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July 26, 2017 10:27 am

Former Congressman: Saudi Curriculum Used in US Still Promotes Radicalization

avatar by Steven Emerson

President Donald Trump (left) and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement for the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Royal Court Palace in Riyadh, May 20, 2017. Photo: Shealah Craighead / White House.

Saudi Arabia has made progress in ridding its school textbooks and curricula of comments and statements hostile toward other faiths, former US Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., said last week in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. But more needs to be done, he said, including taking steps to ensure that Saudi teachers aren’t promoting “a more radicalized version of Islam.”

For example, Wolf expressed concern that educational material used by the Saudi government-funded Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia may have potentially been responsible for inspiring terrorism. He cited the example of Ahmed Abu Ali, a former valedictorian at the school, who is currently in prison at the superman complex in Colorado for plotting to assassinate a former US president.

“While it is impossible to say whether Mr. Abu Ali was directly radicalized by the textbooks used at the Islamic Saudi Academy, the use of books that promote religious discrimination and the justification of violence toward non-believers cannot be tolerated,” Wolf said.

The former congressman expressed frustration that the US State Department never met with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to translate the textbooks used at the school.

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The Islamic Saudi Academy has since closed, and been replaced by the King Abdullah Academy, which is also funded by Saudi Arabia’s government. No publicly available information is available on textbooks used at the new school.

During his House tenure, and since joining the Wilberforce Initiative in 2015, Wolf has been a leading voice against intolerance and incitement to violence promoted by Saudi Arabia’s government-published textbooks.

Although Saudi Arabia’s promotion and export of radical Wahhabism, including through its school textbooks, remains a concern, Wolf said that there’s a reason more researchers aren’t focused on the problem: “By funding top American university research centers, the Saudi government has been able to minimize the voices of those in academia who would otherwise have the best means of researching the effects of radical Wahhabism. In other countries, such as Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Indonesia, [the Saudis] have continued to promote radicalism.”

Wolf urged the federal government to follow USCIRF recommendations to annually review Saudi education textbooks to see if passages that teach religious intolerance have been removed, and press the Saudi government to try to eliminate older versions of Saudi textbooks containing material that teach hatred and intolerance of others.

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