The locations of concern in a typical press release issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom are less than surprising. North Korea, Iran, and Burma all receive their due attention. In that sense, yesterday's report about an Islamic school that indoctrinates its young pupils with textbooks justifying murder for adultery, extolling martyrdom, and vilifying Jews along with other religious groups was an anomaly: The release was describing a school in Northern Virginia.
More specifically, the release was describing the curriculum of the Islamic Saudi Academy, which, as the commission points out in its press release, "is unlike any conventional private or parochial school in the United States in that it is operated by a foreign government and uses that government's official texts." The full details of the Islamic Saudi Academy's curriculum are unknown because the school has not been particularly forthright about what it teaches. After the Commission raised the issue publicly last year, the academy turned its textbooks over to the State Department, which proceeded to treat the material like a state secret. According to the Commission's press release, the State Department has not made the textbooks available "either to the public or to the Commission, nor has it released any statement about the content of the books that it received."
However, through independent sources, the Commission was able to obtain a small sampling of the textbooks used by the school. The excerpts they provide are troubling indeed. "The cause of discord: The Jews conspired against Islam and its people," one excerpt begins. Another textbook accuses Baha'ism, a faith with 5 million believers that stresses the underlying unity of all major religions, of seeking to "strike Islam from within and weaken it."
For the Saudi government to burden its own youth with this sort of poisonous nonsense is deplorable. For them to do it inside America is even worse. The Commission has performed a service by calling the matter to public attention. The next step is for the Bush administration to make it a priority in our diplomatic dialogue with the Saudis.