Blacklisting of books in Saudi Arabian schools causes controversy

Blacklisting of books in Saudi Arabian schools causes controversy
Saudi Arabia has pulled a list of books, many by Muslim Brotherhood scholars from its schools, causing heated debate around the decision.
3 min read
03 December, 2015
The Brotherhood were banned under King Abduallah [AAAJ]

Saudi Arabia ordered schools this week to remove 80 books by authors linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Araby al-Jadeed's Saudi Arabia correspondent Khalid al-Shayea reported.

The works of Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Yousef al-Qaradawi are among the books that will be taken off the shelves of libraries in schools across the kingdom within the next two weeks.

Banna was the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Qutb was a leading member of the group in the 1950s and 1960s. Banna was assassinated during the rule of Egypt's King Farouq and Qutb was hanged by former president Gamal Abd al-Nasser after being convicted of plotting his assassination.

      Images of the circular were shared on social media [AAAJ]

Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Qaradawi is a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist group in Egypt following the 2013 military coup that ousted elected president and Brotherhood leader Mohammad Morsi.

"This is the right thing to do, however it's not enough. If we want to totally eradicate terrorism and extremism have to do more than ban books – we have to reformulate the ideology of Islamic teachers who promote extremism to students," Saudi writer Khaled al-Maeena told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

A Saudi political expert said: "There has long been a media campaign against the Brotherhood that linked the group with Islamic militants. The decision to remove these books was made a year ago and is only now being implemented."

"Since Salman became King earlier this year it seems the government has shifted priorities and now views Iran as a bigger threat than the Brotherhood's brand of political Islam. This is a just a symbolic move by the government," the source added.

Under King Abdullah, Riyadh designated the Brotherhood as terrorists and supported the military coup in Egypt.

Last year, Saudi Arabia banned all Muslim Brotherhood books from the Riyadh International Book Fair, claiming their content could "constitute a threat to intellectual security".

Social media reaction

In Saudi Arabia opinions were deepy divided over the government's decision, with Twitter users using two Arabic-language hashtags to voice their conflicting opinions: #BrotherhoodBooksPulled and #TerroristBooksPulled.

"They have pulled the books on the grounds that Islamic state group [IS] members read Qaradawi's books before they carry out suicide attacks. I am absolutely certain that 99.9 percent of IS members have not read a single book by Qaradawi," tweeted satirically named Maaly al-Ribarary (His excellence the liberal).

"Everyone knows IS considers Banna and Qaradawi as heretics. So the question does the ministry have a problem with the Brotherhood or IS?," Ribarary added.

Abdallah al-Ojaimi said: "In the 1960s an absentee funeral prayer was held for Qutb in Saudi Arabia, now his books have been banned. Is it the deceased who has changed his opinion or the living?"

Abdallah al-Nasri said: "The Brotherhood's ideology does not incite terrorism, this is a lie, please respect our intelligence. The Brotherhood's ideology is based on a moderate Islam, democracy and building the economy."

Yaqoub al-Raisi said banning the books in Saudi Arabia was a positive step forward and a "painful blow" to the Brotherhood.

Saudi pro-government preacher Bandar al-Khaibari agreed: "This is a good move although too late. The poison in these books has already spread into people's minds."