Translated by Hisham from التعليم و حرية الفكر
Freedom of expression is primarily based on freedom of thought. In the Arab and Muslim societies there is only one kind of thought: a religious and authoritarian thought that exploits human beings and tends to reduce them to their smallest common denominator, so that they appear as a multitude of identical copies, unable to criticize and avoiding any form of thinking whether free or oriented. This explains why there isn’t yet freedom of expression in those societies.
As for the forms of free expression that some citizens in the Arab world have attempted to manifest, they are receding and still pretty restricted to an intellectual elite which is the produce of Western influence. This elite, however, tends to shrink considerably with the takeover of the education systems across the region by the ruling oligarchy. This explains the dramatic quantitative and qualitative reduction in the intellectual elite.
As these societies started opening up to the Western world, some leading religious and political figures entered the modernization debate, and despite their calls against the Western civilization, the reality of everyday life made people question the credibility of their anti-Western rhetoric. In the eyes of people it was obvious that the Western civilization could at least achieve some form of happiness in this world. The ideological battle between Socialism and Capitalism during the twentieth century distorted the view and created alliances for one economic doctrine against the other. In their quest to win the ideological war, political movements resorted to every possible tactic including the exploitation of religious ideologies which eventually led to the resurgence of political groups with strong religious reference. Religion and theology then were introduced to the school in order to silence critical thinking among young people and facilitate their subjugation by traditional and religious approaches and also to avoid revolutionary uprisings like the one seen in 1969, which was based on critical thinking that spread during the post-WWII era.
From here, religious curricula at school started to breed and spread. Religious classes were created at secondary schools and universities. Scholarships were created to encourage students and researchers in this field. Murshidates (Religious female guides) and Imams were trained. This plan succeeded in eliminating the liberal movement, and has created armies of young extremists who do not tolerate difference and tend to ignite sedition and inspire hatred against non religious minorities.
In Morocco we should be questioning the education system in order to get rid of the preconceived religious ideas. Education must be a space for the pupil to free his or her mind from taboos. Students should be granted an intellectual immunity and universal humanitarian principles beyond the narrow concepts of belonging.
Education is our bet on future generations. Religious education can only produce the kind of conflicts and strife that we witness in present day, and therefore religion should be separated from education in exchange for promoting scientific, artistic and literary learning. Religion is for worship and should have no place in the classroom. It is misleading to consider religious thought as an academic subject, be it Islamic, Christian or Jewish. Though I do not deny that we ought and must examine all religions impartially and objectively based on comparative studies and whithin the historical contexts of the emergence of every religion. The real sources of terrorism, extremism and backwardness are to be found in those religious school books which encourage violence and an unwavering belief in absolute ideas taken for granted.