Recently, U.S. Freedom House’s Centre for Religious Freedom released a report analyzing the syllabus and textbook of Islamic studies courses used in Saudi schools. One of the important findings is that ideology of hatred and enmity toward Christians, Jews and Muslims who do not subscribe to the Wahhabi doctrine remains in this area of the public school system.
The research was quite comprehensive since it involved several researchers from Middle East who collected the study materials for elementary and secondary students. Most of them was concerning on theology (tawheed), Islamic jurisprudence (fikh) and prophet traditions (hadith). Despite of the fact that the object of research was Saudi Arabia, this finding is interesting and important to discuss since the issue of Islamic teaching and doctrine is concerning Muslims in general. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is regarded as the Islamic “centre” and “model” for most of Muslim in the world.
Saudi Arabia is a state that rigorously applies the Islamic law (sharia). Formally, it has declared itself as the Islamic kingdom and implemented social regulations in Islamic way. Islamic education is being over-emphasized by separating boys and girls in schools and inserting religious materials in every discipline of science.
The Saudi schools curriculum is not quite unique. Some Islamic doctrine and teaching in the curriculum can be easily found in any other schools in the Middle East. We even find some of them among Indonesian schools. In general, the Islamic studies curriculum in the Muslim world was taken from the main sources of Islam i.e. Quran and hadith. Other sources were literatures of fikh and theology written by previous ulema, which some of them contained intolerance and enmity toward other religions and sects. That was natural because the era of Islamic formation has been colored by tensions and clashes with non-Muslims as well as Muslim dissidents. No wonder in these textbooks, we find hatred propagation toward Jews, Christians or Shiite, which is along with Sufism, were condemned and denigrated by the Saudi government.
Almost every Islamic studies textbook in Saudi schools –and I think in any other Muslim countries as well- taught about the universality of Islam and that it is the only true religion. This doctrine is not the creation of ulema, but it is derived directly from Quran that says: “And who seek as religion other than Islam it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter.” (Sura 3:85)
It demonize other major religions “deviant, bad, and enemies of Islam”. This perception is derived from Quran: “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed.” (Sura 2:120).
Hatred and enmity toward other religions were cultivated within Muslim children minds since the very beginning. A textbook for the first grade, for instance, put the question bellow: “Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________.”
Students of the fourth grade were taught about the true belief (iman) which means, “that you hate the polytheists (musyrik) and infidels (kafir) but do not treat them unjustly.” Polytheists and infidels are always referred to the Jews, Christians, and other religion than of Islam. It always emphasized on the enmity toward the adherents of other faith.
In this case, “unbelievers” does not only refer to Jews and Christians, but whoever adhere different belief, including non-Wahhabi Muslims who do not adhere particular understanding of Islam. This is for the sixth grade, with additional affirmation that Muslims are brothers even without blood relationship, but non-Muslims are enemies although they are relatives.
The eight grade students were given more profound study materials, with some hatred nuances such as about Prophet’s saying (which is probably not the sound one) as cited in Ibn Abbas: “The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus.”
Hatred toward Jews and Christians was preserved for good. Students of the ninth grade were taught that the clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills. Students of higher grade were given broader and more analytical study materials, with some obvious discrimination here and there. The tenth grade text on Islamic jurisprudence (fikh) teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women, and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a “free Muslim male.”
The treatment upon non-Muslims in those curriculums is parallel to the treatment upon women. Referring to the classic book of fikh, women are entitled to only half the inheritance of males, and woman’s testimony in court is worth only half of a man’s.
With such curriculum, no wonder many has believed in the strong connection between Arabs’ religiosity and doctrines being taught in their schools. The spirit of hatred toward America, the infidel state where many Jews and Christians live, has been implemented by crushing the WTC on 11th September 2001. Aren’t 15 of the 19 hijackers were the citizens of Saudi Arabia?
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