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					Betty S. Anderson              

       Sources of Authority: Islamic Textbooks of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

       “Islamic society is a society established on reality and rights and conviction, and
       not on uncertainty and doubt and suspicion…”1

       Taken together, the current generation of Islamic textbooks of the Hashemite Kingdom of

Jordan provide students with a guide for living in a world in which every relationship is

structured, categorized, and delineated, from those in the family unit, to those of the many

religious groups within the region, to those of East and West.2 Within the expansive arms of

Islam, the family unit stands as the basic building block of society and, if the rules laid out in the

texts are followed, women and children are protected from evil, members of the family

understand the importance of their individual roles, and society remains a strong, stable whole,

working together for the larger good. A unitary, all-knowing, all-perfect Islam dictates the way

students should understand their history, their faith and their current socio-economic

circumstances. Islam thus protects Muslims from their own weaknesses and from the acts of any

of a number of unbelievers who have attempted to destroy or weaken the Muslim world over the

centuries. Because of the fear of change depicted within them and the reliance on stereotypical

and biased depictions of the “other” to better demand obedience to “us,” these textbooks read

something like a cross between Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives and Samuel Huntington’s Clash

of Civilizations.

       As a result, the “Stepford Civilization” of these textbooks fails to address most of the

very real issues confronting Jordanian society in 2003. While socio-economic change has been a

hallmark of the Middle East over the last 150 years, factors prevalent in the last 10 to 20 years

have accelerated the process. The spread of mass education increased literacy for men and

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women, opened up new career opportunities and, subsequently, generated debates about societal

roles. Globalization of the world economy has brought to Jordan new products, new images, and

new means of communication and transportation, furthering the debate about gender roles, state

power, and economic diversification. In the last few years, mobile phones alone have

revolutionized the means by which people can interact. Instead of addressing these changes in a

meaningful debate, these texts present them only as threats to Islamic society. In their

worldview, change can only lead to fragmentation and alienation of the society. As evidence, the

texts highlight the fact that “Western” society is marked by divorce and crime precisely because

its members fail to adhere to strict rules about societal roles.

       The women in Jordan’s Islamic texts have only a domestic, family role and no place

outside the home. On the one hand, this fixing of domestic roles mirrors the lives of the majority

of Jordan’s female population. On the other hand, it neglects to discuss the many different

influences women and their families encounter in Jordan in the 21st century, regardless of their

societal positions. The authors of these texts utilize carrots and sticks to keep the students away

from these temptations. The stability and tranquility of the family is constantly compared to the

instability that Western society has wrought. Obedience brings happiness; misbehavior brings

sadness. One would expect religious texts of this sort to be the most conservative socially.

These texts do not disappoint in this regard. However, in a world of such diverse societal

images, these texts fail to allow the students themselves to discuss the different influences

affecting their lives. They are granted no power to determine their life’s role because they are

never asked their opinion. Islam, as a perfect set of beliefs, is the voice of authority, not its


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       The righteousness and unity of Islam are also continually compared to the transgressions

of the Christians and Jews. By so doing, the texts essentialize Christian and Jewish natures,

fixing them into categories perpetually inferior to Islam. Since Christians and Jews will never

accept the truth of Islam, the texts do not bother to encourage the students to think actively about

the meaning of tolerance; they are told merely to accept the fact that Islam is inherently tolerant

and those who reject this position stand as its eternal enemies. Just as the example of the West is

utilized to show that only Islam provides a valid method for organizing society, the corruptions

of Christianity and Judaism are used as a means to extol the superiority of Islam as a whole. The

“Stepford Civilization” thus delineates the rules required to live within Islamic society,

counterpoised against the hostility and deviation existing outside its walls. The strongest

messages of the texts are negative ones, illustrating the costs of misbehavior by its members and

the threats of attack by its enemies.

Islam and the State

       As the quote on the first page demonstrates, namely that, “Islamic society is a society

established on reality and rights and conviction, and not established on uncertainty and doubt and

suspicion…,” Islam is the primary actor in these books. An omnipresent, all-knowing,

completely united Islam teaches students how to conduct righteous lives within the Umma. That

Umma provides the boundaries for the students, not the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This is

not to say that the nation of Jordan is irrelevant to the texts, for many phrases, such as “Jordanian

society,” “women in Jordan today,” and “Jordanian charities,” delineate the national world of the

students. The Hashemite kings make appearances as actors in the great march of Islamic history.

The question is about the voice of authority presented to the students. The texts purport to

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present an Islam applicable to the universal Muslim world, not just to the small state of Jordan.

