Cultural centers

UAE textbooks score high marks for cultural tolerance, even if it means praising China – Analysis – Eurasia Review

An Israeli NGO gives the United Arab Emirates high marks for imposing schoolbooks that teach tolerance, peaceful coexistence and engagement with non-Muslims.

“The Emirati program generally meets international standards of peace and tolerance. Textbooks are free from hatred and incitement against others. The program teaches students to value the principle of respect for other cultures and encourages curiosity and dialogue. It praises love, affection and family ties with non-Muslims,” concluded the 128-page study by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in the World. education (IMPACT-se).

However, at the same time, the report appeared in its assessment of Emirati textbooks to approximate Israeli policy towards the United Arab Emirates and, more generally, most states that populate the Middle East.

Accordingly, the report, like Israel’s apparent view of autocracy rather than greater freedoms as a stabilizing factor in the Middle East, sidesteps the issue of incorporating the principle of uncritical obedience to authority in the fabric of Emirati education.

This principle is rooted in the teaching of ‘patriotism’ and ‘commitment to defending the fatherland’, two concepts highlighted in the report. The principle is also at the heart of the notion of leadership, defined in the report as a pillar of national identity.

Ryan Bohl, an American who taught in an Emirati public school a decade ago, could have spoken to Impact-se about the unwritten authoritarian principles embedded in the country’s education system.

There is little reason to believe that much has changed since Mr. Bohl’s experience and there is every reason to believe that these principles have since been reinforced.

One of many Westerners hired by the UAE to replace Arab teachers suspected of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood, Bohl described in an interview teaching in Emirati classrooms as “following the autocratic method, very similar to the ruler and the governed”.

It’s in the classrooms, Bohl said, “that these political attitudes are formed, reinforced, in some cases enforced if children like them decide to step out of line. They understand the consequences long before they become a political threat or a militant threat to the regime. This is to create a cold effect.

Seemingly to avoid discussing the notion of critical thinking, the IMPACT-se report notes that students are “preparing for a highly competitive world; they are taught positive thinking and well-being.

The report’s failure to discuss the limits of critical thinking and attitudes toward authority that can be incorporated into education rather than textbooks raises the question of whether analysis of textbooks is sufficient to assess the attitudes that education systems shape in their tutoring of successive generations.

It also opens the debate on whether notions of peace and cultural tolerance can be isolated from degrees of social and political tolerance and pluriformity.

The report positively notes that the manuals ‘offer a realistic approach to peace and security,’ a reference to the UAE’s recognition of Israel in 2020, its downplaying of efforts to meet Palestinian aspirations and its visceral opposition to any form of political Islam with debilitating effects. consequences in countries like Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

It would be difficult to say that the intervention of the United Arab Emirates and others, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and Russia, in any form, has contributed to peace and security .

The report notes that “support for the Palestinian cause continues but is no longer seen as essential to solving the wider range of regional challenges. Radicalism and hatred are the main threat. Iranian expansionism is a threat.

This is not to say that the IMPACT-se textbook assessment should judge Emirati policies, but rather than uncritically legitimize them, it should explicitly acknowledge rather than implicitly acknowledge that the country’s next generation is being shaped by a top-down government. version of what the lofty principles proclaimed by Emirati leaders mean.

To its credit, the report implicitly states that Emirati concepts of tolerance are not universal but subject to what the country’s leaders define as its national interests.

As a result, he points out that “the People’s Republic of China is surprisingly described as a tolerant and multicultural society, which respects religions” despite the brutal suppression of religious and ethnic expressions of Turkish Muslim identity in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. .

IMPACT-se further notes that textbooks fail to teach the history of slavery in the Middle East. The report insists that the Holocaust and the history of Jews, especially in the Middle East, must be taught, but makes no similar demands for several other minorities, including those accused of being heretics.

The NGO suggests that the UAE could also improve its educational credentials to Israel. The report notes that “anti-Israel material has been moderated” in school textbooks that teach “cooperation with allies” and “peacemaking” as priorities.

However, the recognition of Israel by the UAE does not mean that a map of Israel is included in the teaching of establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

To be fair, Israel may not be on Emirati maps yet, but Jewish life is increasingly a part of public life in the UAE. Kosher restaurants are open for business, as is a Jewish cultural center. Large menorahs were lit in city squares to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in December, and a government-funded synagogue is set to open later this year.

Meanwhile, Arab Jews who had fled to Israel and the West are settling in the United Arab Emirates, in part lured by financial incentives.

Striking a mildly critical note, IMPACT-se research director Eldad J. Pardo suggested that Emirati students, who were well served by the program’s “pursuit of peace and tolerance”, would benefit from courses “equally relentless” in providing “students with unbiased information in all areas.

Mr. Pardo was referring not only to China, but also to the program’s endorsement of traditional gender roles, even as it anticipates the integration of women into the economy and public life, and that the report described as an “unbalanced” description of China’s history. Ottoman Empire.