Saudi schoolbooks still contain 'violent and intolerant' content, watchdog warns

Saudi schoolbooks still contain 'violent and intolerant' content, watchdog warns
Saudi Arabia has failed to implement reforms that would remove 'violent and intolerant' content in schoolbooks that are aimed against religious minorities.
2 min read
25 March, 2018
Saudi Arabia is 'still promoting' messages of intolerance in schoolbooks [Getty]

Violent and intolerant messages are still being promoted in Saudi schoolbooks despite promises by authorities to remove inflammatory content, a US religious freedom watchdog reported on Sunday.

Content in school texts still include calls for jihad ("holy war") against non-Muslims, dissociation with non-Muslims, and the execution of apostates, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Despite claims Riyadh that such violent messages would be removed from study books, the USCIRF said little progress has been made over the past 15 years.

A study of 2017 to 2018 high school religious studies books showed that the texts' still contain messages that incite against non-Muslim religious groups. They also include several "inflammatory" passages that were thought to have been removed from earlier books.

The USCIRF concluded that the education ministry still promote intolerance through these texts.

"The USCIRF urges Congress and the administration to make textbook reform a priority in its engagement with the Saudi government, especially in light of that government's progress in other areas of reform," Chairman Daniel Mark said, according to Reuters.

The study comes as Saudi Arabia's self-declared reformer and moderniser-in-chief Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits the US, for a three-week charm offensive.

Salman has met Christian leaders in a previous visit to the UK and is keen to portray himself as a leader promoting a more tolerant and modern form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia announced earlier this week that it was launching a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood elements in the kingdom's education system.

The Islamist movement is perceived as a political threat to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region.

Saudi Arabia's schools have long been a breeding ground for the ideology of extreme elements of the kingdom's well-entrenched Wahhabi establishment.

Efforts to limit the influence of these scholars have been made, including under the current crown prince with a series of pledged reforms.