Egypt\'s Islamic schools are subjected to Muslim Brotherhood
Cairo – Islam Abazeid
Islamic schools are a controversial subject in Egypt especially for their links to the Muslim Brotherhood. There are 60 of them around Egypt, 19 of which in Cairo alone and 14 in Giza, with the rest scattered around
the Nile delta, Alexandria, Assiut, Sohag and Suez.
Some of these schools are owned by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, while others belong to supporters of the group who follow the principles and teachings of the MB and its founder Hassan el-Banna.
The connection with the MB has marked these schools out as targets for attacks by angry protestors in recent months. This has promoted the MB leaders who own some of them to increase protection around their establishments, fearing activists\' fury. This report will shed light on these educational establishments and the ideology on which they operate.
MB spokesperson Ahmed Aref says Islamic schools are \"under attack\" and have had \"a strong of baseless accusations\" levelled at them: \"This attack is not new. At the start of the 2008-2009 school year, the administrators at al-Gazira al-Islamiya school in Alexandria found a huge State Security force and a massive number of Central Security soldiers led by five police generals surrounding the school and the little schoolchildren inside it. They kicked out a thousand pupils, claiming that the governor of Alexandria had signed an order of closure for the school. One person was paralysed in the police attack, his spinal cord severed, and sustained some fractures and bruises. At dawn the next day, the headmaster and 12 parents were arrested, apparently for resisting security forces and attempting to open the school by force.\"
He adds: \"This is only one story among dozens that represent a fragment of the constant campaign orchestrated by some quarters against the Muslim Brotherhood. They\'re convinced these schools are arms of the Brotherhood, while others think these schools are places where terrorists are made, like the Taliban madrasas, which is totally untrue.
Aref says the ministries of education and social affairs as well as security authorities all exerted pressure on Islamic schools under the old regime of ousted president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak. \"Their boards\' work was obstructed,\" he says, \"and there was plenty of monitoring, attacks and threats of closure.\"
These, he says, include al-Gueel al-Muslim in Gharbiya province, al-Dawah al-Islamiya in Beni Suef (run by the Islamic Dawah), al-Tarbiya al-Islamiya in Menoufiya, Haraa in Assiut, al-Gazira and al-Madina al-Monawara in Alexandria, al-Radwan in Cairo and Teeba in Damanhur, Beheira.
Mohammed el-Serougui, the spokesperson for the ministry of education, says: \"The ministry oversees what\'s taught at these schools, but most of them are administratively under the ministry of social affairs\', because these kinds of schools are established through NGOs.\"
According to el-Serougui, the growth of the Islamic school sector over the past three decades is down to \"the method which most Islamic charities and private schools with an Islamic bent in Egypt have adopted, which is to produce a generation of young people who are raised on the teachings and rules of the Holy Koran.\"
El-Serougui cites Islamophobia as being behind the attack faced by Islamic schools: \"Some Western countries see the Islamic world as the source of terror which threatens their interests and security. And they believe that it must be confronted on all levels, beginning with drying up Muslims\' cultural and financial supplies at the source by following and imposing certain curricula in schools, so that Muslim countries are dominated by an education that separates religion from knowledge and life.\"
But Ahmed el-Ashqar, the head of teachers\' group, the Teachers\' Parliament, disagrees. He says the growth is \"part of the Muslim Brotherhood\'s plan to control education and Brotherhoodise it.\" He adds: \"The main objective is to raise a generation of young people who support the Brotherhood\'s ideology.
\"Everyone knows about this project well enough, and they also know of the conflict between the Salafist group and the Muslim Brotherhood over control of education in Egypt. This was made clear while the former People\'s Assembly was sitting when the [Salafist] Nour party controlled the education committee.\" El-Ashqar says Egyptians \"will stand up to this plan and resist it.\"
Teacher and parent Nora Ahmed says she doesn\'t endorse the growing presence of faith schools in Egypt: \"They will contribute to breaking Egyptian society apart and splitting it into different groups and sects.\" She adds: \"This is already happening inside these schools, where enrolment is restricted to the children of [MB] members and its leaders to bring out a generation loyal to the Brotherhood rather than the country.\"
Sending out a message to the government and the ministry of education, Ahmed demanded that public education is strengthened \"instead of turning to backing Islamic schools owned by Muslim Brotherhood businessmen only because they back the group\'s ideology.\"