Watchdog: Saudi children 'being taught hatred' in religion class

18.09.2017

Saudi Arabia's school religious textbooks promote intolerance despite promises by officials to eliminate such language, says Human Rights Watch (HRW). The New York-based group found "hateful and incendiary language" in religion books produced by the Ministry of Education for the 2016-17 school year.

The texts disparage Islamic traditions that do not adhere to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, such as Sufi and Shia religious practices. They also label Jews and Christians "unbelievers" with whom Muslims should not associate, the group said.

"As early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East director. "The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year."

The group said it reviewed a curriculum, entitled al-Tawhid, or monotheism, which consisted of 45 textbooks and student workbooks.

The intolerant language persists despite promises by Saudi officials to eliminate it after it provoked controversy in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Saudi Arabia had been accused of exporting the fundamentalist brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. The former al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden, was a Saudi national.

Several people have been jailed after they criticised the conservative kingdom's religious rules.

In 2014, a court convicted liberal blogger Raif Badawi of insulting Islam on his blog. A year later, a higher court upheld his sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, in a case that triggered international protests.    (dpa)

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