel stronghold Idlib struggles with coronavirus surge

Syrian rebel stronghold Idlib struggles with coronavirus surge
  • The total number of cases seen in Idlib province has more than doubled since the beginning of August
  • Extreme poverty and the ravages of Syria’s civil war have made the situation in Idlib uniquely terrible

BEIRUT: Coronavirus cases are surging to the worst levels of the pandemic in a rebel stronghold in Syria — a particularly devastating development in a region where scores of hospitals have been bombed and that doctors and nurses have fled in droves during a decade of war.
The total number of cases seen in Idlib province — an overcrowded enclave with a population of 4 million, many of them internally displaced — has more than doubled since the beginning of August to more than 61,000. In recent weeks, daily new infections have repeatedly shot past 1,500, and authorities reported 34 deaths on Sunday alone — figures that are still believed to be undercounts because many infected people don’t report to authorities.
The situation has become so dire in the northwestern province that rescue workers known as the White Helmets who became famous for digging through the rubble of bombings to find victims now mostly ferry coronavirus patients to the hospital or the dead to burials.
“What is happening is a medical catastrophe,” the Idlib Doctors Syndicate said this week as it issued a plea for support from international aid groups.
Idlib faces all the challenges that places the world over have during the pandemic: Its intensive care units are largely full, there are severe shortages of oxygen and tests, and the vaccination rollout has been slow.
But extreme poverty and the ravages of Syria’s civil war have made the situation in Idlib uniquely terrible. Half of its hospitals and health centers have been damaged by bombing, and the health system was close to collapse even before the pandemic. A large number of medical personnel have fled the country seeking safety and opportunities abroad. Tens of thousands of its residents live in crowded tent settlements, where social distancing and even regular hand-washing are all but impossible. And increasing violence in the region is now threatening to make matters worse.
Large parts of Idlib and neighboring Aleppo province remain in the hands of Syria’s armed opposition, dominated by radical groups including Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants who have struggled to respond to the outbreak, which intensified in August, apparently driven by the more contagious delta variant and gatherings for the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha.
Cases and deaths have also been increasing in recent weeks in government-held areas and those under the control of US-backed Kurdish-led fighters in the east, but the situation appears to be worse in Idlib, though it’s hard to measure the true toll anywhere.
In response, the political arm of the insurgent group that runs Idlib has closed some markets, forced restaurants to serve outdoor meals only, and delayed the opening of schools by a week.
But most residents are daily laborers who could not survive if they stopped working, making full lockdowns impossible.
“If they don’t work, they cannot eat,” said Idlib resident Ahmad Said, who added that most people cannot even afford to buy masks.
What’s more, a population that has suffered through so much already is often too weary to follow restrictions that have tested people even in easier circumstances.
“It is as if people have gotten used to death,” said Salwa Abdul-Rahman, an opposition activist who reports on events in Idlib. “Those who were not killed by regime and Russian airstrikes are being killed now by coronavirus.”
The vaccination campaign meanwhile, has been slow, though the arrival of some 350,000 doses of a Chinese vaccine earlier this month could help. According to the World Health Organization, only about 2.5 percent of Idlib’s population has received at least one shot.
The new virus outbreak also comes amid the most serious increase in violence in Idlib, 18 months after a truce reached between Turkey and Russia who support rival sides in Syria’s conflict brought relative calm. In recent weeks, airstrikes and artillery shelling by government forces have left scores of people dead or wounded.
At Al-Ziraa hospital, Dr. Muhammad Abdullah says there is no sign that the outbreak has reached its peak yet.
But for some Idlib residents, getting infected is the least of their worries.
“We have gone through more difficult situations than coronavirus,” said resident Ali Dalati, walking through a market without wearing a mask. “We are not afraid of coronavirus.”

Houthis not willing to make peace, Yemen’s parliament leader tells US envoy

Houthis not willing to make peace, Yemen’s parliament leader tells US envoy
Updated 22 September 2021

Houthis not willing to make peace, Yemen’s parliament leader tells US envoy

Houthis not willing to make peace, Yemen’s parliament leader tells US envoy

DUBAI: The Iran-backed Houthi militia are unwilling to make peace in Yemen and are actually undermining efforts for hostilities to cease in the conflict-ridden country, a senior Yemeni politician said.

“We’re ready to achieve peace, but the Houthi militia has not yet agreed to do so, it has continued to deliberately undermine peace efforts and proposals, going on fighting. These indicators show they have never been willing to make peace,” Parliament speaker, Sultan Al-Barakani said as he met US envoy to Yemen Timothy Lenderking to discuss peace initiatives for Yemen.

The Houthis are to blame for blocking peace efforts and initiative and escalating military actions targeting civilians and facilities including Mocha port, state news agency SABA quoted the parliament leader as saying.