Thus, the state and its monarchical family do not explicitly serve as mediators between the

message of Islam and the students sitting in their classes. This method is in sharp contrast to the

history textbooks that, from the earliest days in the 1950s and 1960s, represented the Hashemite

kings as the primary actors in the history of the Jordanian and Arab nations. The Hashemite

kings serve as both historical leaders and the sole providers of the largesse the Jordanian people

receive. In reading these texts, students can readily identify the source of authority over their

historical lives.

        The Islamic texts seemingly provide a different relationship between the information –

the rules and guides of Islam – and the state in which they are published. Of course, the state

serves as a mediator between the students and the information, as evidenced by the fact that the

state’s Ministry of Education chooses the textbook authors and publishes the texts under the

imprimatur of the Hashemite Kingdom. Yet, Islam appears to be the only actor, not that state,

despite its stamp on the front of every book.

        The state accrues two benefits by appearing to transfer its authority to another entity.

First, by absolving itself of responsibility for the information presented in these texts, the rules

and guides included within them appear unmolested by secular intervention. The divine dictates

of Islam override all national and state concerns. They appear to come from that “truth” that is

Islam and thus are impossible to refute. A civics textbook for the 8th grade even makes that clear

when it states that, “Permanent religious knowledge does not change, because it is issued from

God, and it is authentic, permanent knowledge. It does not allow for defamation or criticism of

its authenticity.”3 It is at the level of family where this interchange between state and faith can

most readily be seen. The family, and particularly women, have become the standard-bearers of

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what is Islamic, what is traditional, what is non-Western. As Suad Joseph has found for the

region in general, “Not only have the states privileged family above the individual legally, but

they have engaged in discourses that represent the family as something a priori, ‘prepolitical,’ a

domain so beyond current time and conditions that it is best apprehended in the domain of the

divine.”4 Because the family has a “prepolitical” position within Islamic society, its concerns,

more than any other, have remained under the rubric of Islam. By focusing the bulk of their

attention on the family, these Islamic texts reiterate the belief that the preservation of strict

family relationships serves as the very foundation of Islamic life. Yet, as with all issues related

to textbooks, the state interferes and, in this case, utilizes Islam to describe a family life

commensurate with its political goals.

        Because of the divine nature of Islam and the integral place of the family within its

constructs, nowhere in the texts are students given an opportunity to debate and question the

information received; they are asked only to memorize the messages and occasionally to confirm

the sentiments. These texts do not encourage any kind of critical thinking by providing, for

example, alternative interpretations of Hadith or Quranic sura for the students to discuss. They

merely make pronouncements on the one way students need to conduct their lives, often in

bullet-point lists of conclusive facts. The Hadith or sura mentioned are considered the only

voices of authority on a given subject. Phrases such as, “The Prophet determined that the most

important of the benefits of Muslims in religious life, after the power of God Almighty, lies the

righteous marriage,”5 and “The Muslim family treats its children equally and without oppression

and injustice,”6 give some examples of the tone of the texts. They facilitate between strong,

active subjects – the Prophet, Islam – to an almost passive acceptance of a way of life. The

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subject, “The Muslim family,” implicitly accepts that the family members have followed the

teachings laid out by Islam and these texts.

        Second, the state, through its designated authors and committees, is provided the

opportunity to decide what divine dictates to include and what to leave behind in order to

generate obedience. Gregory Starrett has stated that, “…just as wild plants have to undergo

systematic genetic alterations to make them useful as cultivated foods, so ‘Islam’ has to be

altered to make it useful as a political instrument.”7 As he explains for Egypt, “’Knowing’ Islam

means being able to articulate the religion as a defined set of beliefs such as those set down in

textbook presentations.”8 The texts, in the Jordanian case, utilize Islamic texts to support the

patriarchal structure of the family unit and the need to defend the nation from all its enemies.

For example, “It is important for the individual to consider himself part of the society and not

separate from it,” so that he may protect society and it may protect him in return.9 While

obedience to the state structure is never specifically required in these texts, obedience to father,

mother, family, society, and Islam serves an analogous function. “When the family is a cohesive

force, the Umma is an unassailable force, its glory builds, its power is assured, its Islamic

message is cherished, and it takes its rightful place among the nations, as a respected force. No

other nation is able to attack it.”10 Integral to this process is the idea that the Hashemite state is

not demanding this obedience, but a higher power that cannot be questioned.

        The Hashemite kings have consistently portrayed themselves as the fathers of the

Jordanian family, the sheikhs of the Jordanian tribe. Thus, discussions about obedience to father

and family have resonance in the many other images the Hashemites disseminate about their

leadership role. No person living in Jordan today can effectively ignore the family and tribal

alliances the state has made, if only for the fact that family and tribal ties carry considerable

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weight in gaining access to government services and jobs. As Amawi reports from her

examination of Jordan’s Personal Status Law,

       The image of al-usra al-wahida, or united family, is built around the articulation
       of a cohesive structure, of family relations based on obedience to the male head of
       the household (the patriarch), mutual obligations, and respect for the elderly. A
       very interactive symbiosis is created between the patriarchal family and the
       patriarchal state. The Jordanian society as a whole is depicted as a united family
       with all its members owing allegiance to the regime.11

Discussion of the Islamic family in these textbooks can easily be transferred to one about

obedience to the Hashemite state itself. The same vocabulary and themes are harnessed for

identical goals.

