Inscription on Stone : Islam, State and Education in Iran and Turkey

Abstract: This study explores the role of education as means of creation and maintenance of religious hegemony in Iran and Turkey. In the context of this study, state-sponsored systems of mass education aim to socialize generations of children into accepting the ideology and values of the dominant groups as the normal state of affairs. Hegemony, thus, is advanced not solely by excluding oppositional forces but by moral leadership throughout the total ideological and socio-political structure. Reviewing the notion of education in Islam and the role of the Quran and Sunna and other sources of knowledge in Islam, the study focuses on the impact of Shari'a in forming the theories of state and education in Islam. Representing two different schools of Muslim thought, Iran and Turkey have different interpretations of the state and its role in education which determines the degree of involvement and extent of authority of the political and religious leaders over education. Unity of Islam and the state in the Iranian theocratic system provides an ideologically-laden education which is rooted in one principle: training a new generation of pious, “ideologically committed Muslims”. However, the endeavors of the Turkish secular state have been focused on establishing a mass popularized secular education in order to produce nationalist citizens. The Iranian revolution of 1979 contributed extensively to the awakening of the religious revival, calling for a shift from a Western model of social order to the one deeply rooted in Islamic beliefs and values. The close link between education and ideology in Iran is apparent from the goals set for educating the young, most of them openly political: acceptance of God's absolute authority manifested through the authority of ulama; support for the political, economic, and cultural unity of all Islamic global community (umma) and for oppressed peoples (mustaz’afin); rejection of every form of oppression, suffering, and domination. The four ideological pillars of the Islamic Republic, inseparability of religion and politics, Islamic revival, cultural revolution, and creation of a committed Muslim, have had a direct impact on Iranian education. The “Unity of Education Act” in the Republic of Turkey placed all educational activities under strict government control by introducing a state monopoly on education. Kemalism is based on an emphasis on national and republican principles and secularism in which religion has no place and is left out of the scope of formal education. Hence, the transmission of religious knowledge from one generation to another was only possible through informal channels such as family, the small community or underground activities of religious orders. Islam, however, gradually penetrated the public life in Turkey and challenged the secularism. The goal of the Turkish national education as to unite the entire nation through a national consciousness, to think along scientific lines, and intellectually as well as worldly, leaves no place for Islamic religious education. In spite of the government's emphasis on a secular and nationalist system, Islam remains as a force, particularly in its capacity to utilize new elements required for a modern society. Although Islam has not yet challenged the supremacy of secular education in Turkey, it expanded its influence both in formal and informal education, content and structure.