WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a trip last week to Saudi Arabia, Commissioners Johnnie Moore and Nadine Maenza of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) met with government officials and had the first meeting ever granted between the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the “Religious Police”) and a U.S. delegation.
This report presents findings from a review of 12 Saudi high school textbooks for the current 2017-2018 academic school year. The books, numbering more than 2,000 pages and focusing only on religious subjects, are much more intolerant than the six religious books from 2012-2014 that were reviewed by USCIRF. Based on the books reviewed, it appears that they are even more intolerant than the 2011-2012 textbooks studied by the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), which identified many intolerant passages. The 2017-2018 books are more akin to Saudi textbooks from the early years of the previous decade before the Saudi government promised to reform its curricula. The issues found in the books implicated religious freedom and other human rights.
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 welcomed the State Department’s naming of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for severe religious freedom violations. This group comprises nations that violate religious freedom in a “systematic, ongoing, egregious” manner and includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Commissioner Clifford D. May: Saudi Vision 2030’s aspirations are laudable. Saudi Arabia should become a tolerant and moderate country, but that means accepting some debate and even dissent. That transformation needs to begin now. Releasing Badawi would represent a meaningful step forward.