       Two issues will serve as the focus for this discussion of authority in Jordanian textbooks:

obedience to the Islamic family and the threats to this family from “others.” The first issue will

illustrate how textbooks are utilized as potential social control mechanisms. Everyone in Jordan

is currently confronting an array of different social, economic and political forces; many of

which have the potential to weaken the state structure. The advice and guidance proffered to the

students attempts to negate these influences and to show that only the one, ever-lasting definition

of the Islamic family will keep the society strong. In other words, “The Muslim considers

himself responsible for the organization of society and the rule of law in it, and for this he is

commanded to have knowledge and to end transgression.”12 The students have an obligation to

fulfill their designated functions. The second issue will illustrate how the Hashemite state has

utilized the degradation of “others” to maintain obedience to its preferred societal structure.

Muslim students are constantly reminded that the punishments for disobedience fall on

individual and society together.

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       On both these subjects, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-

Muslimin) can be felt. The Ikhwan in Jordan reached an accommodation with the Hashemite

state in the 1950s. From that point, the relationship became a reciprocal one, in which the state

incorporated many of the Ikhwan’s policy goals in return for peaceful relations. Ikhwan

members have been particularly influential in the Ministry of Education and, for many of those

years, an Ikhwan leader served as the Minister or as one of his deputies. They utilized their

position to place Ikhwan members throughout the district school systems, as administrators and

teachers. In Mansoor Moaddel’s analysis, “The Muslim Brothers naturally used their influence

in the ministry to ensure the conformity of its policies with Islam and to restrict the cultural and

educational desires of religious minorities.”13 To give some idea of Ikhwan influence in recent

years, in 1991, an Ikhwan leader, ‘Abdallah ‘Akaylah became the Minister of Education, while

other members led the Ministries of Justice, Social Development and Religious Affairs. As

Laurie Brand reports, “In ‘Abdallah ‘Akaylah’s first meeting with ministry employees following

his appointment as Minister of Education he informed women that he did not want to have them

working in sensitive and important places. He also ordered the ‘cleansing’ of the ministry by

segregating the sexes, and began firing some of the higher ranking employees and replacing

them with Islamists.”14 As part of the same process, “’Akaylah also introduced a series of

measures to Islamicize education: he limited the freedom of schools to close on Christian

holidays and set the dates for mid-term exams during them and attempted to ban books deemed

incompatible with the king’s moral and religious ethics.”15 ‘Akaylah’s leadership of the Ministry

of Education did not last long and Islamists of all stripes encountered increasing repression from

the regime, yet their influence can be felt in these textbooks. Even in periods of government

repression against the Islamists in the late 1980s and the late 1990s, because of the realities of

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life-tenure in many government posts, Ikhwan and Islamist members have been able to retain

their influence. The authors of these Islamic texts come, almost to a man, from the Islamist


       Notwithstanding the influence of the Ikhwan and associated Islamists, the content of

every text had to be passed by the government itself. As such, this content can be taken as

government policy. The messages contained in these texts are messages the government wishes

to impart to its students. The state has exploited the influence of the Ikhwan to do so.

The Family

       The Hashemite state is certainly not alone in failing to address the rapid socio-economic

changes taking place within its borders. The entire region has encountered this dilemma and it is

unlikely that any of the surrounding states have done a much better job at guiding their students

through the new realities. For that matter, what 21st century state can effectively negotiate a

comprehensive body of rules concerning such disparate issues as gender relations, drugs,

alcohol, unemployment, and the like? With the ostensible separation between church and state,

schools in the United States, for example, have had a difficult time forging a path between the

demands of different religious faiths, state laws and parental concerns. The Hashemite state

addresses these issues in Islamic textbooks. In the process, Islam has become the catch-all

subject for discussing not only religion, but also history, society, and morality. At times, the

Quran or the Hadith lay out specific rules for relationships; at other times, very contemporary

concerns are addressed with contemporary solutions. Islam appears to be the source in both

instances, whether in the active or passive voice. Inevitably the question of what image of the

family best fits the state’s goals becomes integral to the process of textbook construction,

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considering what has been left out of the Islamic discourse, what has been added to it. For its

part, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan purports to provide an all-encompassing system of social

control and categorization.

