A Textbook Case of Intolerance

Anne Applebaum, Slate, July 21, 2008

{snip} Here, for example, is a multiple-choice question that appears in a recent edition of a Saudi fourth-grade textbook, Monotheism and Jurisprudence, in a section that attempts to teach children to distinguish “true” from “false” belief in god:

Q. Is belief true in the following instances:

a) A man prays but hates those who are virtuous.

b) A man professes that there is no deity other than God but loves the unbelievers.

c) A man worships God alone, loves the believers, and hates the unbelievers.

The correct answer, of course, is c). According to the Wahhabi imams who wrote this textbook, it isn’t enough just to worship god or just to love other believers—it is important to hate unbelievers as well. By the same token, b) is also wrong. Even a man who worships god cannot be said to have “true belief” if he loves unbelievers.

“Unbelievers,” in this context, are Christians and Jews. In fact, any child who sticks around in Saudi schools until ninth grade will eventually be taught that “Jews and Christians are enemies of believers.” They will also be taught that Jews conspire to “gain sole control of the world,” that the Christian crusades never ended, and that on Judgment Day “the rocks or the trees” will call out to Muslims to kill Jews.

These passages, it should be noted, are from new, “revised” Saudi textbooks. {snip}

The promised revision—hailed, at the time, as a great diplomatic success—was supposed to be finished by the beginning of the 2008-09 school year and was accompanied by a Saudi PR campaign. {snip} But although the beginning of the 2008-09 school year is nearly upon us, the only textbook revisions have been superficial, and the most disturbing part of the message—that faithful Muslims should hate Jews and Christians—remains.

{snip} Saudi school textbooks are a special case, however. They are written and produced by the Saudi government and subsequently distributed, free of cost, to Saudi-sponsored schools as far afield as Lagos, Nigeria, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Americans are not the only ones who worry about their influence. In Britain, a small political storm began last year when British mosques were found to be distributing Saudi books that called on Muslims to kill all apostates.

{snip}

Here is a novel idea for both of them: Make sure that children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Islamic schools all around the world have decent fourth-grade textbooks. It might save a lot of trouble later on.

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