Intolerance in Textbooks in Saudi Schools
The Saudi government has repeatedly tried to assert itself as a world authority on Islam. However, the vast majority of Muslims around the world disagree profoundly with their ultra-conservative interpretation of Sharia. One aspect of the Saudi’s government view on Islam that is particularly appalling is the way that intolerance is promoted in its textbooks, often meant for children in elementary school.
Reports from Freedom Watch and other human rights organizations have noted that the textbooks used for elementary and secondary students in Saudi Arabia promote hatred towards other religions, including Muslims who do not adhere to Wahhabi ideology. An analysis of twelve different textbooks gathered from teachers, families, and administrators in Saudi schools were translated by two independent Arabic speakers. These textbooks are poisonous, ensuring that a new generation of Saudis grows up with hatred towards other religious communities. Although some changes have been made by the Saudi government in recent years (the textbooks date to 2006), the same ideologies are still, in large part, taught in Saudi schools.
One of the issues that outside observers have with the Saudi government is that government spokesmen have stated that they have revised all educational materials. However, independent observers repeatedly find material that is intolerant or incites hatred against people of other faiths, including Muslims that do not support the ultra-conservative view espoused by the Saudi government.
Below we’ve listed some examples of the hateful language included in Saudi textbooks, and keep in mind that these are targeted towards impressionable, school-aged children:
– Saudi textbooks teach that the fight between Muslims and Jews is inevitable and that it will continue until Judgment Day. That Muslims will triumph over Jews, and that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a known anti-semitic forgery, is a historical fact. They also fail to recognize Israel in maps, using the pre-1967 borders and labeling it as “Palestine: occupied 1948.”
– They denigrate and condemn Sunni Muslims that do not adhere to Wahhabi ideology, calling them deviant and polytheistic, and refer to Sufi and Shi’a Muslims as heretics and polytheists.
– Students are called to avoid befriending, being courteous to, respecting, or even greeting Christians and Jews, labeled as polytheists and unbelievers.
It is important to note that apart from the thousands of schools in Saudi Arabia itself, these textbooks are used in schools located in world capitals all around the world. Saudi textbooks are also distributed to Islamic schools around the world that are run independently. Considering that Saudi Arabia has, in recent years, claimed to preach religious tolerance to the world and has bid for position as an advocate of human rights in the United Nations, these kinds of teachings are not only terribly bigoted, they are also undeniably hypocritical.