       The family is described in textbook after textbook as the core component of the larger

society. For example,

       The family is the first brick among the bricks of society, and the basis of its
       strength and its cohesion…and Islam commissioned the family to utilize
       cooperation between man and woman, just as it made it [the family] the natural,
       virtuous home for the development of the true Islamic youth, and with the family
       the structure continues in an atmosphere of love and compassion and sympathy
       between the members of the family…17

In this one passage is encompassed the main message presented in the texts. To maintain this

stable whole, instructions are given to each of its members. For example, “it is necessary that

equity prevail in the treatment between the spouses, and between the parents and the individuals,

and between the children themselves, and it is necessary that the strong and the weak cooperate,

and that the children cooperate with their parents.”18 Most of the messages imparted to the

students, however, discuss the separation of roles and the hierarchy of obedience existing within

the family structure. Barbara Ibrahim and Hind Wassef found the same phenomenon in Egypt.

       Despite recent reforms to official textbooks to enhance the image of women, the
       gender content of the basic education curriculum supports fairly traditional roles
       for women and men. Although paying lip service to principles of equality
       between the sexes in all contexts, it puts forward a discourse of equal rights in
       different domains, so that women’s contributions to society is in their roles as
       wives and mothers while the public domain is the monopoly of men.19

A man, for example, has a number of rights over his wife. She must obey him, maintain his

house and family with honor, safeguard his children, and leave the home only with his

permission.20 “The woman is conquered by love for her husband, and is monopolized by his

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concerns and his welfare, and, [in return], he increases his love for her, and carries out for her the

remainder of her needs.”21 As such, the man’s primary responsibility, in return for this respect

and obedience, is to maintain the household financially.

       The rules and restrictions concerning women are much more complex in these texts,

covering everything from her clothes, to her choice of husband, to the number of children she

should produce. Students are told that Islam enjoins women to cover their private parts, or, in

other words, all of their bodies except their hands and feet. In addition, males and females may

interact only in designated areas, with the former controlling access to the latter. In marriage,

women hold the right to control their dowry [mahr], demand maintenance from their husbands,

and more generally, to have husbands who listen to their suggestions about the family. “He will

support her in everything that is good for her in her religion and beliefs and inform her of what

she is ignorant about in the affairs of her religion.”22 As Glenn Robinson shows, this view

parallels the Muslim Brotherhood’s platform in the mid-1990s. “While it calls for equal rights

for women, endorsing the woman’s right to ‘own property, work and participate in developing

the society within the limits set by Islam,’ those rights are applicable only insofar as they do not

‘overwhelm the duty of the women toward her home, husband and children.’”23 Within that

home, Jordanian family law – and the Islamic texts – stress that the primary purpose for marriage

is for the production of children.24 The texts support large families because the Umma needs

sufficient numbers of people to man its armed forces and, along the way, to help advance the

society economically, socially, and intellectually.25 In addition, women are cautioned that if they

limit the number of children the resulting level of anxiety might endanger their health. 26

       While these Islamic texts allow for no digression from the accepted Islamic role for

women, civic texts delve into a few more of the issues contemporary Jordanian women

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encounter. The result, however, is identical; the basic structure of the preferred family unit is the

same. The same threat of societal fragmentation hangs over the heads of the women in these

texts. For example, in this contemporary age, educating children is now dispersed to different

institutions, like schools, societal clubs and learning centers, “just as women are occupied with

employment outside the house. Other institutions have been found that participate in the

education of children, like day-care and kindergarten, all of which lead to the weakening of the

influence of the family in its guidance over children.”27 The students are then asked their

opinion about kindergarten, and, if they attended one themselves, what the influence was upon

them. While most of the questions posed in all of these texts require regurgitation of the

information, occasionally questions such as these emerge. In this case, they coax students into

questioning the benefits of women working and having to place the education of their young

children into the hands of others. The range of possibilities open to women is larger in these

texts, but the threat of misbehavior remains the same.

        After defining the roles proscribed for men and women, obedience is the primary value

instilled in the children; in return, Islam, according to the texts, grants rights to children that no

modern society has ever been able to fully replicate. Children must revere their parents, speak to

them in humbleness, and support them if needed.28 In a section entitled, “How to Assure Virtue

in the Devotion of Children,” children are told to treat their parents with kindness even as they

age, smile at them and appear happy at all times, obey them without question, and give priority

to their parents over all other concerns.29 All members of the family must honor their roles

because children have the right to parents who are righteous and who have chosen each other

based on religion and morality. In this way, children can be sure of who their father is. Mothers

are enjoined to treat their children with goodness and kindliness and men are required to educate

