WASHINGTON — Two years after protracted American-Saudi negotiations persuaded the State Department that the Saudis would remove religious intolerance from their national textbooks, a new study finds the books still portray non-Sunni Muslims as the enemies of true believers.
The report from the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute finds that the Saudi textbooks are filled with the austere supremacism of the Wahhabi sect of Islam, despite promises from the Kingdom in 2006 to alter them. For example, a textbook for 10th graders on Islamic jurisprudence not only says it is permissible in Islam to murder a homosexual, but recommends the methods for doing so: burning alive, stoning, or throwing oneoff a high building.
Jews, Christians, and non-Wahhabi Sunni Muslims are described in many of the textbooks as enemies of the true faith and infidels. What's more, examples from Muhammad's teachings that focus on tolerance of other faiths are often ignored.
The report coincides with a conference the Saudi monarch is sponsoring in Madrid, at which he appeared to want reconciliation between the clerics of the Muslim world and their counterparts among Christians and Jews.
Saudi textbooks are not only a human rights issue, but also increasingly a national security matter, as the House of Saud underwrites Islamic education across the world, including a school in northern Virginia that has come under scrutiny for using the Saudi official textbooks.
The director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, said yesterday that the State Department should consider sanctions against Saudi Arabia. "The government of Saudi Arabia may have told the State Department it would thoroughly revise its textbooks in order to diffuse criticism two years ago. But it's two years later and now is the time for reckoning. The State Department must now demonstrate it was not an unwitting accomplice to a public relations ploy. They must intensely scrutinize these textbooks and work with them to remove it, or impose sanctions," she said.
Nearly two years ago, the State Department waived a series of sanctions suggested under the International Religious Freedom Act after America and Saudi Arabia came to an arrangement whereby Riyadh promised to excise the intolerance of their textbooks by the start of the fall 2008 school year.
The report says: "This analysis documents that thorough textbook reform has not yet occurred. It is in American interests that the U.S. Government, in this administration and the next, hold Saudi Arabia to its obligations."