President Biden recently released intelligence reports that found no direct link between the Saudi Arabian government and the September 11, 2001 conspirators. However, until recently, the kingdom donated millions of books around the world that incited racism, extolled the excellence of the Wahhabi faith, reinforced jihadist messages and incited hatred against other faiths.
After 9/11, the Saudi authorities repeatedly promised and failed to change the books they gave to mosques and madrasas around the world. Although Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the kingdom has finally revamped its school textbooks and eliminated the most overt anti-Semitism and incitement to kill Christians, millions of the previous toxic editions are being used around the world, from Pakistan to Indonesia to Bradford and Minneapolis .
Analysts suspect the latest revisions should make the kingdom attractive to foreign investment after US intelligence agencies reported Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s complicity in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi responds to the Iranian revolution
After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Saudi authorities spent an estimated $ 100 billion to spread the conservative Wahhabi version of Islam around the world, including British institutions. Dore Gold claims that between 1982 and 2005, the Saudis spent an estimated £ 75 billion worldwide on 200 Islamic colleges, 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques and 2,000 schools, all of which taught an intolerant, fundamentalist creed.
Parents in poor countries took the opportunity to send their sons to free schools. According to Mohamed Charfi, Tunisia’s former minister of education, the Saudi Arabia-backed madrassas in Pakistan and Afghanistan have played a key role in strengthening radical Islam there. Saudi institutions have trained thousands of teachers and preachers in their intolerant interpretations of Islam.
King Salman offered to build 200 Wahhabi mosques for Syrian refugees arriving in Germany, but not a cent to help with their resettlement or basic needs. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown described it as the “Trojan horse of the secret Saudi crusade”.
In Nigeria, at least 20,000 Christians and mainstream Muslims were killed by Boko Haram and representatives of the Islamic State. A Nigerian journalist (anonymously, for his own safety) says Saudi sponsored hundreds of fundamentalist imams, including Boko Haram’s ex-leader Mohammed Yusuf, paid for their studies in the Gulf, and financed Nigeria’s intolerant Salafist Islamist movement. He points to Nigeria’s political and economic ties to Saudi Arabia and warns that it has deadly consequences for those who reject the Boko Haram ideology.
What was the problem with Saudi textbooks?
The pre-disinfected books of the kingdom teach that non-Wahhabis are polytheists who go to hell regardless of their good deeds. The worship of prophets by Shiites and Sufis is “heresy”, while criticism of Islam is “apostasy” and deserves the death penalty. Students must avoid friendships with people of other religions. They also promoted both violent and nonviolent jihad against infidels.
Among several passages that have since been deleted there is a reference to Jews as monkeys and Christians as pigs. HRW reports that the website of the Saudi fatwas issuing committee continues to announce that “hatred of infidels is compulsory because they are the enemies of God and His Messenger and the enemies of Muslims”.
About the new editions, Danielle Saroyan Ashbahian of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom says: “We are encouraged that advocates of international religious freedom – including within the government itself – are making progress in Saudi Arabia … Some might say amazing progress. “
Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute argues that textbook reform is only part of the problem. “Countless Sunni Muslim villages and neighborhoods in Africa and Asia have been indoctrinated into lessons instructing students to fight and kill religious other thanks to the religious texts published by the Saudi government and export policy. Two years ago one of the leaders of the Al Azar, the great center of Sunni learning in Cairo, told me that his institution was still teaching some courses from Wahabi textbooks. Saudi schools in major western capitals taught long after these texts. Saudi Arabia needs to replace them everywhere and see that destroy the old editions. It must replace them on the Internet. Riyadh must stop inciting extremism and terrorism abroad and domestically through its previous editions of textbooks. “
Does Global Britain matter?
There are 30 publicly funded Muslim schools and 180 private schools in England and Wales. The BBC estimates that the unrevised textbooks have been used by around 5,000 students in the UK. How many religious leaders in British mosques have studied in Saudi Arabia when the vast majority of British Muslims are not Wahhabis? Will the UK government see to it that the old textbooks are replaced? What about online material? My attempt to get answers from the Saudi embassy and through written parliamentary questions was unsuccessful.
The Department of Commerce website states that Saudi is the UK’s third largest trading partner outside the EU. (The role of London as a “money butler” who administers the money of the Saudi royals and the state funds of the Gulf states is less discussed). However, the Special Committee on Foreign Affairs suggests coordinating trade policy with other UK priorities to avoid the incoherence of UK international policy. Given the UK’s role in delivering Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and managing the money from the Gulf, what chance our officials will soon be removing toxic textbooks from UK institutions?
Rebecca Tinsley’s novel about Sudan, When the Stars Fall on Earth, is available in English and Arabic. See: www.amazon.co.uk/When-Stars-Fall-Earth-Africa/dp/0984512950
Keywords: Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jamal Khashoggi, Rebecca Tinsley
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