What's wrong with Fundamentalism, anyway?

It's easier to indoctrinate people in need that it is people who can afford a free choice. It's also far easier to indoctrinate children than adults. Therefore schools are a primary target of cultic attention. Examples exist in Christian, Jewish and Islamic religions.

  1. Teacher dishes up fear with Satan - April 19, 2003, Tages-Anzeiger, Switzerland
  2. Why there is no Jerusalem - January 4, 2003
  3. God's loyal warriors - May 2, 2003

Teacher dishes up fear with Satan

April 19, 2003, Tages-Anzeiger, Switzerland

A primary school teach in Weiach teaches his students the fear of Satan. Parents are outraged, but no discussion with the school board has yet taken place.

by Hugo Stamm

Teacher I.P (not his real initials) is a very devout person. He goes to Sunday services at the charismatic "Freikirche Christliches Zentrum Buchegg" (Buchegg Interdenominational Christian Center) in Zurich, and takes God's work of separating as many people as possible from Satan seriously. As a primary school teacher, the welfare of his students is the theme closest to his heart. He is reported to have told his children in 5th and 6th grade religious instruction that Satan kills babies. His religious zeal, however, is striking a sour note among some parents. "We don't have to put up with a teacher who uses his extreme religious views to feed fear to our children," said one mother.

An example given: "He told the children he had a recent experience with Satan. He said a candle's flame had flickering downwards signified that Satan was in the room, which was verified by the fact of a cold draft. He knew exactly what Satan is up to: butchering babies."

Another mother was taken aback at another story her son told her about Satan, "He told me he would be happy until he died, because there is no pain in the second life and everything was beautiful." A different mother related probably the crassest case, "The teacher told me some time ago in a roundabout way that my son was possessed by demons."

Teacher behaves like a king

The one who started things rolling was the district president of the EVP party. He listened to various parents' complaints and wrote the school board with a long list of objections. The politician criticized that I.P. behaved like a king in the classroom, and often spoke about evil demons there. Parents are concerned their children will be subject to reprisals in response to their complaints.

The situation came to a head the end of December 2002 when eleven pairs of parents demanded in a letter a meeting with the school board and the teacher. They received no answer in response. After three weeks they pursued the matter. They found out to their surprise that the meeting had become moot because the teacher had turned in a letter of resignation for the end of the school year in summer. The parents were not satisfied that their children would be subjected to another six months of this same teacher. The school board refused to discuss the matter further.

At least one mother said that the school principal also went to an interdenominational church, and that this group was looking out for its own members.

Bible study in Skilager

A different incident enraged other parents, when a student helper hired by the principal brought three girls to a special Bible study for three nights. The girls' parents had no idea of what was happening and weren't half surprised to her about their daughters' new religious experiences. "My daughter asked me, 'How do I best give my life to Jesus so I don't go to hell?'." The girls had been told that people who did not accept Jesus into their hearts were going to stew in hell. This supposedly also included Catholics.

The student aid didn't leave it alone at the Bible study. He contacted the girls afterwards and invited them to an evangelization meeting and to a photo op with the principal. It wasn't until the parents intervened that their girls were not contacted further.

The principal said he had been known that the primary school teacher had "a fundamental Christian worldview" and brought Satan into play in questionable form in school instruction. He said the complaints had been investigated, the teacher had been told to stop pursuing the subject, and that the teacher was now behaving in a responsible manner.

The teacher flat out denies the parents' accusations. He stressed that there were parents that were not satisfied with his instruction, and that this fact could be verified. He said he was being deliberately mobbed with a campaign of lied by a few parents. He said he gave notice because he couldn't teach in the face of resistance by several parents.

[. . . ] The principal believes the matter is settled and that no further discussion is necessary

Mohammed's winged steed at the Wailing Wall January 4, 2003
Der Tagesspiegel online

Why there is no Jerusalem, or:
What Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks tell about the Near East conflict

by Richard Chaim Schneider

This time Tony Blair is the one who would like to make another try at pacifying the Near East. Just back from meetings in Jordan, he wants to hold a conference for Palestine in London within the month, the godfather standing at the side of the ongoing democratization process of the Palestinian autonomous authority. It would have been helpful if a spokesman from the EU or other European politician would have compiled a dossier for him with analyses by one of the various scientific institutes (such as MEMRI - The Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington or CMIP - Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace in Washington and Jerusalem). That way the politicians could be less naive in considering how to actually bring about the democratization desired in the Palestinian autonomous areas.

