getting to know saudi arabia: textbooks and women

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    The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), which has conducted surveys of Israeli, Syrian and PA school textbooks in the past, has undertaken a similar survey of Saudi Arabian textbooks, with the cooperation of the American Jewish Committee. The report presents the worldview to which Saudi students aged 6-16 are exposed through their textbooks. The study examined 93 books taught in grades 1-10, mostly from the years 1999-2002. Some of its main findings are the following:

    * Education in Saudi Arabia is centered around Islam, and Saudi Arabia is presented as a country where Islam plays the dominant role in state and society, in the judicial and educational systems, and in everyday life. Islam is presented as the only true religion, while all other religions are presented as false and their believers are bound for Hell.

    * Christians and Jews, specifically, are denounced as infidels and enemies of Islam and of Muslims. Muslims may not befriend them, nor emulate them in any way, lest that lead to love and friendship, which is forbidden.

    * The West is the source of the past and present misfortunes of the Muslim world, especially via cultural and intellectual influence in various fields such as Western democracy, Western influence in the fields of literature, art, music, the media and fashion, Western-inspired ideologies such as nationalism, Western influence in education and research, Christian missionary work, Western humanitarian and medical aid, alcoholic drinks, and even Western-invented computer games. The West itself is a decaying society on its way to extinction, the symptoms of which are the absence of spirituality, the practice of adultery and sodomy that increase the number of AIDS cases in the West, and the large number of suicides in Western society.

    * The Jews are a wicked nation, characterized by bribery, slyness, deception, betrayal, aggressiveness and haughtiness. Their present occupation of Palestine constitutes a danger to the neighboring Muslim countries. The Jews have been a harmful element in world history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are presented as an authentic historical source, and Zionism is presented as an evil movement. Israel is not recognized as a sovereign state, nor does its name appear on any map; all maps bear the name Palestine.

    * Peace between Muslims and non-Muslims is not advocated. Instead, the Saudi Arabian textbooks, even grammar books, are full of phrases exalting war, Jihad, and martyrdom.

    A column by Joel Mowbray in today's Washington Times details another aspect of Saudi Arabian life: Its women. Excerpts from the article:
    "Tens of thousands of women are abused in Saudi Arabia each year. According to the Saudi government, some 19,000 domestic servants - almost exclusively foreign women working in Saudi Arabia as maids - escaped from Saudi homes in the 12 months prior to March 2001. The real figure is likely far higher, because the government statistic counts only those women who go to government-run shelters for "runaway" domestics, which human rights experts view as no more than a PR ploy. Women who show up at Saudi police stations seeking help are instead locked up and remain jailed until their employers reclaim them."

    Mowbray writes that conditions are not much better among Saudis living in the U.S. who employ women.
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