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|Greece revises books for its Muslims|
|06/09/01 at 13:07:27|
Greece revises books for its Muslims
By Elena Becatoros
The Associated Press
XANTHI - "What was there in Greece before the War of Independence?" the
teacher asks her class of sixth graders.
"Four hundred years of slavery!" comes the sing-song reply.
The reflexive answer about Muslim Ottoman rule would be the same in
practically any elementary school in Greece.
But these particular children are members of the country's Muslim
minority, whose community is endlessly buffeted by tussles between Greece
and Turkey over ethnic identity. Now, as both countries work to put aside
old enmities, signs of change are surfacing in one of the most contentious
Greek Muslim children, part of a 120,000-member community where many
consider themselves ethnic Turks, are still given strong doses of the
national perspective, including condemnation of Ottoman rule. Gradually,
however, new programs are being introduced to recognize that most speak
Turkish and identify closely with Turkish culture.
"These children will at last be educated," promised Dimitris Halkiotis,
who until March was special secretary for minority and intercultural
education for the government of this mostly Orthodox Christian nation of
10.9 million people.
In an overture of reconciliation, villages and towns on either side of the
Greek-Turkish border signed agreements in March to start joint projects to
boost local trade, tourism and agriculture.
"Now Greek-Turkish relations are better, it helps the situation. It has
removed a part of the fanaticism," says Omer Hasan, headmaster of the
Second Minority Junior School in the northeastern town of Xanthi, about
185 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Thessaloniki.
Most Muslim children attend bilingual schools, with half the lessons in
Greek and the rest in Turkish.
Under a new program implemented this academic year, standard Greek
textbooks have been replaced by ones treating Greek as a second language.
A weak grasp of Greek often left Muslim students lagging in competition
The new program's goal is to give minority students a more manageable
approach to learning Greek fluently. It also draws more on the children's
faith and culture, using examples that are more recognizable for them.
The approach is a drastic departure from the hardline politics that long
overshadowed everything between Greece and Turkey, which have come to the
brink of war three times since 1974.
Turkish-language books used for Greek Muslims are printed in Turkey, but
their contents must be approved by Greece's government. The same applies
to Greek books for the small ethnic Greek minority centered in Istanbul,
Turkey's biggest city.
For years, failure to agree on textbook contents left minority children in
both countries using battered photocopies of editions dating as far back
as the early 1970s.
Using the aging photocopies year after year "poisoned our children," says
Cavit Ali Osman, who heads a group of teachers in the northern town of
Komotini. "Every year, Greek teachers handed out new books, but we didn't
have any, and we had to lie to the children about why."
But improving diplomatic relations allowed censors to finally approve new
books on both sides last year.
Changes began several years ago, when education authorities revised the
sixth-grade Greek history text and removed many overtly anti-Turkish
The old text dwelled on descriptions of the Ottoman conquerors as
uncivilized barbarians who brutalized their Greek subjects. There was no
mention of other historical views describing concessions the Ottomans
made, such as allowing subjects to keep religious leaders and customs.
"It is impossible for one to imagine a calamity greater than that which
our nation suffered when it was enslaved to the Turks," reads the first
chapter of the old book. "The Turks, wild and uncivilized, sowed
destruction in their wake without recognizing any rights for the enslaved
The 1997 edition still describes Ottoman brutality. But it adds that the
Ottomans allowed some freedom in trade, commerce and agriculture, religion
and local self-rule, although it gives the motives as being "to serve
their own needs," such as easier tax collection.
But some teachers worry that changing textbooks could lead to events being
censored if they are deemed unpalatable.
"Historical facts must be told," said Margarita Psaltopoulou, a ethnic
Greek teacher in the Xanthi primary school. "Teachers, if they are
insensitive, can do damage without it being in books."
|Re: Greece revises books for its Muslims|
|06/10/01 at 22:01:56|
Wow. Well, at least now they won't be reading as much hateful materials as before. How sad. :( It reminds me of the situation that the blacks were in, they were told that they were uncivilized barbarians and that the white christians did a good thing by bringing them here and making them slaves and civilized.
When I was going to school in pakistan, I do not remember reading that the indians were stupid barbarians. I remember reading that hindus and muslims didn't get along and there was a log of fighting and that muslims wanted a home of thier own. Does anyone remember reading anything else? But then i only attended school there until 5th grade.
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