Isis's interpretation of sharia law has been discredited by scholars from around the world. Reuters

Isis activists are exerting their influence in Iraq and Syria by threatening death sentences for male teachers who teach women, and harsh punishments for teachers who teach any that fall outside of the group's strict interpretation of sharia law.

People living under Islamic State rule in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria have been banned from owning academic books, studying subjects including law and human rights, and educating children privately at home.

This week – the start of the university academic term – Islamic State ordered university departments in law, political science, fine art, archaeology, sports education, philosophy, tourism and hotel management to be closed in areas it controls.

In Mosul and Raqqa Islamic State have ordered teachers not to teach democracy, cultural education, human rights and law, to maintain what it called "the public good".

Teachers have been told they must have training in Islamic State's interpretation of sharia, and should avoid certain subjects in curricula and exams "which do not conform to sharia law", including "forged historical principles" – a reference to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and "un-Islamic geographic decisions" by other nation states.

Teachers who fail to separate male and female students were threatened with punishments and sweeps for illegal books and materials are common, according to an activist inside Raqqa who spoke to the Times. "I have many books of philosophy and history. [But] they are hidden," the source said, speaking under the pseudonym Abu Wart.

He told of families that had chosen to have children educated privately at home, to avoid the strict laws laid down by Islamic State, who have drawn the most chilling threats: teachers who teach female students privately risk execution.

Last week students from the University of Mosul were allowed to travel outside Islamic State-controlled areas to take final year exams in Iraqi Kurdistan in approved subjects.