Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Saudi Arabia's public school textbooks promote intolerance of Christians and Jews

Hassan Fattah:

A first-grade student is taught that "Every religion other than Islam is false"; the teacher instructed to "Give examples of false religions, like Judaism, Christianity, paganism, etc." Fifth graders learn "It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and his prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam."

Those lessons are among numerous examples cited in a controversial new study of Saudi Arabia's religious curriculum released Tuesday by the Center for Religious Freedom, part of Freedom House, a nonprofit group in Washington that seeks to encourage democracy. Despite official pronouncements that curriculum change is marching ahead, intolerance continues to pervade religious education in Saudi public schools, the report says.

"It is not hate speech here and there, it is an ideology that runs throughout," Nina Shea, the center's director and principal author of the report, said in a telephone interview from Washington. "It adds up to an argument, an ideology of us versus them."

The report's authors, who worked with the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a research group based in Washington that focuses on the Middle East, obtained 12 history and religion textbooks from parents of Saudi schoolchildren, and translated the texts. The textbooks were used last year in Saudi schools and Saudi-run schools in Washington, London, Paris and several other cities, the report said.

The results, they say, outline a systematic theme of "hatred toward 'unbelievers,' " mainly Christians, Jews, Hindus and atheists, but also Shiites and other Muslims who do not ascribe to the country's orthodox Wahhabi teaching of Islam.

How the Saudis teach 'tolerance'

The Roots of Hate Speech

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