Bismillahirahmanirrahim, good morning children

Bismillahirahmanirrahim, good morning children

The phrase in the headline could soon become how kindergarten teachers greet their students in Turkey. An education director in a southern province recently became the first official off the starting blocks, after a National Education Council decision to implement religious classes in kindergartens, disguised as “values education.”

According to the program, sent via e-mail to the teachers by the district’s education official, children aged three to six years old will start all courses with the Bismillah (“In the name of God, the most Gracious and Compassionate”) and will learn prayers in Arabic with the tajweed, the rules governing pronunciation during recitation of the Quran.

The children will also be given general information about the Quran and will learn the Arabic script, with the teacher saying Arabic prayers in a loud voice for the children to repeat. The official told the teachers to urge their students to strive harder by organizing competitions, such as “who will say the Bismillah the loudest?”

The Bismillah and the Takbir – “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest) – will also be repeated in class, while children will be forced to memorize prayers. The e-mail included directions for the teachers to have children memorize the "salah" prayer Subhaneke, with a ritual in which the children raise and move their arms with every word.

A school where the teacher speaks Arabic verses and the children repeat them out loud could be a madrasah, but it is definitely not a kindergarten as we know it.

The latest government moves in the education system, such as allowing girls as young as 10 to wear headscarves and the possible implementation of mandatory religious courses in primary schools and kindergartens, are proof that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will not back down from its primary target: The total Sunnization of the country. For this purpose, of course, the main target is children.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu loves to make reference to the “culture of tolerance on these lands,” and the co-existence of different races, beliefs, cultures and ways of life in Turkey. But the modern reality paints a different picture: You are either a member of the non-Muslim minority who can have “some” rights, or a Muslim who has lost his way.

This is why one of Turkey’s top religious officials could recently come out and say that 99.2 percent of Turkish citizens are Muslims, but “different curricula and educational systems, the pressures of secularism and particularly the effects of globalization that Turkey is experiencing, have changed and damaged the details of religious life in society.” This is why those who argued against compulsory religious courses in primary schools and kindergartens during the National Education Council were asked if they were “against Allah.”

The ruling party members and their supporters cannot even tolerate the Fethullah Gülen movement, with whom they were once close allies. Gülen, the Islamic scholar who used to receive nothing but praise from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, and many others, is now called names such as “charlatan” and “jester” by the very same men. The offices of the daily Zaman newspaper - described by Erdoğan as recently as 2011 as “the sound and breath of these lands that has been a defender of laws and justice in tough times” - were raided and its editor-in-chief was detained in a clear and terrifying violation of the freedom of the press.

Since the Dec. 17 corruption operation last year, the government does not have even the smallest tolerance for anyone who wants a proper investigation into the issue. Those who question the government’s actions are nothing but “coup plot seekers.”

The government knows best how children should be educated and raised as “pious generations,” as President Erdoğan wants them to be, so you cannot have a say in your child’s education.

You are either with the AKP or against the AKP, and it is time to check if your five-year-old has properly memorized the Subhaneke.