By Monisha Bansal
The Saudi government has not only broken its promise and failed to eliminate anti-western rhetoric from its public school textbooks, some Saudi-funded schools on U.S. soil continue to incite violence, a Persian Gulf watchdog group alleged Wednesday.
One of those schools — The Islamic Saudi Academy — is located in Alexandria, Va., a short drive from the nation’s capital, according to the Institute for Gulf Affairs in a report that it released in conjunction with the human rights group, Freedom House.
“They are telling Saudi students and American students of the Academy that you must hate Christians and Jews and consider them enemies until the Day of Judgment and at the end of time,” said Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs. “This is very dangerous because this is how you get a terrorist at the end of the day.”
In November, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a valedictorian at the Islamic Saudi Academy and member of al Qaeda, was found guilty of plotting to kill President George W. Bush, Al-Ahmed said.
Ali was raised in Falls Church, Va., but was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2003 while attending college in Medina. He was transported back to the U.S., last year, convicted in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in November and sentenced in March to 30 years in prison.
Al-Ahmed said students like Ahmed Omar Abu Ali are similar to a deadly weapon. “It is more dangerous than planting a bomb, because a bomb will go off and have short impact, but to have these students graduating every year with these ideas is a lifetime effect,” he said.
In 2002, just months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, (15 of the 19 hijackers who participated in the attacks were from Saudi Arabia) Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal declared that “our schools and our faith teach peace and tolerance.”
“There is no room in our schools for hatred, for intolerance or for anti-western thinking,” Al-Faisal added.
In March of this year, the Saudi government stated that it had removed all of the content from its public school textbooks that disparaged other religions. But on Monday, the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., backed away from that statement while responding to the Institute for Gulf Affairs and Freedom House study. The embassy explained that the changes required more time.
“Overhauling an educational system is a massive undertaking. There are hundreds of books that are being revised to comply with the new requirements, and the process remains ongoing,” said Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki Al-Faisal.
He added that “the Saudi government has worked diligently during the last five years to overhaul its education system, which includes textbooks, teacher training, and the introduction of new teaching methods.”
“The objective of the educational system,” the prince added, “is to fight intolerance and to prepare Saudi youth with the skills and knowledge to compete in the global economy.”
According to the Institute for Gulf Affairs and Freedom House report, current Saudi textbooks obtained by the Institute indicate that intolerance is still being taught.
“These books continue to reflect a curriculum that inculcates religious hatred toward those who do not follow Wahhabi teachings,” the report stated. Wahhabism is a fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“When the current school year ends, thousands more will graduate from Saudi public schools steeped in the belief that those of differing religious faiths are morally inferior and even evil,” the report alleged. “Their texts will have taught them that peaceful coexistence with so-called ‘infidels’ is unattainable and that violence to spread Islam is not only permissible, but an obligation.”
“There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation about others in these textbooks. These textbooks groom a child to be a terrorist,” Al-Ahmed added.
With about five million children in Saudi public schools instructed each year in Islamic studies from Ministry of Education textbooks, and many more outside of Saudi Arabia, Al-Ahmed told Cybercast News Service that the threat “is more dangerous than the Chernobyl reactor.”
“If even 1 percent takes this to heart, you will have a lot more terrorists than just the 15 (Saudis) that we saw on September 11,” Al-Ahmed said. He alleged that Saudi schools are graduating 1,000 terrorists each year.
“Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden understands this well,” Al-Ahmed asserted. “In his April 23, 2006, audiotape, he railed against those who would interfere with school curricula.”
The Islamic Saudi Academy is funded by the Saudi government and according to the report uses the same textbooks as those in Saudi Arabia to teach Islamic Studies courses. The Academy did not return phone calls made Wednesday seeking comment for this article.