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´Holy Birth Week´ causing controversy in Turkish schools
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 23 Apr 2011 Sat 11:50 am

"Kutlu Doğum Haftası" Türk okullarında ihtilaf yaratıyor

´Holy Birth Week´ causing controversy in Turkish schools

When asked whether such celebrations violated the principle of a secular education, Aycan said it was up to the schools to determine the content of the activities.

When asked whether such celebrations violated the principle of a secular education, Aycan said it was up to the schools to determine the content of the activities

Long debated as a counter-celebration against Turkey’s National Sovereignty Day (April 23rd), this year’s Holy Birth Week celebrations for the Prophet Muhammad have created fresh debate. While a recent Education Ministry note to schools suggested that they celebrate the event, many are concerned, saying the education system should be free of religious topics
A recent Education Ministry notice outlining possible activities for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations in schools has been hailed by some as a way to teach students about tolerance, but derided by others as a blow against secularism.

“We need to teach our students the beauty of mercy, which was one of the good qualities of the Prophet Muhammad,” Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu recently said in a letter to schools around the country to encourage them to participate in “Holy Birth Week” activities.

Among the suggested activities were poetry, poster and composition-writing contests, conferences, wall newspapers and activities that were based on imagining what would happen if Prophet Mohammed were to visit the students’ homes. Some schools also organized knowledge contests regarding the Prophet’s life and famous quotes.

Yet some find the ministry’s notice strange.

Until last year, the school activities included nothing about The Holy Birth Week. Only last year, did the ministry include it on its calendar of important dates, and this year, they sent out a detailed notice, suggesting that schools have celebrations with specific events,” Zübeyde Kılıç, head of the Education Personnel Union, or Eğitim-Sen, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “I find this strange because the ministry doesn’t send any kind of notice for other events.” 

Academic and columnist Ahmet İnsel agrees.

“Although the ministry’s notice doesn’t oblige one to participate in the celebrations, it officially accepts the Holy Birth Week under the official education program and therefore violates [the principles of a] secular education,” he said.

According to journalist Kürşat Bumin, the ministry’s recent regulation conflicts with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, previous policies.

“The AKP has often been defined as an Islamic party, especially by the foreign press,” Bumin said. “And I often wrote about how ridiculous that was. Until now, the AKP didn’t try to shape its politics based on religion. But this new regulation looks different than that,” he wrote in his column in daily Yeni Şafak. 

Compulsory Education 

Although there was no common program, many schools organized their own activities based on the instructions of the ministry.

“We organized a composition contest in collaboration with nearby schools,” Reşat Çetin, principal of the Haldun Taner School in İstanbul’s Beylikdüzü district, told the Daily News. “I gave a speech about the significance of the day in school and students also made presentations on what important statesmen have said about the Prophet Muhammad.”

According to İrfan Aycan, administrator of the Education Ministry’s directorate for religious education, the ministry’s instructions should not be limited to just the Prophet Muhammad.

“Our theme was mercy. And with that we don’t just mean activities regarding the Holy Birth of Prophet Muhammad. Teachers should also include topics such as honor killings and violence in the activities so that children can be aware of these issues,” Aycan told the Daily News.

When asked whether such celebrations violated the principle of a secular education, Aycan said it was up to the schools to determine the content of the activities.

“We have religion classes in schools, so this is not against the curriculum,” Aycan said.

Yet, according to Zübeyde Kılıç, such comments do not reflect the reality.

“The ministry’s notice is quite specific. If you look at the activities, the only interpretation of mercy here is related to the Prophet Muhammad,” she said. “Many teachers now feel that they have to obey the instructions. We should be discussing the removal of mandatory religion classes from schools, not including more, Sunni-based religion education.”

Fevzi Gümüş, head of the Alevi-Bektaşi Federation, an association which represents many Anatolian Alevis, agrees.

“We respect the Prophet Muhammad but whatever religion it is, we don’t approve of religious education in schools,” Gümüş told the Daily News. “While we [as Alevis] have been fighting for the removal of compulsory religion classes from schools, the ministry has been including more topics in the school curriculum.”

Alevis are widely regarded as being a more liberal sect of Islam and have practices that differ greatly from Turkey’s Sunni majority.

Which calendar? 

Islamic countries celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday according to the lunar calendar, which is 354 days long, meaning that dates move 11 days forward every year according to the Gregorian calendar.

In 1994, however, Turkey decided to fix the Prophet’s birthday celebrations to Gregorian calendar, resulting in two sets of birthday celebrations based on the two calendars.

The new Gregorian dates for the Holy Birth Week were first fixed between April 20 and 26 and then April 16-22, but those dates created more controversy with some saying Holy Birth Week overshadowed April 23, Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.

Following opposition, the Religious Affairs Directorate finally moved the week to April 14-20.

“Before, every year there would be a controversy about the Holy Birth celebrations overshadowing Turkey’s National Sovereignty Day. But finally the celebrations are proceeding peacefully [because of the shift in date],” journalist Nazlı Ilıcak wrote in her column at daily Sabah this week.

Still, there are opponents.

Even though they moved the dates so that the two events did not conflict with each other, the fact that the Holy Birth activities last for a whole week has become the main topic. I find this decision completely ideological,” said Gümüş.

“I am against any ideology being forced upon people,” İnsel said. “Both the worshipping of [Republican founder Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk, which has been imposed upon us as a secular religion, and the new celebrations of Holy Birth Week violate Turkey’s secular education.”

 


2.       barba_mama
1629 posts
 23 Apr 2011 Sat 11:03 pm

 

Quoting tunci

“I am against any ideology being forced upon people,” İnsel said. “Both the worshipping of [Republican founder Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk, which has been imposed upon us as a secular religion, and the new celebrations of Holy Birth Week violate Turkey’s secular education.”

 


 

I agree. When I was in Turkey during the day of the Republic last time it was a bit strange to me to see the kids being drilled with patriotic poems and such. I also don´t think celebrating a Holy birth week has a place in secular schools. I don´t think it´s wrong to learn about religion in schools, but that´s not the same as participating in a celebration of one religion. I also don´t see how this will contribute to tolerance in Turkey. I think rather general religious education, teaching kids about ALL major religions of the world would contribute to tolerance.

 

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