Democracy, of the sort in which the German Federal Republic is rooted, is not an abstract political system that can be put on as if it were a piece of clothing. Democracy is based on a creed of values that people require an education to be familiar with. Therefore a glance into the Palestinian schoolbooks could be more informative than the international monitoring of Palestinian elections, which have once again been postponed until further notice by Arafat.

Learn and live in conflict

In any case, nothing about democratic values can be found in the schoolbooks of the Palestinian children. Nothing to be found on peace, tolerance, coexistence, de-demonizing the enemy, the acknowledgment of historical facts, criticism or self-criticism. As of today there is not a single map that shows the Palestinian children the state of Israel, nor even the 1967 borders. All that can be seen is the entire state of Palestine. The details show only Arab cities. Jewish metropolises like Tel Aviv (founded back in 1909) or Netanya are not shown anywhere.

Along the same lines, the Jewish state and its Jewish inhabitants are intentionally ignored, or at least pushed to the side. The name "Israel" hardly ever appears, and when it does, then never as a name for the country. Only Palestine is ever mentioned, and it always refers to the entire territory. Various metaphors are substituted for the word "Israel": "The 1948 land" or "the land inside the Green Line" (with "Green Line" being the borders of 1967.)

The Israeli schoolbooks look a little different, but you have to keep in mind there are two types of school systems there. One is the school system of the ultra-orthodox parties, which are only "indirectly" financed by the state. Because the ultra-orthodox parties are regularly needed as coalition partners, they sometimes let their loyalty be bought with subsidies that provide their schools with a hefty financial shot from the federal budget. The schoolbooks of this group, which consists of approximately 15 percent of the total population, show a picture complementary to that of the Palestinian textbooks. Their maps show an Israel that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to Jordan. The only country name that shows up is "Israel." "Palestine" or "Palestinian autonomous region" cannot be found, likewise with the names of the Anrainer states. The language of the ultra-orthodox schoolbooks is marked by superiority, and it's not infrequently that a negative reference to Arabs is made.

The textbooks of the state schools attended by 85 percent of Israelis show a completely different picture. Nowhere is the use of force against Arabs advocated. Peace is not portrayed as Utopia, but as a politically attainable goal. With few exceptions, however, blame for conflict is put on the Arabs. While some criticism of their own history may be found, the theses of the so-called New Historians have come to an end in several history books.

The Palestinian struggle is depicted as a national liberation movement. Its ideas, motivations and goals are correctly described, although they are naturally rejected. The historical connection between the Palestinians and the country of Palestine/Israel is not denied anywhere. Historical facts are passed on objectively, references are made to the holy sites of Islam, and Islam itself is presented as religion. The newer schoolbooks contain maps that emphasize the regions of Palestinian autonomy, and the occupied areas are specially marked.

The issue of the national character of Israel is dealt with in numerous books on social and political science. Both options - Israel strictly as a Jewish state / Israel as a state for all its citizens (regardless of religion or national origin)) - are dealt with in detail on many levels. In this regard there is also intense discourse on the issue of the national and cultural identity of the approximately 800,000 Arabs who are Israeli citizens. In other words, by and large the official Israeli textbooks reflect the basic democratic values of a free society that is calling for neither war nor racial hatred. Naturally, their own political position is interpreted as the correct one.

Back to the Palestinian textbooks, the concept of peace with Israel is lacking entirely. The Oslo Agreement, the first serious attempt at conflict resolution that has since become a useless scrap of paper, is mentioned only three times in all schoolbooks currently in use, even including one in a military context. This passage speaks about the founding of the "Palestinian Liberation Army" in exile. Then it continues, "After the signing of the Oslo Agreement between the PLO and Israel in September 1993, the greater part of the Liberation Army reached Palestine. (National Education, sixth grade).

