21 May 2006

Saudi Arabia Claims It Has Revised Its Textbooks

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But the Washington Post took a look at some of the supposedly more tolerant texts in the light of these recent Saudi claims:

Saudi Arabia’s public schools have long been cited for demonizing the West as well as Christians, Jews and other “unbelievers.” But after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis — that was all supposed to change.

A 2004 Saudi royal study group recognized the need for reform after finding that the kingdom’s religious studies curriculum “encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the ‘other.’ ” Since then, the Saudi government has claimed repeatedly that it has revised its educational texts.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, has worked aggressively to spread this message. “The kingdom has reviewed all of its education practices and materials, and has removed any element that is inconsistent with the needs of a modern education,” he said on a recent speaking tour to several U.S. cities. “Not only have we eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system, we have implemented a comprehensive internal revision and modernization plan.” The Saudi government even took out a full-page ad in the New Republic last December to tout its success at “having modernized our school curricula to better prepare our children for the challenges of tomorrow.”

The Post found among other examples of expressions of tolerance:

“Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God.”
“The clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.”

“It is part of God’s wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment].”

“The greeting ‘Peace be upon you’ is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others.”

“Do not yield to them [Christians and Jews] on a narrow road out of honor and respect.”

“Jihad in the path of God — which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it — is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.”

And the Post notes the significance of the content of Saudi texts:

The Saudi public school system totals 25,000 schools, educating about 5 million students. In addition, Saudi Arabia runs academies in 19 world capitals, including one outside Washington in Fairfax County, that use some of these same religious texts. Saudi Arabia also distributes its religion texts worldwide to numerous Islamic schools and madrassas that it does not directly operate. Undeterred by Wahhabism’s historically fringe status, Saudi Arabia is trying to assert itself as the world’s authoritative voice on Islam — a sort of “Vatican” for Islam, as several Saudi officials have stated– and these textbooks are integral to this effort. As the report of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks observed, “Even in affluent countries, Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools are often the only Islamic schools” available.

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