U.S. State Dept. Buries Evidence of Saudi Textbook Incitement Against Christians, Jews

U.S. President Barack Obama with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the King's farmhouse outside of Riyadh in 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the King's farmhouse outside of Riyadh in 2009.

A study commissioned by the State Department which shows the systematic indoctrination of Saudi school children with extremist ideology through their school textbooks has been suppressed by the very government agency that requested it.

Directed by the Obama administration not willing to rock the boat at a time when American relations with Saudi Arabia are strained, the State Department has refused to make the results of the study public.

In 2011, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), a non-profit organization, was contracted by the State Department to conduct a comprehensive study on Saudi Arabia’s government-issued textbooks, which are used both inside the kingdom and abroad – including those in the United States. By 2012, the report was ready.

Yet, because the results were so damning to the Saudis -- showing intense religious hatred to Christians and Jews, as well as incitement to act against them -- the report was never made public. The accusations of intentional suppression were made by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank head by former CIA chief R. James Woolsey.

The Foundation reports that a State Department official confirmed that ICRD was paid half a million dollars to conduct the study, which is referred to on ICRD’s website. The same official claimed that the project was not a “study” but was in actuality a “technical assistance program” designed to help the kingdom identify areas where reforms need to be made.

The Foundation asserts that withholding the results of the study is a supreme disservice to the American public and quotes Michael Posner, who directed the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor when the study was commissioned. “The broader issue to me is a security interest … when you have schools or texts or the combination that are essentially reinforcing the worst stereotypes and promoting this vitriolic approach, you’re actually radicalizing young people for the next generation,” Posner said.

In a report titled “Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Educational Materials,” the Foundation also quotes Stuart Levy, the former Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence for the U.S. Department of Treasury. Levy contends that fighting this indoctrination is “even more important” than fighting terrorist finance. “Unless the next generation of children is taught to reject violent extremism, we will forever be faced with the challenge of disrupting the next group of terrorist facilitators and supporters,” Levy added.

In addition to schools within the kingdom, the textbooks are sent for free to close to 20 Saudi-run academies abroad, including those in the United States.

The Foundation remarks that, “It is worth noting that the 1999 valedictorian of a Saudi Academy in northern Virginia that used the Kingdom’s textbooks is currently serving a life sentence for conspiring with al Qaeda to assassinate President George W. Bush.”

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, when it emerged that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, successive U.S. governments have tried to influence the Saudis to rewrite its textbooks which were found to contain hateful, extremist material.

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