The EU finances Propaganda

Nowhere is a reference made to the Jews having a historical and religious connection to Israel/Palestine. Jewish holy places are depicted as Islamic or, recently, as holy Islamic sites. For example, the Machpela grotto, which is the grave of the Patriarch Abraham and his family in Hebron, is sacred to Muslims and Jews alike. Seventh grade textbooks describe it this way, "The attempt to jewify several of the holy Muslim sites, such as the mosque of Abraham (referring to the grave site in Hebron) ..." In the same way, the grave in Bethlehem acknowledged by Arabs for centuries as that of Rachel, the Jewish tribal mother, is now considered to be "the mosque of Bilal Bin Rahhah," an associate of the Prophet Mohammed.

If's generally known that Jerusalem is not mentioned a single time in the Koran, while it is referred to in the Torah and the Old Testament several hundred times: as the principle city of Israel, as the city of King David, but mainly as the center of the Jewish faith, as the city of the Jewish temple. This connection of Jews to Jerusalem is intentionally ignored: "Jerusalem ... is in the field of vision of world interest on account of its Muslim and Christian holy sites" (Geography of Palestine, 7th grade), or "Jerusalem (Urushalim): A Palestinian city, which was built by the Arab Canaanites (the Jebusiters) and which was called Jebus by them ... The current name today is al-Quds" (Christian education, 2nd grade).

While the existence of the Jewish temple is not denied, its Jewish character is completely ignored, "The Temple (al-Haykal): The word means 'the Big Building," a place where people worshipped God, such as the Church today" (Christian Education, 2nd grade). In like manner, the Wailing Wall, the west wall of the Jewish Temple, is reinterpreted as an "Arab Wall." That is where Mohammed is said to have tied up al-Buraq, his winged steed, on his way to heaven. Therefore the site is called al-Buraq Wall in textbooks.

Any sort of historical co-responsibility for the Israeli-Arab conflict is not a topic for discussion. This issues includes only Israeli guilt. Jews are basically portrayed as aggressors, occupiers and murderers. Various problems, such as that of refugees, arising from Arab or Palestinian non-participation in the 1947 UN partition of Palestine all go without a mention, as does the 1948 attack of the Arab states upon the newly founded Jewish state.

So it's no surprise that Jihad, the Holy War and martyrdom (which includes today's suicide bombers) continue to be glorified. Example 1, "Jihad comes directly after prayer," says an instructional book "Our wonderful language" for the sixth grade. Another one, "Dear student, we expect that you will understand the following terms after studying this unit: (...) mastering of the concepts of martyr and martyrdom." [...]

Curiously enough, a great portion of Palestinian educational texts is produced with the financial help of the EU. About half of that is German money. Some time ago, the anti-Israeli and anti-democratic tendency of these textbooks was brought to the attention of the foreign office. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, respected as an honest broker by both sides in the Near East, announced an investigation. No results have been reported as yet.

God's loyal Warriors

The war in Iraq is not yet over -- now the missionaries will do battle

On May 2, 2003 the Süddeutsche Zeitung published an article by Andrian Kreye more or less to the following effect:

The road to Iraq is being paved with a diplomatic tragedy that could easily escalate into cultural hand-to-hand combat. Young Americans are getting geared up for their humanitarian mission. In warehouses and parking lots they sort out clothing, medicine and parts for water purification equipment. They're marking out distribution routes for supplies and operating with an annual budget of 194 million dollars. Hardly anybody would object to this were it not for the fact these are missionaries at work for Samaritan's Purse. That is the charitable organization of Baptist preacher Franklin Graham, and it's registered as an association in Germany as "Geschenke der Hoffnung."

Graham made headlines in April for giving the Good Friday sermon in the Pentagon. This was perceived by Moslem organizations, in view of the Iraq war, as a clear affront due to Graham's proclamation after September 11th that the God of Islam was not his god, and that he believed Islam was a wicked religion. Weren't Graham's attacks evidence that the invasion of Iraq was likely an attack by Christianity against Islam? In any case, 97 percent of Iraqis are Moslem. The Pentagon laconically replied that Samaritan's Purse was a private organization, and they didn't regulate them.

