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Booing Islam in Schools

Opinion article by Ali-Asqar Ramezanpour (source: Rooz Online)

Iranian school girls (2008 file photo by Hamid Forootan)

The new document approved by Iran’s Supreme Council on Education is a clear example of what president Hassan Rouhani has called “booing Islam.”

Rouhani has rightly said that those who push young women into police vans, who create walls to separate men from women, and who wish to filter everybody in society as a way to make them more Islamic, are in fact booing Islam and turning Islam into a bad name.

This latest document passed, in the education council and titled “The Comprehensive Code for Conducting Congregation Prayers in Schools” requires schools (at the elementary and intermediate levels) to hold congregational prayers and to allocate 30 minutes of teaching time every day for this purpose. This means students are required to participate in such public prayers. Mr. Rouhani may not be aware of such plans and by virtue of the sensitivity that he has shown regarding denigrating Islam through such harsh measures it appears that he may actually not implement such practices concerning issues that he would call to be a pillar of Islam. Forcing children (in elementary and intermediate level schools) to participate in congregational prayers not only brings a bad name for Islam, and makes these children abhor prayers to God, it also constitutes inflicting anguish and torment on children and adolescents under the age of 18 (i.e., before they even reach the legal age).

Once news reports of the passage of this requirement were published, the media and public opinion interpreted the act as an imposition of prayers onto children. Those media outlets that supported the document rejected this claim of coercion. But there is plenty of evidence to reject such denials. Every day measures are announced to require children to engage in public prayers.

The passage of this requirement was announced by Mohammad-Reza Masibzade, the director general of Koranic affairs at the ministry of education. Masibzadeh is a remnant from former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s days who had earlier initiated the creation of 650 Koran offices in education districts across Iran, an act that imposed a huge expense on the already thinning education budget. In March of 2014 the current minister of education Mr. Fani elevated Masibzadeh to become a director general at the agency. According to this director, today, some 55 thousand schools across Iran are performing congregational prayers in this fashion.

And while Masibzadeh has said that the way to “encourage” students to come to these prayers sessions was to lead by the example set by the principal of the schools who participated in the sessions, he did not mention that the assistant principal responsible for enforcing the rules of each school - in Persian called the Nazem, loosely translated as the regulator - is there to make sure that nobody disregards the call, or that if he does, he receives the appropriate reprimand.

This regulation is essentially bounded on the view that not only can children be forced to conduct congregational prayers in schools, but that children can be punished in schools up to the point where their bodies start to leave pain marks. The proponents of this view say such practices are legal according to the Sharia.

What is even more interesting about such decadent and inhuman practices is that the infliction of pain on children between the ages of 7 and 13 is justified in religious and specifically in Islamic teachings and principles. Any opposition to such practices is immediately pronounced to be an act against Islam and its Prophet.

One website that presents this thinking is the Ahlul Bayt portal. One of its pages specifically says that parents cannot force children under the age of seven years to engage in prayers by whipping them. Another “rule” says the maximum number of slashes that can be inflicted on a child is six but teachers cannot slash more than three times. A father is allowed to whip a child six slashes. If he does more, he will be punished on the day of judgment. Another document on the site specifies that if a minor child is forced to pray, he can simply act to be praying, rather than engage in genuine prayers, adding that such a child should not be in the front rows of the prayers but should stay towards the end of the rows of prayers.

It is clear that the vision, education and pedagogical principles that these religious fanatics pursue are radically different from the specialists engaged in the business of education, and particularly children’s education. An example of the professionals is Shirzad Abdolahi, who responded to these practices and ideas by loudly saying that reducing any imposing acts will result in better religious education.

... Payvand News - 09/09/14 ... --

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