WASHINGTON (BP)–Al-Qaida now appears as the unattractive weak horse of Osama bin Laden’s theory and will find it more difficult to attract recruits and funding. This is an essential battle won for the United States.
However, it is not the end of the war. The glorification of jihad and the Islamist ideology stirring militancy against the “Zionists and Crusaders” lives on to inspire other violent leaders and organizations.
The most prolific proponent of this ideology continues to be Saudi Arabia. Contrary to the assurances of educational reform it has given the U.S. government, the Saudi regime’s high school religion textbooks — as I learned on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia — have not been substantially revised since 9/11. These texts are used in all Saudi high schools and exported worldwide to hundreds or thousands of Islamic schools and madrassas.
Below are a few samples excerpted from the 2010–11 Saudi national high school textbooks, which have found their echo in bin Laden’s frequent rants over the past decade:
— “Jihad for the sake of God is a profitable trade and saves from painful punishment. It aims at spreading Islam and defending it and correcting the beliefs of people and directing them towards the worship of God Almighty. It also aims at preventing injustice and corruption and rooting out its origins from earth.”
— “Jihad has three levels: … The third level: Jihad against the fighting enemies of Islam to empower the religion, protect it and raise the banner of Islam.”
— “The Jews and the Christians are enemies of the believers, and they cannot approve of Muslims.”
— “The struggle of this [Muslim] nation with the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.”
— “The Crusader Threat: The New Approach in the Crusader Wars: … The Establishment of Schools and Universities: They have founded many schools and universities in the countries of the Islamic world for the various educational levels. These include: The American Universities in Beirut and Cairo, The Jesuit University, Robert College in Istanbul, and Gordon College in Khartoum.”
— “Nowadays, as have gathered [against] the Arab and Islamic nation the powers of evil, atheism, and tyranny targeting the Islamic creed, the whole nation lives in a Jihad against international Zionism manifested by the state of Jewish gangs called Israel established on the land of Palestine wrongfully and in transgression.”
Our main challenge is an ideological one, and we don’t stand a chance if Saudi Arabia does not reform these textbooks.
Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.