Saudi Arabia to purge Muslim Brotherhood influence in schools

Saudi Arabia to purge Muslim Brotherhood influence in schools
Teachers who are deemed sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood will be dismissed, as Saudi Arabia prepares to purge school curriculum from any influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
3 min read
22 March, 2018
Saudi Arabia designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in 2014 [Getty]

Saudi Arabia will purge its school curriculum of any influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as dismiss employees who chose to sympathise with the banned group, announced the education minister.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Issa said the government will "fight extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they are free of the banned Muslim Brotherhood's agenda".

It also seeks to "ban books attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood from all schools and universities and remove all those who sympathise with the group", he added.

The move comes after the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with CBS television that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Kingdom has designated as a "terror group", had infiltrated Saudi schools.

The prince has vowed to return the country to "moderate Islam", introducing a number of social reforms in a country dominated by hardline rhetoric.

Many members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood sought refuge in Saudi Arabia after persecution following regime crackdowns, beginning with Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s.

Some were later employed in education and public sectors.

Last september, Human Rights Watch said that the kingdom's religious studies curriculum stokes intolerance with "hateful and incendiary language" towards religious minorities.

HRW said a comprehensive review of school books produced by the education ministry found violent and intolerant teachings, despite official promises to eliminate them.

This has been shaped by the country's state-sanctioned, hardline Wahabbi interpretation of Islam.

The US considers Saudi Arabia a country of "particular concern" when it comes to religious persecution, but successive administrations have waived the potential sanctions that come with such a designation.

HRW has urged the US, a key Saudi ally, to end the waiver.

Saudi Arabia designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in 2014. Hardline groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State group are also blacklisted.

Internal threat

The ruling Al Saud family has always regarded Islamist groups as a major internal threat to its rule over a country in which appeals to religious sentiment resonate deeply and an al-Qaeda campaign a decade ago killed hundreds.

Since the kingdom's founding, the al-Sauds have enjoyed a close alliance with clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam who have espoused a political philosophy that demands obedience to the ruler.

By contrast the Brotherhood advances an active political doctrine urging revolutionary action, and now, democracy, which flies in the face of Wahhabi teaching.

A political Islamist organisation founded in Egypt nearly a century ago. The movement says it is committed to peaceful activism and reform through elections, and its adherents span the region, holding elected office in some Arab countries including Tunisia and Jordan.

Brotherhood members fleeing repression in Egypt, Syria and Iraq half a century ago took shelter in Saudi Arabia.

Some took up roles in the kingdom's education system and helping to establish the Sahwa or "Awakening" movement which agitated in the 1990s for democracy.

The Sahwa movement mostly fizzled, with some activists arrested and others coaxed into conformity, though admirers and its appeal lingered.

Following the Arab Spring that has pro-democracy revolutions spread across the region, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE have brutally suppressed membership of the Muslim Brotherhood.