First Published: 2009-06-04

US lawmakers slam Saudi for teaching 'hatred'

Democratic legislators urge Saudi government to eliminate hateful teaching from classrooms.


Middle East Online

'It's not the teaching of Islamic thought'

WASHINGTON - US lawmakers on Wednesday called on the Saudi government to stop distributing children's religious textbooks they claimed incited hatred and intolerance toward Jews, women and homosexuals, although such alleged incitements are present in interpretations of Christianity and Judaism.

The request by three Democratic legislators coincided with President Barack Obama's visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to shore up beleaguered US relations with Muslims worldwide.

"This is not some rogue document," Congressman Anthony Weiner told reporters. "This is the position of the Saudi government ... If we're going to solve the generational conflicts, it's important not to hate one another," he said but without mentioning Christian or Jewish officials who are accused of holding similar hate views.

His Democratic colleague, Shelley Berkley of Nevada, backed the move.

"We hope this will be part of the discussion President Obama has with the Saudi leaders," she said.

Weiner has long pushed for legislation barring the United States from providing financial aid to Saudi Arabia, once calling for the close US ally to be placed on the US list of terror-sponsoring states.

But he did not mention Israel, seen by many as a "terrorist sate".

Calling Obama's visit to the region "an opportunity to turn a new page in US-Arab relations" in a letter sent to Obama Wednesday, Weiner asked the president to "urge (Saudi) King Abdullah to eliminate these hateful teaching from the classrooms and to work to improve the country's human rights record."

Observers say the letter did not mention anything negative regarding Israel's "rabbis of hate".

Citing teachings found in a handful of textbooks, the lawmakers said high school students were taught that "the hour (of judgment) will not come until the Muslims fight Jews and kill them," - but such less references are much less extreme than their Christian and Jewish counterparts, which are openly accepted by many US and Israeli figures.

In another textbook, they said, students were told that "the blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel."

But some Christian and Jewish stances towards women are seen as even less favourable, and both faiths have been accused of worse intolerance towards women.

Students were also warned in a separate schoolbook that "the punishment for homosexuality is death," according to Weiner's office. But such punishment was recently called by an Israeli MP, citing the Old Testament, but Weiner's office is not known to have protested.

New York Congressman Joseph Crowley urged Saudi Arabia to bring its efforts to broker Middle East peace in line with its teachings of young people.

"We have, at one end, the Saudi government trying to position itself as peace block and yet at the same time, proffering books and textbooks to young people that instills hatred," he said.

"This type of hate speech has to stop."

Weiner was careful to stress that "language like this is not the teaching in the Quran. It's not the teaching of Islamic thought. This is an attempt, under the guise of Islamic teachings, to sow hate and to sow distrust."

But Weiner did not address Christian and Jewish deviations from their original faith teachings, even though they have resulted in worse results worldwide.

Congress has examined alleged radical teachings in schools for children in the past.

In 2007, a congressionally-appointed panel found that some textbooks used at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia, just outside the US capital Washington, contained language that could incite violence and showed intolerance toward other religions.

No such examination is known to have been conducted on Christian or Jewish hate incitement and intolerance of others.


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