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their children in the ways of Islam. “And among the duties of the parents toward their children is

to implant in their hearts love of religion and its culture and work, its principles and laws, and to

separate them from the consorts of evil.”30 The texts repeatedly state that all children, regardless

of gender, must be treated equally. However, other passages in the texts detail the rights that

older children have over their younger siblings. Older brothers, for example, must be viewed by

those other siblings just as their parents are, for they are tasked with educating and protecting


        The texts also propose Islamic answers to the many threats directed against the family

unit. In general, societal problems arise when people put personal desires ahead of tradition,

wars or natural disasters befall a society, powerful societies impose their ideas over weaker ones,

and people move away from the teachings of their faith.31 Islam treats these problems pre-

emptively by encouraging people to think first of Islam, then of the family, and finally of the

society around them, always remembering that the individual is the servant of the society.32 Of

all the problems discussed, divorce looms as the largest and most threatening to the Islamic

whole. The texts do explain that Islam allows divorce in cases where the two spouses are

incapable of living together. To facilitate this act, Islam grants the man the right to divorce, but

does not allow the more emotional woman to do it for herself.33 However, the student must

understand that divorce is not desirable if it can be avoided because it “leaves a negative

influence on relations between the two families of the spouses,” and many studies have shown

that most criminals come from broken homes.34 The ultimate solution to marital problems is to

rely on the Shari’a of God to resolve them.

        In contrast to this beautiful, stable whole, the West looms as an ever-present threat. In

this depiction of good and bad, the West has become the latest in a long line of attackers who do

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not understand the rightness of the Islamic path. Islam lies unchanging through history, yet new

enemies constantly emerge to fight against it. “Western imperialism began its intellectual attacks

on the Islamic world, encouraging racial disputes and ethnic chauvinism.”35 The colonists and

the missionaries “influenced minorities in Islamic society and aroused racial disputes among the

Berbers and the Pharaohs and the Phoenicians and the Assyrians and others, and they encouraged

disputes between Muslims and Christians and between Sunni and Shi’a.”36 As a result, each of

the ethnic groups set out to support their national causes by constructing mythical past histories,

literature and art to serve their goals. Divisive calls were now made in the name of Communism,

sectarianism, and “numerous odious factions” like that of Egyptian nationalism.37 The message

explicitly stated is that Islam would never allow such divisions; outsiders have forced them on

the Islamic world.

       In the Islamic Culture text for the second secondary level, missionary work comes under

particular attack.38 Missionaries first arrived in the Middle East at the end of the 16th century,

first in Malta, then in Syria, and then in the remainder of the region. They served, from the

beginning, as a vanguard for the colonial occupations that occurred later. Missionaries

conducted their work by erecting schools, universities, hospitals, scout troops, and charities. A

medical missionary is quoted as saying in 1906 that doctors should remember that their job was

to proselytize first and administer medical aid second.39 In all of these institutions, missionaries

worked to weaken the Islamic spirit and strengthen the ideas of the West. They participated in

“Slandering Islamic history and the path of the Muslim caliphs, and presented the movement of

Islamic history as one of wars and struggles and rebellions.”40 By so doing, they defamed Islam

and its Prophet, and spoke lies about how Islam had spread by hatred and the sword.41

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       The means to defend society against this foreign onslaught lies in Islam. “Muslims do

not lag behind the bases of the world because of their connection to religion, but they do lag

behind when they are negligent about the needs and values of the religion, its tenets and its

instructions, and when they allow Western civilization to attack them and the ideas to penetrate

and predominate over their life.”42 The answer to this attack is to renew the Islamic way of life

from the inside, working primarily through the vehicle of the family unit. By so doing, Islamic

society will remain strong enough to protect itself from corrupting ideologies and the penetration

of foreign cultures.43 Muslims must truly learn and understand the value of their faith and the

all-encompassing value of its tenets in order to make Islamic society strong.

       Frequently, students are reminded of the dysfunctional character of Western society as a

counterpoise to the unified structure of Islamic society. For example, “The break-up of society

and the large family in the industrial Western societies have resulted in numerous problems, and

their negative influences are reflected on the individual in the society, and he begins to suffer

from not having the stability of the family.”44 Moaddel reports of the Ikhwan that,

“Admonishing the public on the Western cultural assault on women was the central feature of the

Brothers’ exposé on gender relations.”45

       The message of the texts is that individual transgression will lead to disintegration of the

society. The answer is the separation of the sexes and the maintenance of a hierarchical

relationship between them. The introduction of alternative modes of living can only weaken the

Islamic Umma. Pronouncements are made and the students are expected to follow them without

question. Not only is debate about these roles not allowed, but mention is not made about how

the students need to reconcile the messages of these texts concerning gender roles and the

“West” with the contradictory messages emanating from the regime in other media. The

