Beliefnet News

By Ashly McGlone
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — A federal religious freedom watchdog panel says it has reviewed textbooks used in a Saudi-run school in northern Virginia and confirmed that they contain passages that promote violence and intolerance.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Wednesday (June 11) that the most troubling elements of the textbooks at the Islamic Saudi Academy refer to the interpretation of the Quran.

Excerpts from “Tafsir,” a Quran interpretation book for 12th graders, state that it is permissible for a Muslim to kill an apostate, an adulterer, or someone who has murdered a Muslim intentionally, the commission said.

Another textbook, “Tawhid,” says Muslims may take the life and property of followers of “polytheism” faiths, which the panel said would include Christians, Jews, Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.

The K-12 academy has been under scrutiny by the religious freedom panel and others for allegedly teaching a violent interpretation of Islam. The school’s Web site says ISA “not only promotes respect and mutual understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims…it strives for its staff and students to uphold tolerance, honesty, integrity and compassion.”

The commission had asked the State Department to obtain and release all Arabic-language textbooks used at the school’s two locations. Under pressure, the ISA distributed some textbooks, but the panel said those books did not contain the most troubling passages.

The Saudi government, which runs the school, had earlier promised “to remove remaining references that disparage Muslims or non-Muslims or that promote hatred toward other religions or religious groups” from its textbooks.

The commission said judging from the materials they reviewed, that job remains incomplete.
“These troubling passages should be modified, clarified, or removed altogether from the next edition of the books in order to bring these books at this Saudi government school into conformity with international human rights standards,” the commission said.

An unidentified woman who answered the phone at the school declined to comment on the report.


Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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