Saudi Arabia vows to eradicate Muslim Brotherhood’s influence on education

Saudi Arabia’s education overhaul is to include redeveloping curricula.
Sunday 25/03/2018
Saudi students sitting for their final high school exam in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.    (AFP)
Seeds of tomorrow. Saudi students sitting for their final high school exam in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. (AFP)

LONDON - Saudi Arabia is overhauling its education curriculum, feared of being a source of breeding intolerance, to remove content deemed influenced by Muslim Brotherhood ideology.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz has said the Saudi educational system had been infiltrated by extremists. Saudi Education Minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Issa said the kingdom was seeking to purge its educational curriculum of Muslim Brotherhood influence and would dismiss employees sympathetic to the group, which is banned in the kingdom.

Issa said members of the Brotherhood’s Egyptian branch who left Egypt in the 1960s and ’70s travelled to Saudi Arabia and infiltrated its public schools and universities, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya news channel reported. Brotherhood members influenced officials and educational professionals, compromising the kingdom’s educational curricula.

Saudi Arabia’s education overhaul is to include redeveloping curricula to guarantee that textbooks are free of Muslim Brotherhood concepts. Books written by or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood will be banned, Issa said.

He added that eradicating Brotherhood ideology would require continued efforts and vigilance from the Education Ministry.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters have an entrenched influence in the kingdom. During this year’s Riyadh International Book Fair, event monitors discovered a stall selling books sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Abdulrahman al-Assem, the general supervisor of the event, said in an interview with MBC that a publishing house was ordered to close its stand.

He said that any publishing house caught selling illegal books would be banned from events in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries. He said more than 80 monitors worked around the clock at the Riyadh book fair to ensure regulations were followed.

In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” Crown Prince Mohammed said extremist Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated Saudi society, including the kingdom’s schools.

“Saudi schools have been invaded by many elements from the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, surely to a great extent. Even now, there are some elements left. It will be a short while until they are all eradicated completely,” the crown prince said.

He resolved that Saudi Arabia would eliminate extremism from its educational system. He said: “No country in the world would accept that its educational system be invaded by any radical group.”

Efforts to stamp out extremist thought come as the kingdom undergoes significant reforms to open it to the world. It has made major strides in women’s rights and started allowing more recreational options for citizens, changes frowned upon or rejected by religious extremists.

During the “60 Minutes” interview, Crown Prince Mohammed addressed the “extremism” label Saudi Arabia was tagged with following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying the goal of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been to drive a wedge between Riyadh and Washington.

“Osama bin Laden recruited 15 Saudis in the 9/11 attacks with a clear objective,” he said. “According to the CIA documents and congressional investigations, Osama bin Laden wanted to create a schism between the Middle East and the West, between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.”