What is taught in Saudi Arabia’s schools matters a lot, because the kingdom’s lavishly funded support for “Muslim” education – and Wahhabi indoctrination – abroad means that Saudi textbooks and the ideas they propagate are disseminated not only all over the Muslim world, but also among Muslim communities in Europe, the US and elsewhere. This is hardly a trifling matter given that estimates indicate that the Saudis may have been spending some $ 2 billion annually over more than two decades on their “educational” efforts.
In the wake of the terror attacks on 9/11, the Saudi export of Islamist fundamentalism began to attract some much-deserved scrutiny and criticism, and the Saudis found themselves confronted with demands to revise particularly offensive teachings. But a recent study indicates that, despite Saudi promises to address concerns about incitement in textbooks, little has changed in the decade since 9/11.
Part of the problem seems to be that Saudi officials – themselves a product of this education – can’t quite understand what they are supposed to change. Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and the author of the study on Saudi textbooks, recounts that the Saudi Justice Minister explained to her that the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” -- a notorious forgery -- are “a very old book here” that was also in his own father’s library.Continued concern about Saudi textbooks and the dissemination of fundamentalist jihadi ideology is particularly warranted given the transformation of the Middle East in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring”. The enormous popularity of Islamist parties and the unexpected electoral success of Salafi candidates in Egypt – who can count on “spiritual as well as material” support from Saudi Arabia – illustrates the potential reach of Saudi-sponsored “education” that is already teaching many millions of Muslim students to distrust non-Muslims and hate Jews.
A glimpse of the kind of lessons offered in Saudi textbooks is available in a recent MEMRI-report that provides translations of several pages from a twelfth-grade Saudi textbook entitled “Studies from the Muslim World.” The book includes a chapter on the Palestinian cause that teaches students every possible antisemitic lesson. Here are a few of the relevant passages from the MEMRI translation:
"Whoever studies the nature of the conflict between the Muslims and the Jews understands an important fact, [namely that] this is a religious conflict, not a dispute about politics or nationality, or a conflict between races or tribes, or a fight over land or country, as some describe it. This is a deeply rooted enmity, a conflict between truth and falsehood, between monotheism and polytheism, between heresy and faith. The enmity between us and the Jews will not cease under any circumstances until one of two things [happens]: either they join our religion and become Muslims, or we abandon our religion, God forbid. [Page 91]
"The noble Koran is the best source to acquaint us with the [Jews''] personality and psychological makeup. The expressions ''Jews'' and ''Children of Israel'' appear more than 63 times in the book of Allah, may He be exalted. They were the nation charged with ruling the earth, but Allah took their [role of] leadership away from them due to their corruption and destructiveness, and because they killed the prophets. The following are a few brief descriptions of some of their traits, as they appear in the noble Koran … [Pages 92-94, including 17 examples of supposed Jewish perfidy from the Koran.]
"Zionism does not aspire to win over the friendship of others, for it does not want them to join it. Therefore, the Jews'' relations with the nations among which they live have been characterized by tension and instability, which caused the peoples to support one another against [the Jews], to molest them, to deal them bitter blows, and to expel them. Since the Jews have been in the Diaspora, they have not known peace with any nation because they have [always] striven to [perpetrate] fraud, deceit, and cunning. There is no better proof of this than the Muslims'' experience with them in Medina – [which caused] the Prophet to expel them and order to banish them from the Arabian Peninsula – and what happened to them in countries such as Germany, Poland, Spain, and elsewhere.
"Throughout their history, the Jews have never attributed any importance to peace... believing it impossible to establish peace with other nations. They even believe that the nations around them must live in perpetual strife that will undermine their stability, so that they will be unable to fight [the Jews]. This may explain the Jews'' aspirations to spread destruction and corruption by various means, even in countries with which they claim to have what they call ''peace agreements.''" [Page 106]
"Jihad for the sake of Allah is the only path to liberating Palestine. Only through jihad did the Muslims conquer Jerusalem, and only through jihad did the Crusaders leave Palestine. Likewise, only through jihad will the Jews leave Palestine. [Page 112]
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last September, President Obama rightly pointed out that “Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them.” But what Israel’s children know, few adults outside Israel know, because the mainstream media don’t report much on the rampant antisemitism that is an everyday feature of Arab and Muslim education, entertainment and political discourse.
Instead, much ink – real and virtual – is wasted on lecturing Israel about the need to take “risks” for peace. But the people doing the lecturing often seem to know and care little about the risks Israel is facing in a region where every year millions of young minds are poisoned with lessons designed to teach them that Jews deserve to be despised and hated.
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