Saudi school textbook withdrawn over Yoda image error

Saudi school textbook withdrawn over Yoda image error
Saudi authorities this week withdrew high school textbooks containing a manipulated image of a former Saudi King alongside "Star Wars" film character Yoda.
2 min read
22 September, 2017
A photograph of the image on a high school textbook quickly circulated online [Twitter]

Saudi authorities this week were forced to withdraw high school textbooks containing an image of a former Saudi King alongside "Star Wars" film character Yoda.

The black-and-white image depicts then Prince Faisal - who later became the kingdom's third king, ruling for 11 years -signing the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945 - with the legendary fictional character by his side.

The image was a montage created by artist Abdullah Al Shehri, who mixes pop culture icons into real life photographs.

A photograph of the image in a high school social studies book quickly circulated online, much to the surprise of 26-year-old Shehri - who also goes by the nickname Shaweesh.

"I am the one who designed it, but I am not the one who put it in the book," Shehri told The New York Times.

Shehri, who has exhibited his work in many international art galleries, said he received a text message from his mother on Wednesday, after she had seen a copy of the book.

"Isn't this your work?" Shehri recalls his mother asking, "It's in the book!".

It remains unclear how the error occurred.

Saudi education minister Ahmed al-Eissa took to Twitter on Thursday to apologise for the "unintended mistake". 

"The ministry has begun printing a corrected copy of the curriculum and withdrawing the previous copy and formed a legal committee to determine the source of the error and to take the proper measures," he said.

Cinemas have been banned in the ultra-conservative kingdom since reforms in the 1980s, implemented to appease the growing powerful conservative voices in Saudi Arabia.

Among the tight social restrictions in place is also a ban on women from driving, and restrictions on live music

Developing tourism and entertainment in the desert kingdom is one of the wide-ranging goals of Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 announced in April.

Earlier this year, the kingdom held its first Comic-Con pop culture festival. The move was heavily criticised by many who saw it as "sin" and "evil".

But the Entertainment Authority maintains its priority remains the "safeguarding values, morals and traditions" in public entertainment.