How ISIS Conducts Mathematics Lessons

Following their conquest of Raqqa and selected regions of Syria, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) set out to impart their values on the residents under their leadership.

The changes range from social, educational to cultural, and have been implemented through coercion and compulsion, and at other times enticed people through its interpretations of Islam.

The educational sector in ISIS territories is considered to have changed the most in comparison with educational curricula in other Syrian neighborhoods.

The drastic change is the result of a series of decisions made by ISIS over the past two years, beginning with the creation of a bureau of education called the Diwan of Education; the name, and particularly the use of the word diwan, reflects ISIS’s attempt to redesign education in its captured territories based on its idea of Islam’s heyday.

At the start of the 2014 school year, ISIS adopted new books for middle school children between 12 to 15 years old. The book Kitab al-Tawhid by the famous Islamic scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab—founder of Wahhabism—is one of the most important foundations of ISIS’s middle school education. Also used are materials such as the Prophet Muhammad’s hadith (sayings and traditions), Muhammad’s biography, Quranic sciences, Islamic jurisprudence and the Islamic doctrine.

Other traditional school subjects are incorporated at this level, including mathematics, science, physics, chemistry, the English language, composition, Arabic script, Arabic grammar, spelling, history, geography, vocabulary and certain literature.

ISIS has removed parts of Arabic literary history, keeping only the small part it considers “permissible.” ISIS considers other time periods in Arabic literature to be the literature of infidels.

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“Evil” Mathematics

Furthermore, ISIS went on to substitute the globally recognised mathematical symbol for addition (+), with the letter z. The powers that be at ISIS stated that the + sign indicates the cross, which is used worldwide as a symbol for Christians: using a plus sign would be imitating infidels and is thus forbidden.

It is interesting that ISIS has repeatedly called on families to send their children to school, in an attempt to appear capable of governing state affairs. However, despite their calls, many families have, out of fear of bombings, refrained from sending their children. According to the Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign, many families have chosen to home-school their children.

According to an announcement from its Diwan of Education, ISIS has closed a number of university departments, including law, political science, archaeology, physical education and philosophy, as well as departments specializing in hotels and tourism, for Sharia-related reasons.

In similar fashion, ISIS removed lessons on democracy, culture and general freedoms from the curricula of some departments and banned the study of novels and plays in foreign language departments. It has banned professors from posing questions related to money lending and interest, nationalistic or racial principles and historical facts that it considers fabricated. It has denied the geographic division of countries, claiming that they are an imperialistic invention and that all Islamic countries are one.

However, due to their current circumstances of civil conflict medical personnel is of importance to their cause. The ISIS Diwan of Education opened a faculty of medicine in Raqqa, in which students graduate after three years at the university.

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Keeping The Genders Separate

ISIS has been strict about separating female students from teachers. It has subjected all teachers in the educational field to its Sharia courses in order for them to understand and spread ISIS ideology. It has threatened to fire and punish anyone who opposes it and has imposed monetary fines on teachers for giving private classes in their homes.

As has been previously made clear, ISIS seeks to build a comprehensive educational system that spreads its ideas and is ingrained among children and teenagers so that it may benefit from recruiting them in the future.

And to this end, they have not been shy of using methods of terror and enticement. This has yielded rapid instant results, judging by the hundreds of children brought into their ranks as fighters.

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Additional content from Newsweek and The Atlantic Council