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Saudi Government Extremism and the U.S. Response

By Imam Talal Eid and Nina Shea

1/26/2010 Saudi Arabia (The Huffington Post) – Terrorists are not born, they’re made. Extremist indoctrination is the first step in this process, an indisputable fact accepted by security experts and terror cell leaders alike. Administration officials have openly acknowledged this, noting that the growing list of Americans accused of terrorist acts are being inspired by “al-Qaeda and radical ideology.”

One such ideology comes from Saudi Arabia and is based on the Saudi government’s interpretation of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam. It has been described as kindling for Osama bin Laden’s match by some prominent terrorism experts, though of course the vast majority of those who are exposed to this ideology never go on to commit terrorist acts. Saudi Arabia’s role in inspiring terrorists has caused the Obama Administration to designate the country this week as one of 14 countries whose nationals will face enhanced security upon entering the United States. In addition, Saudi Arabia has been on the State Department’s religious freedom blacklist for engaging in egregious violations since 2004, yet the U.S. has invoked a national interest waiver on any actions (which could include sanctions) every year since then, in effect, giving Saudi Arabia a free pass.

With the Saudi counterterrorism program now in its seventh year and the curriculum reform deadline long past, its religion textbooks, however, continue to assert highly inflammatory teachings. In October 2009, the State Department, while still praising the Saudi educational reform pledge, reported with typical diplomatic understatement that reforms remained “incomplete.” In fact the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reconfirmed this month that the textbooks currently posted on the Saudi Ministry of Education’s website still teach hatred toward other religions and, in some cases, promote violence.

One ninth grade book, for example, teaches that “Jews and Christians are enemies of the believers, and they cannot approve of Muslims.” Twelfth grade books justify killing an apostate, a polytheist, and an adulterer. Controversial interpretations of “jihad” also remain in the textbooks. The schoolbooks refer students for moral advice to Ibn Taymiyyah, the medieval scholar of takfiri thought, whose fatwas West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center identifies as “by far the most popular texts for modern Jihadis.” In addition, the recent State Department’s report on religious freedom finds that many teachers go unpunished for promoting intolerance in the classroom.

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