WASHINGTON — A comprehensive study of Iranian textbooks shows that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory anti-Western, anti-American and antisemitic rhetoric is well rooted in his country’s educational system.
The study, an analysis of 115 Iranian school textbooks and teacher’s guides published in recent years, concludes that Iran has devised “an educational system that prepares school children for war and martyrdom against the West in general, and against the United States and Israel in particular.”
Published last week, the report was commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and prepared by the Jerusalem-based Center for Monitoring Peace in the Middle East. It concludes that fighting American world hegemony in the name of Islam is a main focus of the Iranian educational system. The report quotes numerous examples from textbooks in which the United States is depicted as “Great Satan,” the “World Eater,” or the “Arrogant One,” and in which students are encouraged to fight America, even at the price of self-sacrifice.
“To understand Iran’s defiance against the international community as it pursues development of nuclear weapons, one must read what Iran’s education system preaches,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
The study follows previous reports on books used in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Other groups have thoroughly examined Palestinian textbooks as well. But Iranian textbooks, according to the report, are different.
While school books in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are peppered with hateful language, “Iran’s is a war curriculum” that “prepares its school children to fight the West — America in particular — as an indispensable complementary phase of the Islamic Revolution,” the report states. Its authors say they found about 1,000 quotes in Iranian textbooks promoting an adversarial approach when dealing with the “other” and issues of war and peace. Often, the textbooks quote Ayatollah Khomeini, the architect and leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Antisemitic content, the report says, is not as rampant as anti-Western themes. But Jews are often mentioned negatively in the context of early Muslim history, particularly during discussions of Prophet Muhammad’s wars in the Arabian Peninsula of the 7th century. And, in an Iranian 12th grade social studies book, Zionism is described as an idea “that is based on the establishment of the Jews’ greater homeland, and on this ethnic group’s dominance over the world.”
Israel is not recognized in or mentioned by name in the textbooks. But it is clearly referred to as a “contaminant” that must be cleansed. A third grade picture book, for example, tells the story of the inhabitants of a tidy and a clean town who chase away a repugnant creature that spreads garbage wherever he goes. The creature’s right arm champions a Star of David, as does the garbage.
One of the main themes of Iran’s curriculum, the study says, is teaching the theological, political and social fundamentals of jihad — holy war — according to the Shiite tradition. Such material, according to documents confiscated by the Israeli military in Lebanon last month, was translated into Arabic and exported to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. Specifically, Israeli forces in southern Lebanon confiscated copies of a 64-page booklet authored by Iran’s spiritual leader and highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
According to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, a think tank run by former Israeli military-intelligence officers, the booklet titled “Jihad,” was initially intended for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. It presents jihad not only as a program of action but also as a doctrine — a fundamental doctrine of revolutionary-Iranian Shiite Islam — anchored in the notion of maintaining a fundamentally adversarial relationship with the West.
In Lebanon, jihadist indoctrination of Shiite youth by Hezbollah also takes the form of a prize-winning game. Documents confiscated in Lebanon and translated by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center show quiz-forms in which children are asked 10 multiple-choice questions about the history of Hezbollah’s conflict with Israel. Children are encouraged to send their answers with a financial contribution to Hezbollah through “participating schools” to win a prize. The quiz, says an analysis published last week by the center, shows “another way of involving schools in Hezbollah’s intense indoctrination activity and efforts to prepare new generations of terrorist-operatives for its ranks.”