Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit
March 25th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit

President Barack Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia this week comes amid accusations the State Department has hidden the results of a study that concludes textbooks in the Kingdom remain rife with Islamic extremism.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, successive U.S. administrations have attempted to curb Saudi indoctrination of students through hateful extremist material in its textbooks.

In addition to teaching the material to its own students, Saudi Arabia runs academies in about 20 countries, which use some of the same texts.

The Kingdom has repeatedly claimed that it has revised its textbooks.

In 2005, the Saudi government took out a full-page ad in the New Republic to boast of its success at "having modernized our school curricula to better prepare our children for the challenges of tomorrow."

But the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said on Tuesday the secret study finds Saudi textbooks still "create a climate that fosters exclusivity, intolerance, and calls to violence that put religious and ethnic minorities at risk."

Citing sources familiar with it, the Washington-based think tank said the Obama administration decided not to publish the study when it was completed in late 2012 because offensive material dehumanizing Jews and Christians included in the textbooks would portray the Saudis in a negative light.

"The State Department is in possession of a uniquely exhaustive set of recent findings about incitement in Saudi Arabia's education system, findings that it has declined to release for public consumption," the report said.

The study is the product of a reported $500,000 State Department contract with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy.

On its website, ICRD says the project was commissioned to "assist in the ongoing effort by Saudi Arabia to remove discriminatory content from its public school curriculums and to evaluate its global impact in other Muslim-majority countries."

Current and former U.S. officials said the study paints a mixed picture of Saudi textbooks.

While it notes some progress by Saudis in making reforms and removing some of the most hateful language, the study still found areas for improvement.

"We know there's more work to be done," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Ali Ahmed, a Saudi scholar who runs the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, has been studying Saudi textbooks since before the 9/11 attacks.

Ahmed said that in meetings with State Department officials over the years, he has found a consistent reluctance to put pressure on the Saudi royal family about the problem.

"I wrote papers and offered advice. I provided them with the textbooks showing evidence that the Saudis have not done anything," he said, adding that several officials warned him his campaign could damage U.S.-Saudi relations.

"The U.S. confronts China and Russia about human rights, but I don't know why they can't tell the Saudis to clean up their act on this issue," he said. "The U.S. is not a small country like Panama with no tools to force change. So either they are not serious or their policy is a failure here. If the U.S. wanted to bring some pressure, they can. They have not tried."

Harf said the United States has consistently and publicly encouraged Saudi Arabia to institute educational and textbook reforms, but disputed the notion that the State Department had ever planned to publish the study.

"It was intended to drive and inform the work of the State Department as we work with the Saudi government to push them to reform their textbooks," Harf said. "We obviously continue to push our partners to reform, and we believe with the Saudis that it's most effective to do this directly, with them, between our governments, and not publicly, and we do want to keep working with them to see if they can reform their curriculum more."

David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who wrote the study, said Saudi teachings of intolerance should be on the agenda when Obama visits the Kingdom this week.

"The hate speech so rampant in Saudi textbooks should be publicly addressed by the President while in Riyadh," Weinberg said. "Doing so would put hardliners on notice that even at this low point in U.S.-Saudi relations, the President will not shy away from affirming pluralistic American values and seeking reforms in the name of our national security."

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    It's amazing the countries sensor their own textbooks and don't tell the truth to the youth ! Just goes to show you were never going to get along until we're on the same page .

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    Guns Over People tea potty radical extremists push their Sharia Law down the throats of American kids. Not a peep about that,as usual.

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  20. Chaos

    In 2005, the Saudi government took out a full-page ad in the New Republic to boast of its success at "having modernized our school curricula to better prepare our children for the challenges of tomorrow."


    That's the Saudi "revision". Tha'ts the Saudi idea of "preparing for the future".

    And people wonder why I'm a flocking pagan.

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  21. Saul

    Islam, the Religion of Hatred and Pedophilia.

    March 28, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Reply
    • Folke Bernadotte

      Your comment is typical hate mongering from a supporter of the cult that has the delusion that it is better than Islam and has a "right" to much of the Middle East.

      March 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Reply
      • Wellendowd

        The bottom line is the Saudis teach their children intolerance for other religions and peoples. I think it would be most telling if there were a way to see the particular sections of textbooks in question on the web for all of us to see. I would also like to see to pre 9/11 versions.
        There are so many things wrong with Saudi Arabia, but teaching children to hate is the bottom for any nation.

        March 30, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
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        On YouTube.............


        March 30, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
      • Harry Leg

        Islam is a sick way of life and does not belong in western culture. It should stay in the middle east and only bombed when it tries to murder innocents. Islam is way to rape children by a bunch of filthy pigs pretending to be religious.

        April 3, 2014 at 2:16 am |
      • Folke Bernadotte

        And what of the millions of murders in which the Jews have conspired and committed? What of the rampant child molestation in orthodox Jewish communities and the Talmudic promotion of child molestation? What of a culture that has been banished from countries more than 100 times for conspiracy, usury, its inherent treachery and betrayal?

        April 3, 2014 at 8:43 am |
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      April 2, 2014 at 5:34 am | Reply
      • BARUCH


        April 2, 2014 at 5:38 am |
      • Folke Bernadotte

        Every religion is man-made. Your bigotry against Islam is typical of the narcissistic culture you represent. To call yourselves "chosen" is disgusting. It's no different from Hitler's master-race. In fact...............

