Turkish students know Einstein, but not Muslim scholars, Erdoğan complains
Albert Einstein with his wife Elsa Einstein.President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has heralded a new curriculum for schools, after complaining that Turkish students know foreign figures like Albert Einstein but not Muslim and Turkish ones.
“If you ask them who Einstein is, each young person has a word to say. But if you ask them who İbni Sina is, most of them are unaware,” Erdoğan said in his address to the 19th National Education Council in the southern province of Antalya on Dec. 2.
Avicenna, a Muslim polymath of the 11th century who is regarded as one of the most significant thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, is known as İbni Sina in Turkey.
Last month, Erdoğan instructed Turkey’s educational institutions to adopt a policy of highlighting the contribution of Islam to global science and arts, including “the discovery of the American continent by Muslim sailors some 300 years before Columbus.”
His claim that Muslims made it to the New World first – and that they even built a mosque on a hill in what is now Cuba – have been pilloried both at home and abroad.
In his Dec. 2 speech, Erdoğan turned from science to popular culture, referring to a famous Turkish bard, while complaining that “there are students who have memorized the names of foreign pop stars, but have never listened to Neşet Ertaş.”
“We should question these youths. They can listen to Beethoven, but they should also know about Itri and Dede Efendi,” Erdoğan said, in reference to two mainstays of classical Turkish music.
The curriculum must make Turkish youth “feel confident, not lowly,” the president added, while also warning that the national education system should protect young people from “the sickness of racism.”