Saudi Arabia 5th-Grade Schoolbook: The ‘Hour’ Will Come After Muslims ‘Kill the Jews’


15 Sep 2017

Saudi Arabia has come under fire for using schoolbooks for children that disparage Christians as “unbelievers” and promise that the day of resurrection will not come until Muslims have fought and killed the Jews.

An official textbook for fifth graders published by the Saudi Ministry of Education states that the approach of the Day of Resurrection will be recognizable by a series of signs. “The Hour will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews, and Muslims will kill the Jews,” it declares.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a U.S.-based advocacy group, Saudi Arabia’s religious studies curriculum “contains hateful and incendiary language toward religions and Islamic traditions that do not adhere to its interpretation of Sunni Islam,” including the labeling of Jews and Christians as unbelievers “with whom Muslims should not associate.”

Human Rights Watch undertook a comprehensive review of school religion books published by the Saudi Education Ministry for the 2016-17 school year. The curriculum, titled al-tawhid, or “Monotheism,” comprises 45 textbooks and student workbooks for the primary, middle, and secondary education levels.

The September 11, 2001 jihadist attacks that killed some 3,000 Americans provoked public outrage at the incendiary language in Saudi schoolbooks after it became known that 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi citizens. Saudi officials promised at the time to expunge the abusive language from its curriculum. A decade and a half later, however, some of this insulting and dangerous content is still a part of Saudi texts, HRW declared.

In February 2017, Saudi’s education minister acknowledged the need for a “broader curriculum overhaul” but offered no specifics as to when if ever such an overhaul would take place.

“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 Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year.”

Although the U.S. State Department has designated Saudi Arabia a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) ever since 2004, the American government has elected to waive the penalties, economic sanctions, arms embargoes, and travel and visa restrictions that accompany this designation.

During his speech in Riyadh in May 2017, President Donald Trump underscored the importance of religious liberty in the Middle East, while also announcing a massive $110 billion arms purchase by the Saudis as part of economic deals between the two countries totaling some $400 billion.

“For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side,” he said. “We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.”

In its recent report, HRW painted a dour picture of the state of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, beginning with the indoctrination of schoolchildren.

“The curriculum reserves its harshest criticisms for Jews, Christians, and people of other faiths,” HRW declared, and the texts often refer to them as kuffar, or “unbelievers.”

One fifth-grade textbook refers to Jews and Christians as among the “original unbelievers” and declares that it is the duty of Muslims to excommunicate them: “For whoever does not [excommunicate them], or whoever doubts their religious infidelity is himself an unbeliever.”

The proper attitude toward such unbelievers is “hostility and antagonism,” the textbook states, while warming Muslims never to join with them in their celebrations.

In its review of the Saudi curriculum, Human Rights Watch limited its study to the al-tawhid series and did not explore religion texts dealing with Islamic law, Islamic culture, Islamic commentary, or Qur’an recitation.

Muslim Brotherhood writings top the list

Extremist books withdrawn from Saudi schools

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Saudi Ministry of Education issued a resolution to withdraw from the libraries of public schools several books seen as inciting violence and prohibited book donations without prior approval.

Books accused of having a negative impact on school students like the writings of leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood like Sheikh Hassan al-Banna, the group’s founder, and Sayyed Qotb, one of the group’s most leading thinkers, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported Tuesday.


The ministry announced its plan to conduct regular visits to school libraries to ensure that those and similar books are no longer available for students.

Dr. Mohammed al-Zulafi, former member of the Shura Council, said this step came too late.

“School libraries have always contained books that promote violence and extremism,” he told Al Arabiya. “The writings of Muslim Brotherhood leaders have had a strong influence on education in Saudi Arabia for the past three decades.”

Zulafi expressed his skepticism about the implementation of the ministry’s decision since a large portion of librarians in those schools adopt the very views in the banned books.

“I call upon citizens to take part in implementing this decision. They have to know what happens inside those schools.”

Zulafi added that for a long time, extremist books have been flooding school libraries while there were restrictions on art books that talk about arts or the values of tolerance and moderation.

“There are people who support the circulation of those books. Some even print them and distribute them for free without taking into consideration the grave consequences on the students.”

Zulafi warned that those books are not only in schools, but also in several other places like doctors’ clinics. That is why, he said, there has to be a plan to withdraw them from all over the kingdom.