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Hashemite leadership has been forthright in its support of American economic and political

policies in the region. While the “West” is never explicitly equated with the United States,

students can easily trace the path from colonialism to the current penetration of American goods

and ideas. The Hashemite state has also consistently presented itself, both at home and abroad,

as the chief purveyors of modernity in Jordan. This goal manifests itself in such disparate forum

as the various international women’s organizations to which the state belongs, to the recitation of

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its civics textbooks. However, the Hashemite

kings also present themselves as the holders of the national heritage, whether it be bedouin,

Arab, Islamic, or Jordanian. These contradictions do not exist in the textbooks but they do exist

in students’ everyday lives. As Ibrahim and Wassef found in Assiut, Egypt,

       As education and the media penetrate to the hinterland, we have seen that they
       operate in complex ways upon the emerging identities of youth. Even when
       behavior is not immediately affected, the consciousness youth have of a wider
       world expresses itself in their beliefs and hopes. Gender gaps may be widening as
       part of this process, with as yet unknown consequences for the adult relationships
       that will emerge. We have also seen that within the parameters of
       conservative communities, rebellion is still rare, as is any overt identification with
       a culture of youth. Yet slowly and surely, young people are maneuvering within
       the spaces allowed for them and finding ways to stretch their boundaries ever

These Jordanian texts are clearly geared toward gaining obedience from its students, particularly

given the fact that the punishments for disobedience are so vivid illustrated. The contradictions

between the absolutes of Islam depicted in these texts and the complexities of students’ lives, and

the disjunctions between the state’s educational and political policies, must make it difficult for

students to determine a path for themselves. These texts exacerbate this problem by not allowing

them the right to voice their concerns.

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The “Others”47

       To reinforce the need to be obedient to the categorized, patriarchal society depicted in

these texts, inferior and hostile societies are compared against it. These texts simultaneously

essentialize the beauties of Islamic society and its belief system just as they essentialize the

deviance of the “other,” the enemy. The world of these texts is one of black and white

descriptions of cultures confronting each other, inevitably and continually. People’s natures are

fixed in time as good or bad and nothing can change that basic fact.

       Many passages in the texts discuss tolerance, saying things such as, “The characteristics

of the religion do not prohibit living with non-Muslims on the basis of right and justice,”48 and

supporting the view that the People of the Book have the right to freedom of worship without

being forced to convert to Islam. These passages take as a given the generosity and tolerance of

the Muslims. If other groups disagree then they are intolerant and the blame is laid upon their

shoulders. As a result, Muslims are not required to action; others must fix their own actions.

Instead of discussing the similarities between the People of the Book, most passages focus on the

differences. Thus, tolerance toward those “others” is never encouraged in these texts; rather the

lessons allow for a grudging acceptance of these groups within the Islamic world, in the case of

the Christians, and establish a hostile relationship concerning the Jews.

       Because of the existence of these hostile groups, the texts call on students to defend the

faith, by following the rules set out for the family and by physically standing up to fight on its

behalf. “Muslim society is a jihadi society, defending the truth and sacrificing on behalf of it.”49

In addition, “Jihad is a necessary, indispensable part of Islamic society in any era; abandoning

jihad brings to the Umma weakness and disgrace.”50 To better aid the students in determining

their role in this regard, the texts define the reasons for jihad and its different manifestations.51 A

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jihad can be called when an enemy attacks a Muslim country and when a Muslim sovereign calls

the Muslims to arms. The jihad of the soul means going out to fight the enemy. A jihad of

property involves Muslims sacrificing their property in order to allow the battle to take place. As

part of this process, airports, war factories, citadels, and hospitals must be constructed. The jihad

of opinion means a struggle of the tongue and the pen to fight against the enemies of Islam. The

personal jihad, an area where tolerance could have been the focus, is downplayed almost to non-

existence. The jihad of these texts means physical attack. Peaceful means for resolving disputes

are not considered viable options by these texts.

       Jihad is so important to the society because of the hostile relationship the Muslim world

has always had with Christians and Jews. A few statements throughout the texts support

people’s right to freedom of worship and religious thought and the students are repeatedly told

that Islam has generously granted those rights to the People of the Book. However, invariably

those different religious beliefs are degraded by these texts and compare poorly with those of

Islam. While Muslims faithfully follow their Prophet and their God, Christians have strayed

away from the true path and have distorted the message of God, becoming polytheists by

choosing, for example, to designate Jesus as the son of God. Christians and Jews refuse to listen

to not only Muhammad but their own Prophets as well. As a result, “The suras [of the Quran]

make clear that animosity between the bands of the People of the Book will continue until the

day of judgment.”52 This discussion highlights the way these texts manipulate the documents

and tenets of Islam. Assuredly, Christians and Jews did not heed the call of Muhammad. That is

part of Islamic history. The texts put forward Hadith and sura to prove that this is the case. Yet,

no other Hadith or sura are put forward to show how Christians, Jews and Muslims successfully

cooperated together over the centuries. No discussion takes place about the means by which

