Turkey has recently been in the news for various developments that include, among other matters, its record number of jailed journalists, the destruction of Kurdish towns and forced displacement of thousands of Kurds, the dismissal or suspension of thousands of government employees for political reasons, the arrest of thousands of citizens for allegedly "organizing" last year's failed coup, the creeping conversion of the Hagia Sophia Basilica-museum into a mosque, and the seizure of Assyrian Christian lands, churches and cemeteries by the government.
One additional trend begging the media's attention is the determined Islamization of the Turkish educational system.
Here is a short list of some of the latest developments in Turkish schools and their curricula:
Turkey to stop teaching evolution in secondary schools as part of new national curriculum
Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish secondary schools after being described as a "controversial subject" by the government. The head of the education ministry's curriculum board, Alpaslan Durmuş, said a section on Darwinism would be cut from biology classes from 2019.
"We have excluded controversial subjects for students at an age unable yet to understand the issues' scientific background," he told a seminar in Ankara, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
"Jihad" in compulsory school curricula
So the question naturally arises what exactly will Turkish schoolchildren be taught instead. The answer is "jihad." Turkey is in the process of including the concept of jihad in compulsory school curricula. According to a statement issued in January by the Turkish Ministry of National Education, Turkish textbooks will be teaching "jihad" as a "value" in classes at Imam Hatip middle schools (schools that offer an Islamic curriculum to pupils).
At a press conference, Ismet Yilmaz, the minister of national education, explained the details of the new curricula to the press. According to the newspaper Cumhuriyet, jihad will be taught in seventh grade while pupils study the fundamentals of "tawhid" (oneness of God) and wahdat (Islamic unity) civilization."
In eighth grade, jihad will also be taught under the title "Struggling on the Path to Allah: Jihad" under the chapter called "Worshipping Allah."
1.5 million Imam Hatip students across Turkey
Under Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), the number of Imam Hatip schools has ballooned from 500 to 3,500, with enrollment surging from 60,000 to 1,500,000 since the AKP first came to power in 2002.
The first Imam Hatip schools in Turkey were opened in 1924 during the rule of the Republic's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as vocational schools to train government-employed imams and Islamic scholars.
"All schools shall have masjids (mosques)"
The Ministry of National Education has also declared that for schools and other educational centers to be opened in Turkey, they have to have a washroom where people can perform ablution before reciting their prayers [salah] five times a day, as well as two masjids [mosques] -- one for males and the other for females.
More Islamic classes, less art and philosophy
The Ministry of National Education has also increased class hours for the mandatory course in "religion, culture and morality" and decreased art and philosophy classes to one hour per week. The Ministry also repealed the "Regulations on Fine Arts Education," which were enacted in 2008 "to give primary and secondary school students with special talents the necessary education to prepare them for the fine arts schools."
Secularism, positivism "problems of faith"
The new curricula prepared by the Ministry of National Education to be studied at Turkish schools also describe "secularism, positivism, deism, agnosticism, atheism, nihilism, Satanism, reincarnation and false prophethood" as "problems of faith."
Girls in niqabs in private-funded Islamic organizations
Full Islamization is overtly and increasingly on the rise in private associations, as well. The association of "Fans of the Prophet and the Generation of the Koran Platform" has been offering education on Islamic scriptures to its female and male members and organizing flamboyant ceremonies of "ratification." The association has 63 branches across Turkey.
In 2014, for example, 144 female students wearing the niqab were given "documents of ratification" after completing their religious education in the city of Batman. The students were referred to with Arabic-Islamic names instead of their real Turkish or Kurdish names.
The association also celebrates "Jerusalem Day" on the last Friday of every Ramadan. Murat Güneş, a platform member, falsely claimed in his speech in the city of Batman last year:
"Because Muslims do not carry out the requirements of their faith, today all Palestinian territories are under the Zionist occupation. Gaza and the West Bank are like open prisons. Due to the embargo and isolation imposed on Palestine, children are dying of hunger and the ill cannot be treated because of a lack of medicine. As there is not enough food, even drinking water is not provided."
Another Islamic organization famous for its female students, covered from head to toe is the Diyarbakir-based "Union of Scholars and Madrasahs" [Islamic theological schools].
After completing their four-year religious education organized by the Union, 78 female students in niqabs were presented with their "documents of ratification" in the city of Batman in 2015.
A graduate in niqab said: "This cause has sacrificed so many. Let them not forget that we -- as individuals ready to sacrifice ourselves -- will do anything that is required without making any concessions."
The Union, which carries out activities all across Turkey, is also intensely interested in Israel. A Hamas delegation, for example, led by Osama Hamdan, who is in charge of the organization's foreign affairs, visited the Diyarbakir headquarters of the Union in May of this year.
During the meeting, Mullah Enver Kılıçaslan, the head of the Union, said:
"The Jews are the enemies of the entire ummah [Islamic nation]. Our prophet said that we will fight against the Jews before the end of days. Standing for the ummah, our Muslim siblings in Palestine and Gaza are struggling against them. I wish we too had the opportunity to be in Gaza and Palestine and help our siblings. I wish we too could fight against cursed Jews."
Turkey has for decades been hostile and discriminatory to its non-Muslim communities. Before the 1915 Christian genocide, the population of the territory that is now Turkey was about 15 million, about 4.5 million of which -- nearly a third -- was Christian. Today, one can hardly even talk of a Christian minority. Only 0.2 percent of the country's current population is Christian or Jewish. This means that as a percentage of its population, Turkey has a smaller Christian community than any of its neighbors, including Syria, Iraq and Iran. So, the demographics of Turkey have already been Islamized. Now, the educational system is officially becoming Islamized, as well.
With more Islamization of the Turkish educational system will come the segregation of women and men and the deterioration of women's rights; more pressure and hostility to non-Muslim communities; more violent anti-Semitism; more anti-Western and anti-Israel bigotry, as well as more sympathy with, and even active participation in, jihad. These developments will automatically create less stability and less safety both in Turkey and throughout the Middle East as well as Europe.
Given the political developments in Turkey for more than a decade, the country seems to be fast-forwarding to be the second -- and possibly even a more dangerous version of -- the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2015. (Image source: Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)
Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is currently based in Washington D.C. She is a writing fellow of the Middle East Forum.