“If those books are not withdrawn, our youths will end up in Somalia or Tora Bora in Afghanistan because of the extremist ideas they read,” he concluded.


Islamic text: framing the world along rigid lines

EDITOR'S NOTE -- This is another story in an occasional series examining the fault lines within Islam between the forces of moderation and extremism. The fight shook America to its core on September 11, 2001, and is now one of the defining conflicts of our era. Activists are calling for reforms in school textbooks to keep the conflicts from spilling into generations to come.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Page after page, the self-appointed hate hunters underline passages in Pakistani school books.

They flag hard-edged Muslim views toward other faiths, such as those describing past efforts by Hindus and Christians to "erase" Muslims. They note sections that speak of martyrdom, and the duty to battle perceived religious enemies.

"We are fighting for the future of Islam. Children are sometimes being force-fed a diet of hate, anger and intolerance," said Ahmad Salim, leader of a campaign to push Pakistan's education establishment to remove what activists consider extreme language and images from the curriculum.

Salim's group, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, issued a report two years ago calling for broad revisions. Next month, it plans to release an updated review of all Pakistan's text books that reprimands authorities for failing to make serious changes.

It will be the latest example of widening appeals for textbook reform across the Islamic world. Barely a whisper just a few years ago, the demands have begun to draw attention at the highest levels. Educators and activists argue that current battles against Islamic extremism are only superficial without deep revisions of school books -- similar to efforts to purge Balkan lessons of ethnic slurs following the wars of the 1990s.

In Jordan -- the target of triple suicide blasts Nov. 9 claimed by al-Qaida -- another overhaul is expected in next year's textbooks; part of a process that includes making clear distinctions between terrorism and what that nation sees as legitimate struggles, such as the Palestinian intefadah, or uprising. Even Saudi Arabia has started to rewrite its highly conservative lessons after worries they were encouraging homegrown radicals.

Much of the concern among reformers is how students learn about jihad -- a concept that encompasses all acts on behalf of Islam. It's clear the phrases in some textbooks pay homage _ directly or indirectly -- to violent actions.

"Recognize the importance of jihad in every sphere of life," say the curriculum guidelines for Pakistan's elementary schools. Critics claim the message is often interpreted in malignant ways: strong denunciations of Pakistan's historical Hindu rivals in India or sympathy for Islamic guerrillas in Kashmir and elsewhere.

In the Palestinian seventh grade Arabic language book, a 1930s protest poem called "The Martyr" includes the lines: "And the flow of blood gladdens my soul. ... And who asks for a noble death, here it is."

The Palestinian's 11th grade "Islamic Culture" book has dozens of appeals for Islamic solidarity to confront "enemies" such as Israel, its allies and Western culture. "The Islamic nation needs to spread the spirit of jihad and the love of self-sacrifice (martyrdom) among its sons," reads one passage.

Fifth graders read: "The martyrs kiss it (the Palestinian flag) with their blood."

Nearly every section of the Palestinian textbooks touches on the intefadah. "Peace with Israel is not mentioned at all," according to a report by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an Israeli-American group that examines school books throughout the Middle East.

"There is an incredible glorification of jihad (as holy war) throughout the entire Palestinian school curriculum," said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, a Jerusalem-based group that monitors Palestinian broadcasts and publications.

Israeli textbooks have undergone extensive reforms in the past decade to remove the most overt anti-Arab bias, but Arabs are still widely portrayed as opposed to gestures for peace. Meanwhile, books used by Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews often give negative impressions of Arabs as shifty and violent.

In Saudi Arabia -- the guardian of Islam's holiest sites -- textbooks reflect the kingdom's two main pillars: commitment to spread Islam and to follow its austere interpretation of the faith, known as Wahhabism. This puritical brand of Islam has provided theological footing for the faith's most extreme edges, including al-Qaida and other terrorist cells. The Saudi lessons also spill far beyond its borders since the government funds hundreds of schools around the world.

The Saudi school books have been modified in the past two years to soften the descriptions of non-Muslims, other cultures and different branches of Islam, though critics say it still has a way to go.

Pressure for change came from two directions. The West, led by the United States, began serious demands for textbook reforms after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. But the overseers of Saudi education -- heavily influenced by Wahhabi clerics and scholars -- got serious about changes only after the nation's royal leaders stepped in.

