In Turkey, Darwin Is Crowded Out by Religion


When high school students in Turkey arrive for the fall term, Charles Darwin will be conspicuously absent from biology classes.

In elementary school religion classes, teachers will promote the nonviolent meaning of the word jihad — “to struggle” — as “love of homeland.”

And, perhaps most significantly in a country where the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who created the modern secular Turkish state in 1923, is plastered everywhere, references in schools to Ataturk are expected to be downgraded.

In a majority Muslim country that has long been polarized between the religious majority and a minority of secular elites, critics said the overhaul of more than 170 curriculum topics by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan represented a frontal assault on the country’s already fragile tradition of secularism.

The changes come at a tense time for relations between Turkey and its Western allies following Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown on his opponents in the aftermath of last year’s failed military coup, which the new curriculum lauds as “a legendary, heroic story.”

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