Bahrain to suspend changes to curriculum linked to Israel, normalization

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Bahrain’s educational institutions have been instructed to suspend changes made to the curricula that are “not compatible with Bahrain’s national values designed to protect religion and its core pillars,” upon direction from Prince Salman al-Khalifa, the crown prince and prime minister of the Gulf state.

The announcement, reportedly in line with King Hamad al-Khalifa’s “commitment to protecting the Islamic religion,” came on Tuesday after some critics voiced issues with the inclusion of Israel and changes to the maps of the contested Israeli-Palestinian territories.

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BBC Arabic reported on Wednesday that the amended subject matters taught for the primary classes featured a lesson on the normalization of ties between the Gulf state and Israel, and deleted a lesson on Jews.

Various preachers and scholars issued statements calling on the Ministry of Education to reconsider the changes, which likely prompted the high-level order from the crown prince.

“His Royal Highness ordered the Minister of Education to ensure educational curricula adhere to Islamic teachings, in line with the National Action Charter and the Constitution,” a statement from the government shared online said.

“His Royal Highness reiterated that the Islamic religion is inviolable and should be respected and protected at all costs,” it added.

State-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported on Wednesday that a team of specialists was assigned to conduct a “comprehensive review of all curricula to verify all modifications and changes that have occurred,” citing the Minister of Education Dr. Mohammed Juma.

The panel was asked to evaluate the changes and take measures to address areas that would “prejudice national and religious constants.”

They have also been granted permission to “withdraw the textbooks included in the review process, in order to resubmit them after verifying that all the correct and necessary modifications have been completed,” the minister added.

Bahrain normalized ties with Israel in 2020 alongside the UAE under a US-brokered deal known as the Abraham Accords.

In a similar move to Bahrain, the UAE embassy in the US announced in January 2023 that primary and secondary schools across the country would begin teaching about the Holocaust in history classes.

While the local education ministry made no official statement, some saw the move as a natural means of progression from the Abraham Accords, even as others questioned the necessity of the inclusion.

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