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Muhammad extended his hand to these groups or how Islam was able to come to an

accommodation with them. Instead, only the hostility is mentioned. Islam is the answer to all

things; if the Christians and Jews do not understand that fact then they are to blame for the

subsequent hostilities. In 1972, Hava Lazarus-Yafeh said of the Jordanian textbooks of that era


        …the political opponent is depicted not only as an opponent or enemy: he is the
        incarnation of wickedness and baseness. This applies to every opponent, not only
        to the Zionists, and even to discredited Arab leaders. It determines the whole of
        the attitude towards the Western imperialist world (al-isti’mar), which, in the
        accepted Arab view, set up and supports the State of Israel, and to which atrocities
        are imputed that seem to have their origin in a morbid imagination, identifying the
        political opponent with absolute evil and projecting upon him its own

That depiction has not changed in the 1990s or in the first years of the 21st century.

        Of the People of the Book, the Jews come under much more scathing attack than the

Christians. The Islamic Sciences text details the history of the Muslim-Jewish relationship in

Medina during the era of the Prophet.54 In the first stage, the two groups negotiated a truce

[hudna], but with cautionary elements. The Prophet trusted only a few of the Jews of the town

but otherwise most of them, despite understanding the power behind the Prophethood, refused to

heed his call. The Jews who lived there feared that call because they had acquired a great deal of

property via monopolies, usury, and the manufacture of wine. They also held a deep-rooted

belief that that their existence separated them from the rest of humanity. While they publicly

accepted a truce with Muhammad, they actually used this time to acquire even more property. In

the second stage, the rabbis began questioning the Prophet, hoping to find fault with his message.

This act highlighted the fact that Jews are known for constantly debating and questioning, even

with their own Prophets. When this tactic failed, the Jews tried fraud and ridicule to sow doubts

Betty S. Anderson            

about Islam. In the last stage, the Jews betrayed the Medina Charter and cooperated with the

Qurayshi enemies of the Muslims, inciting them to fight. In the Holy Quran and Its Sciences, the

story of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt shows that Jews are a people who refuse to obey

their God and their Prophet and show weakness in the face of danger, despite the fact that God

Almighty granted them many gifts.55 In most areas of the texts, Jews are characterized as

“immoral,” “deviant,” “greedy,” “cowardly,” and “tyrannical.” In highlighting the hostility

between the Jews and the Muslims, the text states that, “The Holy Quran informs us of the

primary causes of this hostility, [namely] that the Jews are an obstinate people and deny the

truth.56 The lesson to be learned is that Muslims should be constantly wary of the deceitful Jews

and only their faith will protect them from harm.

       The only modern political event discussed in these texts is that of the history of Palestine.

This example is presented as just the latest manifestation of Jewish hostility toward Muslims. In

the middle of the story about Moses students are asked: “What are the characteristics of the

Jews?” and “What is the relationship of that, given their existence in Palestine today?”57 In other

sections, the Zionist movement is considered a component of the larger imperialistic attack

against the Muslim world, focusing particularly on the role the British government played in the

establishment of Israel. “The desires of the Jews in Palestine were based on their religious

beliefs, which portrayed Palestine as the promised land granted to them by God. These beliefs

remained a hidden treasure in the souls of the Jews until the 19th century, when competition

between the imperialist states emerged over the division of the Islamic world and the British

government embraced the idea of dividing the Arab nation and consuming its strengths.”58

Because of the interconnection between religion and politics opposition to Jews is a jihad. For

example, Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam announced a jihad and attacked Britain’s plan to Judaize

Betty S. Anderson              

Palestine. Jihadi Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini opposed the Jewish occupation of Palestine in 1947.

The Jordanian forces went on a jihad to keep the Old City of Jerusalem from falling under

Jewish control in 1948. Palestinian history stops in 1988, the year King Hussein ended Jordan’s

administration of the West Bank. No mention is made of the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan

and Israel, despite the active campaign for normalization of relations with Israel the Hashemite

regime has waged since then.

       Scholars have studied earlier generations of Jordanian textbooks and have come to

similar conclusions. In 1972, Lazarus-Yafeh found the following generalizations: “Jews love

only Jews; they are traitorous and mendacious. They were afraid of the strength of the Muslims

and said: Islam does not permit us to cheat people or steal their property. Therefore we must

ally ourselves with the enemies of Islam and the Muslims and get rid of Muhammad.”59 Michael

Winter found in a study of Jordanian textbooks in 1995 that, “Modern European imperialism is

regarded as the source of all evil and the direct cause of all the disasters in recent Arab history as

well as of present Arab weakness. The West aims to exploit and plunder the Arab world,

seeking the humiliate the Arabs and to devastate their culture and religion.”60 The textbooks in

this study have all been written or rewritten after 1994. Yet, they repeat the same messages of

the last 30 years, almost to a word.


