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USCIRF Condemns Reappearance of Content Promoting Hatred and Violence in Saudi Textbooks

November 26, 2018

USCIRF Condemns Reappearance of Content Promoting Hatred and Violence in Saudi Textbooks

New report provides evidence of reappearance of inflammatory content against non-Muslims, women, and gay men

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today announced the release of its report, “A Survey of 2017-2018 Saudi Middle and High School Textbooks,” which finds a troubling rise in intolerant content in Saudi textbooks promoting hatred and violence. The textbooks particularly demonize and target Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, non-Muslims, critics of Islam, women, and members of the LGBTI community. The report notes that “unlike past revisions to textbooks where progress had been made, these most recent texts contained several intolerant and inflammatory passages.”

“Despite a commitment by Saudi officials to address this problem, these passages teaching hate and violence have reappeared in Saudi textbooks,” said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee. “The reappearance of some of these passages raises serious questions about whether Saudi Arabia is pursuing meaningful reform in their education system and curriculum. Perhaps even more troubling is that this inflammatory content continues to make its way around the world in Saudi-supported schools and is used by extremist groups like ISIS.

The report surveys 22 middle and high school textbooks used in Saudi and Saudi-funded schools abroad during the 2017-2018 academic year, comprising nearly 3,000 pages of text. The textbooks encourage both violent and non-violent jihad against non-believers and espouse the death penalty for women who have an affair and for gay men. The textbooks also teach that those who worship differently from the Saudi state-sanctioned interpretation of Islam are polytheists who will go to hell regardless of their good deeds. Shi’a and Sufi veneration of the gravesites of prophets is dismissed as “heresy” while criticism of Islam is deemed “apostasy,” for which the textbooks endorse the death penalty. Finally, the textbooks caution students to avoid friendship with members of other religions.

USCIRF has monitored and reported on the content of Saudi textbooks for more than fifteen years. Commissioners have raised concerns over the content of textbooks in meetings with Saudi government officials during visits to the Kingdom in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2017, and 2018, and during numerous meetings with Saudi officials in Washington, DC. In March 2018, USCIRF delivered a letter conveying concern over intolerant content in the 2017-2018 textbooks to His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to Washington, DC.

USCIRF again recommended this year that Saudi Arabia be designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom. Although the State Department has designated Saudi Arabia a CPC since 2004, in 2006 it placed an indefinite waiver on taking any action as a consequence of the CPC designation. USCIRF continues to urge the U.S. government to lift the waiver.



The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at kboyle@uscirf.gov or +1-703-898-6554.