School for Jihadism

By Nir Boms
Published February 15, 2007

“Ignorance is power,” wrote George Orwell in his famous book “1984,” referring to the information police that kept bad ideas from the eyes of good people. Our world was not immune from this logic that reversed “good” with “bad” and “war” with “peace.” Some of our darkest moments of history have seen this very type of indoctrination that brought people to think in such terms and act accordingly. And another such moment may be looming in the near horizon.

Iranian students receive a steady curriculum of hatred for the West that prepares them to sacrifice their lives in a global war that must end either by a global Islamic victory or by a collective martyrdom. This is one of the key findings in a study of 115 Iranian textbooks and teacher’s guides that was recently completed at the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.

The textbooks paint an alarming picture of a regime that divides the world between “good” and “evil” forces that are destined to clash until a victory is reached. Since the evil and arrogant West seeks to destroy Iran, a war is inevitable. Iranians are hence tasked with a religious mission of fighting “evil” until the latter’s final eradication, or, until the “good” camp is wiped out.

In Ayatollah Khomeini’s words, reproduced in an eleventh-grade textbook: “Either we shake one another’s hand in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours.” The “evil” camp, a.k.a, “the Oppressors” and “the Arrogant Ones,” embraces the entire West under the leadership of the United States — “the Great Satan” — along with any of its allies. “Now, in order to continue the Islamic Revolution,” reads a passage in a seventh-grade textbook, “it is our duty to continue with all [our] power our revolt against the Arrogant Ones and the Oppressors, and not cease until all Islam’s commandments and the spread of the redeeming message of ‘there is no God except Allah’ are realized in the whole world.” This type of war is called “Initiative Jihad” and is explained in another textbook for grade 8. 

And that war has already begun. The West allegedly uses culture as a weapon for world domination. Westernization is given the epithet “Westoxication” and is regarded as the very negation of Muslim identity and a professed enemy of the Islamic Revolution. Students are to keep away from these influences. And they should also be ready for the next stage of the struggle.

Verses from the Koran and statements made by leaders of the 1979 Islamic Revolution are used while teaching military drills and the usage of weapons and explosives in a course titled “defense readiness,” which is regularly taught starting at grade 8. Textbooks for this course include warnings against imminent attacks by the enemies, which assist in creating a siege mentality among the students.

The books also indoctrinate students to prepare for war by encouraging martyrdom. The spirit of martyrdom-seeking is nurtured by various means — with verses from the Koran, sayings by the Shi’ite imams, with stories and poems that glorify past and present martyrs and with martyrs’ wills that are read in class and posted on its walls. The motif of the martyrs’ blood and its symbol — the red tulip — are prominent features of the textbooks, and are expressed both verbally and through illustrations. 

Most of this hatred and war indoctrination is found in books of the higher grades, though its first manifestations can be seen in books intended for lower grades as well. 

The textbooks in question all date back to the era of President Mohammad Khatami, the so-called moderate leader who served from 1997 to 2005. They are still in use in Iranian classrooms today and they are not likely to change under the leadership of the current Mullarchy in Iran.

“1984” was written as a warning about a future that might materialize if the world will not stop those who use ignorance to gain power and those who see war as their only way to keep it. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Imperial Japan have used these ideas to nurture an utmost commitment to war and self sacrifice in their quest for world domination. When Iran sent 36,000 school students to their deaths in Iraqi minefields in the 1980s, the boys shouted slogans praising martyrdom, believing that their death will bring them back to better life.

The Iranian school textbooks reveal a frightening vision of an extremist regime that prepares its school children for another such episode — an Armageddon-like global war against the West.

The Iranian “newspeak” is preparing its people to war and its new indoctrinated vocabulary replaces “life” with “death.” Europeans, who constitute an essential part of the West that is targeted by Revolutionary Iran, should become aware of these textbooks and of the new dangers it poses to the future of the world. It is Europe’s moral duty to rally world opinion against these books and their messages. This indoctrination must be stopped before 2007 become a realization of “1984.”

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