In an effort to combat religious extremism in Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments plans on introducing a new academic textbook to be used in the beginning of the academic year in September. The Ministry has been accused of cancelling the religious education in schools thus it clarified that this initiative, formerly announced in April, is to further vitalize the importance of decent behavior and religious tolerance among students of different backgrounds and beliefs.
As Muslim and Christian students were previously separated into two separate religious education classes in Egypt, the idea of students learning from the same curriculum has arisen noticeable irritation amongst religious conservatives. “Do we really need the new book when religion books contain all the values and ideals contained in it?” asks Salafist preacher Sameh Abdel Hamid.
Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa- the Relgious Endowments’ minister -insists that this book which has been pre-approved by both Al-Azhar, the country’s leading Islam authority, and the Coptic Orthodox Church, is to accompany and support the religious education in the schools of Egypt but not replace the current curriculum.
“The new textbook tries to teach that difference is not a sin and that the world is made to have enough room for everybody” Gomaa says. The Ministry, which is to regulate the country’s mosques and determine the Islamic courses taught in schools, has been leading a campaign against religious extremism that is strongly supported by the government.
Having had removed numerous extremist books, audio, and media from the libraries of more than 100,000 Egyptian mosques, Gomaa emphasizes on the “need to raise a new generation of Egyptians who share the same values and know how to respect each other’s beliefs and way of thinking.” He stresses that the textbook unifies the Egyptian values and morals yet secures and fortifies the specificities of each religion.
Gomaa highlights that these values are indispensable to communicate to young generations as Egypt “fights a ferocious war against extremism”.