Saudi textbooks demonize "infidels"

Among the lessons in the country's approved school books: "All religions other than Islam are false."

Published July 14, 2004 1:12PM (EDT)

Saudi schoolchildren are being taught to disparage Christianity and Judaism in a textbook issued by the education ministry, a report said yesterday.

The book forms part of the kingdom's revised curriculum  supposedly cleaned up after complaints that demonising the west had become endemic in Saudi schools.

A lesson for six-year-olds reads: "All religions other than Islam are false." A note for teachers says they should "ensure to explain" this point.

The Saudi Institute, a Washington-based pro-reform group, said yesterday the book, Monotheism and Fiqh, con-tradicted the Koran.

"The Saudi contention that Judaism and Christianity are false religions is clearly refuted by the Koran," it says in a report, quoting a verse.

The kingdom reviewed its textbooks after revelations that 15 of the September 11 hijackers had been Saudi-educated.

One textbook had urged teen-agers not to befriend Christians or Jews: "Emulation of the infidels leads to loving them, glorifying them and raising their status in the eyes of the Muslim, and that is forbidden."

Last year the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said there was "no room in our schools for hatred, intolerance or for anti-western thinking." Officials announced two pilot programmes to develop new teaching methods.

But the Saudi Institute said yesterday there was no evidence the pilot programmes had taken place. The new curriculum, it said, had "the same authors and the same ideas" as the old one, but in different language.

The main author of the religious curriculum is Sheikh Saleh al-Fawazan, described as a Wahhabi extremist who advocates slavery and believes elections are un-Islamic.

By Brian Whitaker

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