Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat- Asharq Al Awsat has learnt that Bahrain has begun its Islamic education reform program to remove any content from textbooks that would provoke dispute between Shiites and Sunnis. Also, information on religious rituals practiced by Shiites will be incorporated in schoolbooks. This will be the first time that there will be a clear reference to the Jaafari Shiite doctrine in Bahraini schools.
According to sources that spoke to Asharq Al Awsat, the Bahraini Ministry of Education has drafted a plan concerning reform and development of Islamic education in Bahrain. The Supreme Council in Bahrain, the highest religious authority made up of Shiite and Sunni members, would study the proposed amendments to make a final decision on whether they would be included in textbooks.
The sources refused to discuss claims that the proposed changes were a result of any internal or external pressure. They stressed that the process of developing the curriculum in general and Islamic education in particular is concurrent with the provisions of the National Action Charter of Bahrain (the constitution). This charter focuses on the unity of the state.
There are two important points in reforming Islamic education, firstly the removal of any content that may cause disagreement between sects and secondly, adding material with reference to certain religious practices of the Shiites. The new curricula will also focus on mutual practices of Islam and will avoid controversial issues, which, according to Bahraini officials, are “often marginal.”
Bahrain’s deputy minister of education, Dr Abdullah al Muttawa stated that one of the most important considerations for the reform is to consolidate values of national unity and Islam. He added, “The ministry’s approach focuses on what unites and not on what separates the people. This is particularly important because the aim is to establish unified spiritual and national approaches away from diverse and marginal issues that are futile from the spiritual and epistemic points of view.”