Textbook Tolerance

Gulf of Hate


This winter, the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates—agreed to begin revising public school textbooks to remove inflammatory passages. Among the lessons Gulf kids will no longer be studying are sweeping condemnations of Jews and Christians, disquisitions on the iniquity of infidels, and a Q&A that begins "God hates…." (Answer: "Infidels.")

So far, the modernization effort appears to be having mixed success. Kuwaiti Education Minister Rasheed al-Hamad promised the new textbooks will "not encourage pupils to hate other people and religions," while officials in Qatar and the UAE say such revisions have been underway since shortly after 9/11. In Saudi Arabia, however, a group of prominent intellectuals and religious leaders condemned the effort as "the path of infidels."

Speaking of which, a study conducted by the Merlin consumer research firm shortly after the council's announcement provides a more compelling reason to be optimistic: Saudi kids are now watching between three and five hours of television a day.