2008 June 29 Sunday
Algeria An Intellectual Battleground Between Islam And Secularism

The Algerian government is trying to reduce the Islamic content of what the Algerian schools teach.

ALGIERS — First, Abdel Malek Outas’s teachers taught him to write math equations in Arabic, and embrace Islam and the Arab world. Then they told him to write in Latin letters that are no longer branded unpatriotic, and open his mind to the West.

Malek is 19, and he is confused.

“When we were in middle school we studied only in Arabic,” he said. “When we went to high school, they changed the program, and a lot is in French. Sometimes, we don’t even understand what we are writing.”

But unlike confused teenagers in Western countries (at least non-Muslim teens in Western countries) Malek flirted with terrorism. Suppose some of these confused kids come into Western countries. Then our security services get to play a game of "how to identify and stop the terrorists". One hopes they play this game well. But better to keep out these confused kids in the first place.

The confusion has bled off the pages of his math book and deep into his life. One moment, he is rapping; another, he recounts how he flirted with terrorism, agreeing two years ago to go with a recruiter to kill apostates in the name of jihad.

Why feel confused when a Jihadist recruiter will tell you Islam has all the answers and that your life would have huge meaning and you could get lots of beautiful and virginal rewards in heaven? Harnessing the sex drive of teenagers toward killing enemies by offering lots of sex makes Islam quite the innovative 7th century religion. It sells a pretty unique product even today.

The government is trying to make the school curriculum less based around rote memorization and more oriented toward teaching critical thinking. Islamic teachers prefer rote memorization where people are taught to obey and accept what they are taught. But this teaching of critical thinking only has a chance with the children who are smart enough and curious enough to learn to think for themselves.

Now the government is urgently trying to re-engineer Algerian identity, changing the curriculum to wrest momentum from the Islamists, provide its youth with more employable skills, and combat the terrorism it fears schools have inadvertently encouraged.

It appears to be the most ambitious attempt in the region to change a school system to make its students less vulnerable to religious extremism.

The disenchanted young men are dropping out of schools? Suppose we administered IQ tests to the kids who drop out and the kids who graduate. Do you think we'd find any other difference besides disenchantment?

But many educators are resisting the changes, and many disenchanted young men are dropping out of schools.

The article offers interesting glimpses of the competing forces at work in Algeria. Fatiha Yomsi, a female advisor to the minister of education, comments she is "targeted for death". Algerians worry that the Muslim terrorism might start back up again. So glad I'm not there. Unless secularism clearly wins out I think we should minimize the number of Algerians that can come and live in the West for any significant length of time.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 June 29 04:46 PM  Civilizations Clash Of


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