By A. Z. Mohamed
October 16, 2017
A review of the Saudi Ministry of Education's school religion books currently available at the portal for digital curriculum (visited on September 25, 2017) found out that the curriculum still has violent and intolerant teachings. These books were published for the school year 2016-17.
At a very early stage, the fourth grade, the curriculum begins to teach Saudi children that Muslims are essentially different but superior to all non-Muslims.
In a fourth-grade second semester Monotheism textbook, Saudi students learn that polytheists, "the worst creatures" according to the Quran (98:6), are condemned to Hell.
In a lesson entitled "Universality of Islam and Prophet Mohammed" fifth-graders are taught that Prophet Mohammed was sent to all human beings: "Say, [O Mohammed], "O mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all (7:158).
They also learn that all human beings should believe in the Prophet Mohammed and in Islam, and leave supposedly corrupted religions.
In short, Saudi Arabia has not been upholding its commitment to reform its school curricula and remove incendiary lessons from the Education Ministry-produced textbooks used in religious-studies classes, also according to a recently released report from Human Rights Watch (HRW). A comprehensive review of material taught during the 2016-17 academic year found that:
"Some of the content that first provoked widespread controversy for violent and intolerant teachings in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks remains in the texts today, despite Saudi officials' promises to eliminate the intolerant language."
The HRW examination of a set of 45 elementary, middle and high school textbooks and student workbooks -- used in a course called al-Tawhid, or "Monotheism" -- revealed that Saudi children are being taught to denigrate people, including Sufi and Shiite Muslims, who do not adhere to a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam (Wahhabi-Salafism). They are also instructed to designate Jews and Christians disparagingly as "unbelievers."
One fourth-grade book, for example, quotes the Prophet Mohammed saying, "No child is born except on the Fitrah [Islamic concept of human nature] and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian (Zoroastrian)." The same book also includes Quran verse 98:6, in which Allah dictates:
"Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures."
In a lesson on the "Universality of Islam," fifth-graders are taught Quran verse 7:158, which states that Mohammed is "Allah's messenger" to all people.
A book for sixth-graders teaches that denying any of Islam's pillars or mocking Allah, Mohammed or the Quran is the greatest Kufr (denial of the truth).
"As early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought," said HRW Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson. "The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year."
In May this year, US and Saudi leaders announced the establishment of the Riyadh-based Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology as part of a joint effort to eradicate both rogue and state-sponsored terrorism wherever it originates and occurs. As a long-standing ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia is receiving money and a warm embrace from Washington to participate in this effort. Yet the Saudis continue to spread their Wahhabist ideology in mosques and schools around the world. As Brookings Institution senior fellow William McCants told the New York Times in August 2016, the Saudis "are both the arsonists and the fire-fighters. They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim" -- which spur jihadists to take action -- yet they are "our partners in counterterrorism."
It is time for the administration in Washington to hold Riyadh accountable for its double game, and demand that the Saudi government make good on its stated intention to reform the educational curricula in its school system. After all, the classroom is where the seeds of jihad are first sown.
A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.