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Teaching Islam: Textbooks and Religion in the Middle East

Eleanor Abdella Doumato and Gregory Starrett, editors
Teaching Islam: Textbooks and Religion in the Middle East
ISBN: 978-1-58826-450-3
ISBN: 978-1-62637-272-6
2006/267 pages/LC: 2006012601

"An important contribution to both the sociology of education in the Middle East and to the wider academic discourse on the dynamics of religion and identity in the region.... The editors are to be congratulated for producing an illuminating and very well-organized volume."—Erik S. Ohlander, MESA Bulletin

"This is an important book.... The contributions here provide an interesting perspective on the dynamics of statecraft, religiously based challenges to local regimes, and contemporary struggles to define legitimate forms of religious expression and practice."—Fida Adely, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"An invaluable close scrutiny, especially in the wake of the September 11th attacks and accusations that textbooks fostering violence have heavily infiltrated Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world. Highly recommended."—Midwest Book Review


Much has been made of the role that Saudi Arabia's education system played in fostering the hatred that fueled the September 11 terror attacks. But do Saudi textbooks deserve to be faulted for fostering violence? And have Wahhabi ideas infiltrated the Islamic textbooks used in public schools throughout the Middle East? Confronting these questions, Teaching Islam explores the political and social priorities behind religious education in nine Middle Eastern countries.

The authors reveal dramatic differences in the way that Islam is presented in textbooks across the range of countries, reflecting local histories and the policy interests of the state. They also illustrate the perhaps surprising adaptability of Islam as leaders strive to reconcile Muslim identity with both state citizenship and the modern reality of an interdependent, globalized world.


Eleanor A. Doumato is visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. Her publications include Women and Globalization in the Arab Middle East: Gender, Economy, and Society (coedited with Marsha Pripstein Posusney) and Getting God's Ear: Women, Islam, and Healing in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Gregory Starrett is associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author of Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt.


  • Introduction: Textbook Islam, Nation Building, and the Question of Violence—the Editors.
  • Egypt: Promoting Tolerance, Defending Against Islamism—J.A. Toronto and M. Eissa.
  • Iran: A Shi'ite Curriculum to Serve the Islamic State—G. Mehran.
  • Jordan: Prescription for Obedience and Conformity—B. Anderson.
  • Kuwait: Striving to Align Islam with Western Values—T. Alqudsi-ghabra.
  • Oman: Cultivating Good Citizens and Religious Virtue—M.E. Limbert.
  • The Palestinian Authority: The Politics of Writing and Interpreting Curricula—N. Brown and S. Da'na.
  • Saudi Arabia: "Wahhabi" Roots and Contemporary Revisionism—E.A. Doumato.
  • Syria: Secularism, Arabism, and Sunni Orthodoxy—J. Landis.
  • Turkey: Sanctifying a Secular State—O. Altan.
  • Textbook Meanings and the Power of Interpretation—G. Starrett.
  • Tailor-Made Islam—the Editors.
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