USCIRF Study Reveals Numerous Passages in Saudi Textbooks Inciting Violence and Intolerance

Mar 24, 2018

March 24, 2018

USCIRF Study Reveals Numerous Passages in Saudi Textbooks Inciting Violence and Intolerance

 “USCIRF is disappointed to find inflammatory content remains in Saudi textbooks previously thought to have been removed.”

In a new study of select textbooks currently in use in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) uncovered content promoting violence and hatred toward religious minorities and others. While the Saudi government has been engaged in textbook reform for the last 15 years, the presence of these passages makes clear how little progress has been made and highlights an immediate need for the Saudi government to more seriously address this issue, as well as the exportation of these textbooks internationally, as a part of its ambitious reform process.

“USCIRF is disappointed to find inflammatory content in Saudi textbooks that was previously thought to have been removed,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “USCIRF had been encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts over the past year, particularly the initial implementation of the Vision 2030 program and his recent statement that Saudi Arabia is open to all religions and to the world.’ Such initiatives and sentiments could serve as a strong basis for improving freedom of religion or belief in the Kingdom, including through much-needed textbook reform.”

USCIRF’s study compared twelve 2017-2018 high school religion textbooks with earlier versions from 2012-2014 and found that the current books contain not only numerous intolerant and inflammatory passages but also several passages specifically thought to have been removed from earlier books. Examples of intolerant content include passages: extolling jihad as fighting against non-Muslims; prescribing execution of apostates and those who mock God or the Prophet; and demeaning non-Muslims and warning Muslims against associating with them.

“USCIRF urges Congress and the administration to make textbook reform a priority in its engagement with the Saudi government, especially in light of that government’s progress in other areas of reform,” continued Chairman Mark. “USCIRF also encourages Congress to pass the Saudi Educational Transparency and Reform Act, which would require annual reports on religious intolerance in Saudi educational materials, in order to ensure long-term monitoring and assessments on progress or lack thereof.”

In 2017, USCIRF recommended, and the State Department designated, Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging or tolerating systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom. Saudi Arabia has been designated as a CPC repeatedly since 2004 but an indefinite waiver on taking action as a result of the designation has been in place since 2006.

For more information, see USCIRF’s 2017 annual report chapter on Saudi Arabia.


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at or Isaac Six, Associate Director of Congressional Affairs ( +1-202-786-0606).