That's not entirely accurate, especially as George W. Bush decided April 17 that the humanitarian aid in Iraq would not be handled as usual by the State Department or the United Nations, but would be left up to the Pentagon. That was precedent-setting because Bush in effect made the NGOs subordinate to the Pentagon, forcing them to give up their neutrality to operate under the aegis of the American armed forces.

A Thousand and One Knights

Neither is this the first time Franklin has performed missionary work under the patronage of the American government. Samaritan's Purse was in Iraq after the first Gulf War, then it deployed to Kosovo and then to Afghanistan. Some of its financing came from US Aid, the American agency for development and emergency aid.

Outside of Pat Robertson, television evangelist and former presidential candidate, no clergyman has had as good connections to Washington as Franklin Graham. He was the one who put George W. Bush on the road to belief after his alcohol withdrawal, and he spoke the prayer for him at his inauguration two years ago. He inherited his influence from his father, Reverend Billy Graham, who made a name for himself as advisor to Richard Nixon and as an anti-Semite.

The Grahams belong to the Southern Baptist Church, a Baptist sect founded at the end of the 19th century in the American South by racial segregationists who wanted to keep blacks out of their church. Even in the 1960s the Southern Baptists were still regarded as opponents of the civil rights movement who preferred to obstruct the work of their brother in spirit, Martin Luther King. Three years ago, the church elders decided for the first time to exclude women from the office of pastor.

Of course Baptists are aware that missionary work, in the Near East especially, is hot political tinder. They constantly stress that they perform their charitable work strictly out of brotherly love. But they're contradicted by facts. In the first Gulf War Franklin Graham came to odds with supreme commander General Norman Schwarzkopf for sending thousands of Arab translations of the New Testament to Saudi Arabia. After the 2001 earthquake that transformed a large part of El Salvador into a disaster area, Graham's missionaries came into disrepute for compelling victims to convert from Catholicism to Baptist. Aid packets bound to Iraq from Baptist families are imprinted with Bible verses in Arabic.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, says that: What's especially annoying for Moslems is that the American conversion efforts are coupled with worldly benefits -- poor people are attracted by medicine for their children and vaccinations for their stock which they get if they go to church services. The USA cannot appear as a liberator this way.

The debate over the humanitarian Crusades of the Baptists sheds light on a phenomenon that has developed a powerful dynamic since the end of the Cold War. Anywhere weaknesses show up in civilian society, missionaries fill in the gaps. They provide disaster aid, build welfare networks, or simply offer spiritual or emotional support. Bush made this dynamic part of his program shortly after he assumed office. As part of the general deconstruction of state social services he conjured up the "faith based initiatives." These are how the government supports the efforts of religious groups to expand their congregations with the help of charity.

The Southern Baptists are regarded worldwide as one of the most aggressive missionary churches in doing this. Since the end of the Cold War they have been operating mainly in eastern Europe and in the so-called "10/40 window." That refers to land between 10 and 40 degrees North, which includes the entire Near East, the Indian subcontinent and a good part of Asia, meaning all the countries in which the majority of Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists live. Just in Islamic countries the number of evangelical missionaries has quadrupled since 1990. 25,000 of these trained evangelists are ready to go for Iraq.

It's not just Christians, however, that are hunting for souls. So is the Buddhist military government of Burma, as well as the militant Hindus of India. Buddhist sects are recruiting more and more members from the turmoil of major western cities. Sects like the Sanyassins, the Moonies or the Scientologists are conducting aggressive missionary work. The greatest success so far, however, is being enjoyed by the heralds of Islam from the Saudi Wahhabis and the Iranian Shiites who are competing worldwide for the role of the true Guardian of Islam.

[ . . . ]

So it's no wonder that even before the war ended the missionaries were circling the country like vultures. Right after Baghdad fell, Iranian emissaries mobilized their Shiite communities in the south of Iraq, which promptly demanded a theocratic government. Saudi groups want to send a great deal of humanitarian help and try to convert Iraqi Moslems to fundamental Wahhabism. This is completely apart from plans to make a role model out of Iraq for an Arab consumer society -- which is regarded by Arabs as missionary work by the secularists.

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