From U.S., the ABC's of Jihad
Violent Soviet-Era Textbooks Complicate Afghan Education Efforts
By Joe Stephens and David B. OttawayWashington Post Staff WritersSaturday, March 23, 2002; Page A01 In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation. The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the Ameri-can-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.
As Afghan schools reopen today, the United States is back in the business of providing school-books. But now it is wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stir-ring Islamic fervor to fight communism. What seemed like a good idea in the context of the Cold War is being criticized by humanitarian workers as a crude tool that steeped a generation in vio-lence. Last month, a U.S. foreign aid official said, workers launched a "scrubbing" operation in neigh-boring Pakistan to purge from the books all references to rifles and killing. Many of the 4 mil-lion texts being trucked into Afghanistan, and millions more on the way, still feature Ko-ranic verses and teach Muslim tenets.
The White House defends the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Af-ghan culture and that the books "are fully in compliance with U.S. law and policy." Legal ex-perts, however, question whether the books violate a constitutional ban on using tax dollars to promote religion. Organizations accepting funding from the U.S. Agency for International De-velopment must certify that tax dollars will not be used to advance religion. The certification states that...
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