Lawmakers on Monday called on the lower house's education committee to look into the changes.

Last month Education Minister Khalid Tuqan announced that Amman's textbooks would get a makeover, and differentiate between "terrorism and legitimate resistance."

Arab and Muslim countries like Jordan have come under pressure from the West, after the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, to speak out against such acts carried out in the name of Islam.

The education committee will meet after the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, which starts in early February "to examine the reform programme and make its recommendations", said its chief Adnan Hassuna.

The decision came after 51 deputies in the 110-seat parliament expressed their views at a four-hour debate on Sunday, attended by Tuqan.

Political manoeuvre?

Tuqan reiterated that the plan to alter Jordan's school textbooks had been in the pipeline since 1999, and was aimed at introducing the notions of human rights, peace, culture and democracy into the system.

"Jordan's educational policy stems from the kingdom's educational philosophy which in turn stems from the Jordanian constitution as well as Arab and Muslim civilisations and values," said Tuqan.

Arab world has come under
pressure to change textbooks

He reiterated there was "no political motivation" for this endeavour nor any external intervention, as some MPs suggested.

One of them, Islamist Ali Abu Sukkar, summed up the position of opponents to the reforms plan by saying it was done "under US pressure".

Several other MPs said they were in favour of upgrading the education system to keep abreast of globalisation, but warned against any attempt to alter school curricula concerning the teachings of Islam and the Arabic language.

"To a certain extent the debate was heated. In general the deputies are for reforms as long as the ministry takes into consideration their views to ensure they are in harmony with our culture and our reality," said Hassunah.

GCC agrees

Last month, Gulf Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait also agreed to revise school textbooks which Washington claims fuel anti-Christian and anti-Jewish sentiments.

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - a political and military alliance grouping heavyweight Saudi Arabia with Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates -agreed to reforms. 

The educational reforms, stated in a treaty adopted by the leaders pledging to combat "terrorism", include removal from school textbooks of material describing followers of other religions as infidels and enemies of Islam.