Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Concern at Saudi school plan

Concerns have been raised at plans by the Government of Saudi Arabia to establish a school with an Islamic ethos in Dublin, according to the Irish Times. The plans have been announced in Arabic on the website of the Saudi embassy in Dublin which opened in September. From the Irish Times on Wednesday:
"According to the notice, the decision to set up a school was taken at a meeting in Dublin late last month. The meeting was attended by members of the education committee of the Saudi Shura Council, an unelected body whose members advise the Kingdom’s government, and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Ireland, Abdulaziz Aldriss.

“It was decided in the meeting to establish a Saudi school to teach the children of Saudi citizens and students residing in Ireland,” the website says.

The Saudi embassy insists the plans are at a very early stage, and a spokesperson yesterday declined to give further details. In a statement, the Department of Education said the Saudi government had not been in contact with the department regarding the matter.

Speculation has mounted within Ireland’s 40,000-strong Muslim community over how big the school might be, and whether it will cater for non-Saudi Muslims.

According to the embassy, less than 15 Saudi families live and work in Ireland, and more than 400 Saudi nationals study here, though the latter number is expected to rise in coming years following the Saudi ministry for education’s recognition of more Irish third-level institutions.

Ali Selim, a theologian based at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin, welcomed the plans. Asked about speculation within the Muslim community that the school may incorporate secondary education, he said that if this proved correct it would “achieve a long cherished Muslim ambition” in Ireland.

The plans were welcomed by the parents of Shekinah Egan, the teenage girl whose request to wear the hijab at her school in Gorey, Co Wexford, last year prompted the principal to call for official guidelines to be issued on the wearing of the hijab in State schools. Ms Egan’s father, Liam, who lived with his family for several years in Saudi Arabia, praised what he described as the Kingdom’s “strong commitment” to education both domestically and overseas.“An Islamic secondary school is vital and should be a priority for the community,” he said".
The news will raise concern on a number of fronts. Following 911, the Saudi government came under pressure from the Bush administration to remove alleged incitement to hatred against Jews and Christians from school textbooks. A 2004 Saudi royal study group found that the kingdom's religious studies curriculum "encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other.' " Since then, the Saudi government has claimed repeatedly that it has revised its educational texts. The former Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, lauded the supposed moderation of the revised textbooks/ But as the Washington Post reported in 2006, Saudi textbooks continue to villify non-Muslims - even referring to Christians and Jews as "apes" and "swine". The quotes below are derived from a 74-page review of the supposedly sanitised Saudi curriculum distributed by the Saudi Embassy in Washington:

" Every religion other than Islam is false."

"Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________."


"True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly."


"Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives."

"It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and His Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam."

"A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes God, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion."


"Just as Muslims were successful in the past when they came together in a sincere endeavor to evict the Christian crusaders from Palestine, so will the Arabs and Muslims emerge victorious, God willing, against the Jews and their allies if they stand together and fight a true jihad for God, for this is within God's power."


"As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus."

"God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews, who learned from parts of God's book [the Torah and the Gospels] that God alone is worthy of worship. Despite this, they espouse falsehood through idol-worship, soothsaying, and sorcery. In doing so, they obey the devil. They prefer the people of falsehood to the people of the truth out of envy and hostility. This earns them condemnation and is a warning to us not to do as they did."
"They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied [with them]."
"Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God."
"Activity: The student writes a composition on the danger of imitating the infidels."

"The clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills."
"It is part of God's wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment]."

"Muslims will triumph because they are right. He who is right is always victorious, even if most people are against him."

The 10th-grade text on jurisprudence teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women, and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a "free Muslim male." Blood money is retribution paid to the victim or the victim's heirs for murder or injury:
"Blood money for a free infidel. [Its quantity] is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is 'of the book' or not 'of the book' (such as a pagan, Zoroastrian, etc.).
"Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel."

"The greeting 'Peace be upon you' is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others."
"If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and infidels, one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims."
"Do not yield to them [Christians and Jews] on a narrow road out of honor and respect."

"Jihad in the path of God -- which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it -- is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God."

We must ask - as a society - if we are prepared to allow the promotion of hatred of non-Muslims (referred to as Dhimmis in Sharia law), women and homosexuals into our education system ? We cannot have two-standards - one for Catholicism's role in our education-system and another for that of Islam. If - as Fintan O'Toole claims in the Irish Times - "agents of foreign state should not control our schools" - then that equally ought to apply with respect to the Kingdom's attempts to export its borderline interpretation of Islam into our Repubic. Taking account of the horrors of the Ryan and Murphy reports exposing decades of rampant abuse of Irish children at the hands of the Catholic Church, as well as the rampant incitement to hatred promoted in the Saudi education-system, it is difficult for an objective person to come to any other conclusion than that it is time for the dangerous-liason between religion and education to come to an end. In the context of an increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-faith Ireland, the continued segregation of children on the basis of religion - which increasingly constitutes a de-facto segregation on the basis of nationality - must come to an end. The taxpayer and the State have no stake in perpetuating division, , anti-semitism and anti-Westernism in this Western, Christian country. I speak as an atheist - but one who recognises the comparative tolerance of Christian culture relative to much of the Muslim world - notably with respect to the rights of women and homosexuals. Tolerance is a two-way street.

In particular, this issue is another moment of truth for the Irish Left, many of whom have campaigned tirelessly for the rights of persons historically disenfranchised or downtrodden in Irish society - such as women and gay people. They face an inherent contradiction between their belief in "multiculturalism" (which promotes diversity for its own sake) on the one hand - and the rights of those who would lose those rights if the Saudi system of Sharia Law were to be introduced into this country. It is impossible to separate an education system from the culture it supports. If we allow the seed of Saudi Wahhabism to be sown in our schools, we can wave goodbye to women's rights, gay rights, and freedom of religion as the political system of Saudi Arabia shows. That country outlaws homosexuality and conversion of Muslims to another faith on punishment of death. Premarital-sex is punishable by up to 100 lashes, with adultery punishable by stoning to death. If the Irish Left mean what they say when they call for a more pluralist Ireland, then here is their opportunity to prove it. They should oppose the establishment of this school - and all schools which undermine the cohesion and mutual respect upon which pluralism and tolerance depends.

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