Report: New Saudi Textbooks Still Demonize, Incite Hatred towards Non-Muslims

A new report analyzing a set of Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks used in the current academic year concluded that the textbooks promote an ideology of hatred towards Non-Wahhabi Muslims.

WASHINGTON – A new report analyzing a set of Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks used in the current academic year concluded that the textbooks promote an ideology of hatred towards Non-Wahhabi Muslims.

Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom released a report entitled Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance on Tuesday concerning a set of 12 current Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks for Islamic studies courses for elementary and secondary students. The Center cooperated with the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

"What is being taught today in Saudi public school textbooks about how Muslims should relate to other religious communities will poison the minds of a new generation of Saudis," said Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom and principal author of the report, on May 23. "Whatever changes have been made in the Saudi educational system, clearly more needs to be done."

The texts used in Saudi Arabia and in Saudi run schools outside of the Kingdom- were collected by the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs from teachers, administrators and families with children in Saudi schools. The books were then translated by two, independent Arabic speakers.

This is not the first report on Saudi Arabia’s violation of religious freedom, but the Middle East country has been flagged by many other groups over a period of time. In the 2006 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Saudi Arabia was again recommended for designation as a country of particular concern (CPC) by the U.S. department of state. CPC status is given to countries where the most severe religious freedom violations take place including many times the country’s government’s engagement in or toleration of systematic and egregious violations of religious freedom.

In addition to being recommended for CPC status, Saudi Arabia was listed as the second highest-rated country in the world for Christian persecution by Open Doors’ World Watch list 2006, behind North Korea.

Freedom House’s report on one of the world’s top Christian persecution country shows that the textbooks:

• command Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews, “polytheists” and other “unbelievers,” including non-Wahhabi Muslims, though, incongruously, not to treat them “unjustly”
• teach that “Jews and the Christians are enemies of the [Muslim] believers” and that “the clash” between the two realms is perpetual
• instruct students not to “greet,” “befriend,” “imitate,” “show loyalty to,” “be courteous to,” or “respect” non-believers
• assert that the spread of Islam through jihad is a “religious duty”
• instruct that the “fighting between Muslims and Jews” will continue until Judgment Day, and that the Muslims are promised victory over the Jews in the end
• include a map of the Middle East that labels Israel within its pre-1967 borders as “Palestine: occupied 1948”

The Center also pointed out that analysis of the textbooks contradicts claims made repeatedly by senior Saudi government spokesmen that they have thoroughly revised their educational materials.

Saudi embassy spokesman Adel al-Jubeir had stated more than a year ago: “We have reviewed our educational curriculums. We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths.”

The new Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, while on a nationwide speaking tour earlier this year, asserted: “We eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system.”

Last week, on May 18, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal stated that “the whole system of education is being transformed from top to bottom. Textbooks are only one of the steps that have been taken by Saudi Arabia.”

The Center concludes by urging the U.S. government to raise the issue at the highest levels the continued teaching of hate and intolerance within Saudi Arabia.

The Wahhabi sect of Islam is the “foundation of the Saudi state’s political ideology, and at the core of its educational curriculum.” According to the Saudi embassy in Washington, the Saudi public school system has 25,000 schools, educating some 5 million students. Saudi Arabia also runs academies in 19 world capitals, including one outside Washington in Alexandria, Va., which uses some of these same religious texts. Moreover, Saudi Arabia also distributes its religious texts around the world to some Islamic schools and madrassas that it does not directly operate, reported the Center.

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