Muslim militants, apparently inspired by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, launched attacks on Saudi soil in May 2003 and rattled the kingdom's pro-Western leaders. In a speech last year, then-Saudi education minister Mohammed al-Rasheed told teachers and administrators to "stay away from extremism and fanaticism."

A recent US State Department report on global religious freedom noted Saudi Arabia has "removed some disparaging references to other religious traditions" from school books, but the kingdom was still listed among the most restrictive religious settings.
The Saudi curriculum frames the world along rigid lines.

Religious studies note Islam's historical bonds with Christianity and Judaism, but declare that only Muslims practice the true faith and "other religions destroy their followers." Saudi seventh graders also read that Judaism is a "corrupted religion."

Lessons portray the Muslim world as under constant threat. In ninth grade, geography studies describe centuries of "malice and hatred" toward Muslims, from the Crusades to contemporary conflicts in Kashmir, Chechnya and the intefadah.

Such phrases were taught in Saudi classes as recently as the 2003-04 school year, according to international monitors. It's unclear whether they will be removed in the ongoing revisions.

"The recent changes in the Saudi textbooks do not offer any real improvement in the level of hatred that the school children are taught," said Logan Barclift, an analyst at the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Washington-based group that monitors politics and education in the Gulf. "As long as this continues, it will be much harder for a more tolerant view of Islam to take hold in the Arab world."

Right now, Saudi education is directed by some of the most conservative forces in the kingdom. One petition, signed by some judges and clerics last year, denounced the reforms as American pressure and aimed to take "the kingdom along the path of infidels."

Jordan has conducted one of the most sweeping revisions of its school books, which were also used by Palestinian children until the 1990s and had contained some of the most direct praise for martyrdom on behalf of Islam.

"We want to instill in (students) positive values of accepting the `other' and coexisting with other societies," said Jordan's education minister, Khaled Touqan. "It's true that in today's world, the reality may be far off."


Child's play

Confronting hateful fictions in Muslim textbooks is more than political correctness: It can mean the difference between war and peace.

Houston Chronicle Jan. 3, 2006, 1:45AM

AMERICANS may think we know about textbook wars: the petitions signed, school boards ousted, late-night PTA meetings over references to sex or Darwin. But in parts of the Muslim world, the contents of some textbooks can lead, literally, to bloodshed. In reaction, according to The Associated Press, "hate-hunters" from Pakistan to the Persian Gulf have begun to scour their nations' textbooks and demand that vitriol and intolerance toward other cultures be culled.

As with most reformers in the Islamic world, these activists do dangerous work. But they rightly see their efforts as a way to break Muslim countries' debilitating cycles of conflict with outsiders, as well as a way to modernize. "We are fighting for the future of Islam. Children are sometimes being force-fed a diet of hate, anger and intolerance," Pakistani Ahmed Salim, one textbook watchdog, said. Salim is the leader of a movement in his country to remove what it perceives as violent and extreme material from children's textbooks. Such activists were barely stirring in the Muslim world just a few years ago. But the psychological shock of 9/11, mixed with the material traumas of U.S. military actions in the region and internal terror, galvanized some Muslims to look critically at what their children learn in school. They're determined to excise messages that might twist those youngsters into violent or intolerant adults.

In Pakistan, the AP reports, Salim's Sustainable Development Policy Institute began demanding textbook revisions two years ago; this month it will release a report that criticizes national officials for their inaction. The group denounces the books' idealizing of "jihad" in its more violent interpretations. As "jihad" is taught in Pakistani schools, it can easily be interpreted as idealizing martyrdom or warfare with the West, or India, or between rival Muslim sects in Pakistan.

Palestinian Media Watch, a Jerusalem-based group that keeps track of similar messages in Palestinian media, also monitors violent, pro-jihadi messages in children's schoolbooks. The Israeli-American Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace reports that standard Palestinian textbooks, which often praise jihad and martyrdom, never even mention the concept of peace with Israel.

Even leaders in Saudi Arabia, home of the most xenophobic form of Islam, acknowledge the need to modify their schoolbooks' hostile teachings about other faiths and cultures. But the changes so far are minuscule, outside monitors say.

It's essential that Saudi Arabia and similarly closed societies heed Islam's reformers and sap the poison that their children are imbibing in school. It can take a lifetime to teach — or reteach — adults how to live with neighbors who are different. The lesson must begin in childhood. Conversely, as the Saudis should well know, when a culture breeds fanatics, no one is safe from the explosion.