        "Our race is the Master Race. We Jews are divine gods on this planet. We are as different from the inferior races as they are from insects. In fact, compared to our race, other races are beasts and animals, cattlce at best. Other races are considered as human excrement. Our destiny is to rule over the inferior races. Our earthly kingdom will be ruled by our leader with a rod of iron. The masses will lick our feet and serve us as our slaves." –

        Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a speech to the Knesset quoted in Begin and the Beasts," New Statesman, June 25, 1982 by Amnon Kapeliouk.

        April 2, 2014 at 9:11 am |
  22. Fed up with Saudi Sauce

    Enough of the Saudi Sauce making. Why can't the US just add the Kingdom to the sponsor of terrorist list and also note that the country is the poster child for female oppression and abuse

    March 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • Folke Bernadotte

      Because Saudi Arabia, along with Israel is the US government's "ally" in the Axis trying to take over the Middle East. We don't read about Saudi or Israeli crimes except three levels down on US media sites.

      March 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  23. mero

    USA sucks :
    why you people don't care about your own problems instead of searching to destroy other
    countries like Syria ! supporting the bloody terrorists Al Qaeda is that what are you good at
    the first nation my ass

    March 28, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • Fed up with Saudi Sauce

      If the US announced it would no longer provide any military assistance of any kind, direct or indirect, to the Kingdom. Al Qaeda would rule the country in a year. That night be better than what we have now

      March 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Reply
      • Saul

        In fact Al Qaeda is Saudi's powerful Special Forces. Saudis finance Al Qaeda as was shown by recent events in Libya and in Syria and remain behind the scenes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. United States protecting the so-called "kingdom" is a mockery on the dead of 9/11

        March 28, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
      • Folke Bernadotte

        If the US stopped providing military assistance and political protection to anyone the Middle East would stabilize and Al Qaeda, along with most other radical groups would disappear. The US and Israel use the Saudis, Al Qaeda (a Saudi/US creation and proxy) and others as proxies in our Corporate/Bankster States of America imperialism.

        March 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
    • Greg

      You nailed it, mero. I feel the same way. I'm sick and tired of all the double talk that comes out of Washington D.C. This country's falling apart and those idiots in Washington want to take over Syria!

      March 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Reply
      • mero

        so true !
        if only the world will take a serous action toward those brainless Muslims everything will be fine
        enough is enough already stop supporting these half-humans creatures !

        March 29, 2014 at 12:37 am |
  24. BestOpinion

    Many would support US troops returning home and then let the Saudis run their business as well as they are able if this is their intention

    March 28, 2014 at 7:38 am | Reply
  25. BestOpinion

    Let them edit their text books if it makes them satisfied but a visit until they stop financing world dominion alleged exploits appears to be abit of folly,of course

    March 28, 2014 at 7:30 am | Reply
  26. Lance Buckmaster

    The Saudi leaders may be Washington's stooges but many of it's people are not! What the Saudis teach their children in their schools is their business, not ours!

    March 26, 2014 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Josh

      Most (almost all) of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Arabian who leaned hating civilized people in their schools. It is of course our business to make sure that these Muslim terrorists are not brain washed by their stone age Islamic teachings.

      March 26, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
      • Nik

        Well you know what they say money talk..

        March 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
      • Folke Bernadotte

        It is not "brain washing" to hate or despise cultures that, for 150 years, have been manipulating, scheming, killing, scamming to get oil that belongs to the people of the Middle East. It isn't "brain washing" to despise Eastern European colonists who take whatever they want under the protection of the US.
        We need to get OUT of the Middle East and let the people repossess their countries while there are still some resources left to use for development.

        March 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
  27. Ahmed

    People should note that it's muslims pushing for change in Saudi texts.

    March 26, 2014 at 9:02 am | Reply
    • Josh

      That's right. Muslims want the brutal Sharia law to be taught to their kids in schools.

      March 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  28. saeed

    hahahahahhah obama if you want a fight then come on iran will nuke your mothers a s s now be carefull we dont want you and your doughters to boil away in flames.

    March 26, 2014 at 7:15 am | Reply
    • Ahmed

      This Saeed person is a false flag commenter. He isn't muslim and just wants to stir the pot.

      March 26, 2014 at 8:59 am | Reply
  29. uj3185

    Please raise your hands if you know why US won't/can't put pressure on the Saudi government.

    March 26, 2014 at 5:47 am | Reply
    • Ali

      The sooner the US and others wean themselves off of middle eastern oil the better for both the world and for the middle east. Having oil gives these kings and dictators lots of cash but stunts the growth of the nation. Their downfall once their oil is worthless or gone may be messy at first but will usher in an era of proper nation building. That alone will solve many of the issuess in the mideast.

      March 26, 2014 at 9:07 am | Reply
      • Dan from MV CA

        That is true Ali, and it has been true since 1974, when the Energy Department was created with the charter and goal of achieving energy independence. We now have a huge bureaucracy that is funded with billions of $ but hasn't made one step closer to achieving its primary goal.

        March 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm |

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