       All faiths establish absolutes by which their followers should abide. Textbooks present

an idealized image of life within their nation. Every state utilizes school curricula to generate

obedience for its leadership or its value system. No state can avoid the inherent problems of

defining an entire society and its history within the pages of a book. Jordanian Islamic textbooks

Betty S. Anderson                       

encounter these same issues. Yet, the Hashemite regime appears to be creating too great a

disjunction between image and reality. Socio-economic change has impinged upon most

students’ lives, yet these texts ignore the bulk of them. The state pushes normalization with

Israel, but encourages hatred toward Jews in its schools. It supports US economic and political

policies in the region, but attacks Western cultural intrusions. It conducts sweeping arrests of

Islamists in the US war on terror while extolling their basic beliefs in government schools.

Conflicts have already arisen between the Hashemite regime and the “street” over the regime’s

economic and political stance toward Israel and the United States. The most vivid images the

texts reveal are negative ones, admonishing students to obey commands or suffer the

consequences. Students can rightfully ask: What voice of authority should we obey? Do

students assimilate the message of obedience in these texts or have the state’s contradictory

policies made them question the benefits of this obedience?

             Islamic Education (1996), p. 241. Given the time constraints, the citations do not confirm to the style

sheet. That project and the bibliography will be completed by the time of the conference.
             The textbooks under study include seven Islamic and three civics texts, all published between 1995 and

2002. They are designed for grades eight through twelve, and are all currently in use in Jordan’s public school

system. Muslim students are required to study Islam three hours a week. In the last few years, the Jordanian public

school system has also started a pilot program to offer religion classes to the Christian students. The curriculum for

that program was brought from Syria.
             National and Civic Education, 8th Grade (2001), p. 71.
             Joseph, “Gendering Citizenship in the Middle East,” p. 19.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 43.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 40.
             Starrett, Putting Islam to Work, p. 8.
             Starrett, Putting Islam to Work, p. 9.

Betty S. Anderson                       

            Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 91.
             Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002),p. 78.
             Amawi, “Gender and Citizenship in Jordan,” p. 184.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 96.
             Moaddel, Jordanian Exceptionalism, p. 35.
             Brand, Women, the State, and Political Liberalization, p. 156.
             Brand, Women, the State, and Political Liberalization, pp. 156-157.
             Initial research shows this to be true. I am still working to confirm it.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 37.
             Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002),p. 78.
             Ibrahim and Wassef, “Caught Between the Two Worlds,” p. 168.
             See Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 83.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 68.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 66.
             Robinson, “Can Islamists Be Democrats?”
             See Sonbol, Women of Jordan, for a discussion of the different conceptions of family that appear in the

Personal Status Codes in the Middle East.
             Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 121.
             Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 122. Civics textbooks offer the opposite advice. For

example, National and Civic Education, 8th Grade (2001), pp. 15-16.
             National and Civic Education, 8th Grade (2001), p. 11.
             See Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), pp. 85-86.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 71.
             Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 78.
             see Islamic Education (1996), p. 239.
             see Islamic Education (1996), p. 240.
             See Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 98.
             Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 98.

Betty S. Anderson                      

              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 280.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 280.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), pp. 280-281.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), pp. 282-284..
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 283. The text does not cite the source of this quote.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 284.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 284.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 269.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 270.
              National and Civic Education, 8th Grade (2001), p. 7.
              Moaddel, Jordanian Exceptionalism, pp. 139-140.
              Ibrahim and Wassef, “Caught Between the Two Worlds,” p. 183.
              I would like to express my thanks to Shakir Mustafa for giving me valuable help in analyzing these texts.

In particular, he put into focus for me the image of Islam displayed within them.
              Islamic Sciences (2001), p. 279.
              Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 106.
              Islamic Culture, First Secondary (1999), p. 106.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), pp. 237-241.
              The Holy Quran and Its Sciences (1995), p. 116.
              Lazarus-Yafeh, “An Inquiry into Arab Textbooks,” p. 8.
              Islamic Sciences (2001), pp. 308-313.
              The Holy Quran and Its Sciences (1995), pp. 45-49.
              The Holy Quran and Its Sciences (1995), p. 136.
              The Holy Quran and Its Sciences (1995), p. 47.
              Islamic Culture, Second Secondary (2002), p. 275.
              Lazarus-Yafeh, “An Inquiry into Arab Textbooks,” pp. 18-19.
              Winter, “The Arab Self-Image as Reflected in Jordanian Textbooks,” p. 214.


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