If yesterday we were speaking about Saudi private donors being one of the main sources of Islamic terrorism, today we know more about textbooks inciting hate against non-believers produced by Saudis and exported throughout the world.
America’s top financial counter-terrorism official, Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey, believes there’s a strong link between education and support for terror. As he wrote in the Washington Post last June, to end support for such terror, among other steps,
“we must focus on educational reform in key locations to ensure that intolerance has no place in curricula and textbooks. . . . [U]nless the next generation of children is taught to reject violent extremism, we will forever be faced with the challenge of disrupting the next group of terrorist facilitators and supporters.”
Saudi Arabia is one such “key location.” The kingdom is not just any country with problematic textbooks. As the controlling authority of the two holiest shrines of Islam, Saudi Arabia is able to disseminate its religious materials among the millions of Muslims making the hajj to Mecca each year. Such teachings can, in this context, make a great impression.
In addition, Saudi textbooks are also posted on the Saudi Education Ministry’s website and are shipped and distributed free by a vast Sunni infrastructure established with Saudi oil wealth to many Muslim schools, mosques and libraries throughout the world. In his book The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright asserts that while Saudis constitute only 1 percent of the world’s Muslims, they pay “90 per cent of the expenses of the entire faith, overriding other traditions of Islam.” Others estimate that, on an annual basis, Saudi Arabia spends three times as much in exporting its Wahhabi ideology as did the Soviets in propagating Communism during the height of the Cold War. From the Netherlands and Bosnia, to Algeria and Tunisia, to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to Somalia and Nigeria, nationals of these countries have reported that over the past twenty to thirty years local Islamic traditions are being transformed and radicalized under intensifying Saudi influence. The late President of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid wrote that Wahhabism was making inroads even in his famously tolerant nation of Indonesia.
To understand why Jim Woolsey and other terrorism experts call Wahhabism as it spreads through the Islamic diaspora “kindling for Usama Bin Laden’s match,” it is important to know the content of Saudi textbooks. They teach, along with many other noxious lessons, that Jews and Christians are “enemies,” and they dogmatically instruct that that it is permissible, even obligatory, to kill various groups of “unbelievers“ — apostates (which includes Muslim moderates who reject Saudi Wahhabi doctrine), polytheists (which can include Shias and Sufis, as well as Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.), Jews, and adulterers. The texts also teach that the “punishment for homosexuality is death” and discusses that this can be done by immolation by fire, stoning or throwing the accused from a high place.
Four years ago, the Saudis gave a solemn and specific promise to the United States. Its terms were described in a letter from the U.S. assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs to Sen. Jon Kyl, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security: “In July of 2006, the Saudi Government confirmed to us its policy to undertake a program of textbook reform to eliminate all passages that disparage or promote hatred toward any religion or religious groups.” Furthermore, the State Department letter reported that this pledge would be fulfilled “in time for the start of the 2008 school year.”
Saudi Arabia has failed to keep its promise to the United States. One Wikileak cable from the US embassy reports that Saudi education reform seems “glacial.” In its newly released 2010 annual report on religious freedom, the State Department itself asserted, albeit with diplomatic understatement, with respect to Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks: “Despite government revisions to elementary and secondary education textbooks, they retained language intolerant of other religious traditions, especially Jewish, Christian, and Shi’a beliefs, including commands to hate infidels and kill apostates.”