Al-Barakani pointed to the recent public execution of nine people, who were accused of being involved in the killing of Houthi leader Saleh Al-Samad in 2018, as an example of the militia’s crimes against the Yemeni people.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms claimed it had documented 6,476  violations committed by the Houthis against women in more than five years, involving mostly deaths and injuries caused be artillery shelling, as well as mines and other explosive devices detonating.

The rights group also said there had been 770 cases of arrests and kidnapping, 195 cases of enforced disappearance and 70 cases of torture of women in Yemen during the period from Jan. 1, 2015 to June 1, 2021.

It also confirmed cases of torture and degrading treatment against 70 women who were detained in secret and public prisons of the Houthi militia.

This amounted to false charges against their honor, as well as trafficking in their honor – according to what was reported – in the testimonies of some of the released women, the group said, leading to some of them to commit suicide.

COVID-19, Palestine and Iranian nukes feature in first day of UN General Assembly speeches

COVID-19, Palestine and Iranian nukes feature in first day of UN General Assembly speeches
Updated 37 min 16 sec ago

COVID-19, Palestine and Iranian nukes feature in first day of UN General Assembly speeches

COVID-19, Palestine and Iranian nukes feature in first day of UN General Assembly speeches
  • The leaders of the US, Egypt and Turkey raised the issue of Palestinian rights and statehood, and called for a just and comprehensive solution
  • Iran’s president took aim at Washington, saying it has ‘no credibility; Qatar’s emir hailed the resolution of the dispute with neighboring countries

NEW YORK: The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the first day of speeches by world leaders during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. But some also took the opportunity to raise the question of Palestinian statehood and express their fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

The leaders of the US, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Iran were among the premiers who addressed the UNGA on Tuesday. The speeches continued late into the evening, with many running over their allotted 15-minute slots.

US President Joe Biden declared that the US is back on the world stage and remains committed to multilateralism. As evidence of this he cited the nation’s return to the Paris Climate Agreement and its contribution to the international Covax vaccine-sharing initiative.

“Already, the United States has put more than $15 billion toward the global COVID response,” said Biden, who was making his first in-person speech to the UN as president. “We’ve shipped more than 160 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to other countries. This includes 130 million doses from our own supply,” with “no strings attached.”

Moving on to other issues, he called for the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, saying that this is the “best way” to safeguard Israel’s future.

“We must seek a future of greater peace and security for all people of the Middle East,” Biden said. “The commitment of the United States to Israel’s security is without question, and our support for an independent Jewish state is unequivocal.

“But I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian state.

“We’re a long way from that goal at this moment but we should never allow ourselves to give up on the possibility of progress.”

On the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, Biden said: “We’re prepared to return to full compliance (with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal) if Iran does the same.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi also addressed the issue of Palestinian statehood.

“There can be no stability in the Middle East without a just, lasting, and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian question, which remains the central cause of instability for the Arab region,” he said. “This must happen in accordance with international resolutions to establish a Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967 border, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Egypt also calls upon the international community to take the necessary measures to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people.”

Turning his attention to matters closer to home, El-Sisi said Egypt is “immensely proud” of its African identity but decried the lack of progress in negotiations over the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam project. Located upriver on the Nile, Egyptian authorities say it threatens their country’s existence due to its reliance on Nile water.

In his prerecorded speech, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who assumed office this year, took aim at the US over its withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Capitol riots in Washington on Jan. 6, saying that America has “no credibility.”

He also blamed American authorities for causing the COVID-19 crisis in Iran, accusing them of preventing the country from obtaining vaccine supplies. He failed to mention that in January, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned the import of Western-produced vaccines, falsely claiming they could not be trusted. The ban was subsequently reversed but left Iran facing relentless waves of COVID-19 infections.

Raisi also attempted to convince world leaders that his country does not seek to develop nuclear weapons. “Nukes have no place in our defense doctrine and deterrence policy,” he said.

He also made a plea for sanctions relief, saying: “The Islamic Republic considers useful the talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive sanctions.”

The leaders of Qatar and Turkey called on the international community to cooperate in delivering vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable countries.

Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani also urged the world to take action to fight what he called the “other pandemic:” COVID-19 misinformation.

He also celebrated his country’s return to the fold of Middle East diplomacy in January, after a dispute with a number of neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia, was resolved through the AlUla declaration.

“We have repeatedly stressed the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and our commitment to settling any differences through constructive dialogue,” he said. “The AlUla declaration came as an embodiment of the principle of settling differences through dialogue.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would soon start to provide vaccines produced there to the international community. He also echoed the comments by other leaders about the importance of working to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Heads of state will continue to address the General Assembly throughout the week. The speech by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.