Secondary students sit for an exam in a government school in Riyadh June 15, 2008..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Saudi Arabian secondary school pupils are taught that the day of resurrection will not come until Muslims kill Jews, Human Rights Watch found during a recent review of textbooks that also revealed hateful and disparaging references to Christians, Shi’ites and Sufism.
“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. The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said in a press release last week. The New York-based group reviewed 45 Saudi textbooks and student work books produced by the Education Ministry for the primary, middle and secondary education levels.
As part of the curriculum on tawhid, or monotheism, a textbook explains one of the markers by which one can recognize the approach of the Day of Resurrection with the following passage: “The hour will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews and Muslims will kill the Jews. The Jew will hide under the rock and tree and the rock or tree will say O Muslim, servant of Allah, this Jew is behind me, kill him.”
The passage is from a hadith, or saying, attributed to Muhammad.
Moderate Palestinian Islamic thinker Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi described the hadith as a “fabrication,” and condemned Saudi Arabia for teaching it. “The prophet couldn’t have said that and it contradicts the text of the Koran. The prophet said anything attributed to me not in harmony with the Koran is not true. This can’t be true because it totally contradicts the text of the Koran. Teaching this to children is incitement and antisemitic. Saudi Arabia and any other Arab countries teaching such nonsense should stop and this should be eliminated from the educational systems.”
Human Rights Watch noted that the Saudi curriculum describes Jews, Christians and people of other faiths as kuffar, or unbelievers. In one fifth-grade textbook, the curriculum calls Jews, Christians and al-wathaniyeeen [pagans] the “original unbelievers” and declares that it is the duty of Muslims to excommunicate them. It says: “For whoever does not [excommunicate them] or whoever doubts their religious infidelity is himself an unbeliever.”
The vitriol also extends to fellow Muslims. Human Rights Watch found that a secondary school textbook describes Sufism as “a perverse path that began with the claim of asceticism or severe self-discipline, then entered into illicit innovation, misguidedness and exaggeration in reverence to the righteous.” Other books condemned Sufi and Shi’ite practices of visiting graves of prominent religious figures, saying this will lead to eternal damnation and that those who turn such tombs into worship sites are “evil natured.”
A fifth-grade book condemns Sufis for celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. “Celebrating the prophet’s birth in the spring of every year is prohibited, for it is a new innovation and is in imitation of the Christian celebration of what is known as the birth of Christ.”
Human Rights Watch said that after the September 11, 2001, attacks, in which 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi citizens, Saudi officials said they would carry out educational reforms. But the textbook review shows they did not keep their promises, the NGO said.
“The Saudi government’s official denigration of other religious groups, combined with its ban on public practice of other religions, could amount to incitement to hatred or discrimination,” HRW said. It added that international human rights law requires countries to prohibit “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
HRW cited article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” including “the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice and freedom, either individually or in community with other and in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
“Saudi Arabia’s officials should stop denigrating other people’s personal beliefs,” Human Rights Watch concluded. “After years of reform promises there is apparently still little room for tolerance in the country’s schools.”
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