The president of Turkey is being accused of wanting to reform secular education with a more traditional Islamic route after complaining that Turkish youths today know about Albert Einstein, but not about Muslim scientists.
"If you ask them who Einstein is, every young person has something to say about him. If you ask who Ibn Sina is, you see the child has never heard about him," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at an education conference Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, was an 11th-century scientist who wrote prolifically about medicine and philosophy.
“We are a nation that believes in this: Science is a lost skill of the Muslims. We retrieve it wherever we see it. But we are not going to disassociate ourselves from our essence or soul while we [learn about] science we find in America or China,” Erdogan said, according to the Turkish website Today’s Zaman.
Erdogan also complained that Turkish children and teens know musical masters like Beethoven and Western pop stars, but are unfamiliar with Turkish composers.
“Unfortunately, we have youths who value the lifestyles, arts and clothing styles of foreign cultures but scorn the values of their own land,” he said.
Today’s Zaman reported that Erdogan, a devout Muslim, and his political allies maintain that education reform can fight moral decay and build confidence.
“I believe we will build an education system that will educate youths who do not admire others but who will try to win admiration,” Erdogan said. “When we enlighten ourselves, you will see, we will stop following and imitating others. We will be a pioneering country that is followed by others."
Last month, Erdogan drew mockery after stating Muslims first discovered the Americas in the 12th century, nearly three centuries before Christopher Columbus.
“Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th century,” Erdogan said in November. “Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus.”
He later said that those who disagreed suffered from a lack of self-esteem, because they did not believe Muslims were capable of making scientific discoveries, according to Today’s Zaman.