Minister of Education Moheb Al-Refai referred Wednesday the officials behind the burning of alleged Islamist books in a Giza school to investigation.
He added that “fighting extremism cannot be with burning books, but with an educational tactic that refuses violence”.
Last Monday, education officials at the Fadl Private School in Giza burned over 60 books, arguing the books incited violence, and adopted the “violent ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood”.
The incident sparked a wave of condemnation and contradictory official statements.
The Egyptian Center for Education Rights said the incident indicates an “absence of transparency and the presence of security mentality” are the current tactics of the education ministry.
A ministry deputy said that the burning of the books in a school playground is a “hideous crime” it added.
The incident, the centre said, will deprive students of critical writing and thinking, and can be considered a violation to the students’ right to acquire knowledge.
“We hold the ministry responsible politically and criminally of this crime,” the centre said. It asserted the right of the students to choose their own political ideology, as long they peacefully practice it. The organization also demanded that all security officials are withdrawn from the educational institution.
Fadl is one of the many private schools of which the government took control, accusing them of being “managed by the Muslim Brotherhood”. Hundreds of schools and NGOs were either confiscated or closed by the government, which feared they are controlled by the now outlawed Brotherhood. The school was placed under government control in March 2014, with a government official appointed to head the school’s administration.
Al-Azhar deputy Abbas Shuman said the book burning is not the responsibility of any educational institution, adding that there are other war to confiscate the books.
On Tuesday, the head of the Education Directorate in Giza, Bothaina Kishk, who administrates the burning, said that the burned books “were not on the list of the books permitted to be inside schools”.
Kishk added that security orders entail the “execution of the unusual books, suspected to counter the moderate principles of moderate Islam”.
Books of “anti-nationalist and Muslim Brotherhood leaders such as Ali Al-Qadi, Ragab Al-Banna, and Mohamed Al-Madani were gathered and burned as the national anthem played”, Kishk added.
The interior ministry denied having any intervention in the educational process.
Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, state institutions have been utilising all there resources to counter the Muslim Brotherhood and the spread of what they call “nationalist rhetoric”.
The Ministry of Religious Endowments has taken the initiative to unify the Friday sermon and to punish preachers who do not follow the published sermons. Since the beginning of the year, the sermons have included many signs of nationalism and calls to support the Egyptian state wither by preaching Arab unity, economic development, or work.
Ibrahim Eissa, a prominent TV presenter and Editor-in-Chief of El-Tahrir newspaper, said in his programme Tuesday that the burning of the books shows “the level of ignorance to which the government has reached”. He also described the incident as “despicable”.
“Countering ideas, even if they were radical or extremist, cannot happen with burning books,” Issa added, stressing that ideas are countered by ideas.
Shawky Ragab, head of the media in the Islamist Istiqlal party argues that “there is a great the possibility that the officials didn’t read the books. If they read them, they wouldn’t have disposed of them this way”. Commenting on the fact that the officials carried the Egyptian flag, Ragab said that “they are acting that the books are harming or will harm the nation”.