Saudis warned not to alter textbooks

Some 150 Saudis, including judges and university professors have signed a document warning the kingdom against changing its Islam-based school curricula.

    Crown Prince Abd Allah(C) is recipient of petition for reform

    The warning, which was obtained by Reuters on Saturday, was signed on 1 January, a day after Saudi intellectuals, clerics and prominent personalities recommended educational reforms at the end of a conference held to address "militancy".

    Saudi Arabia is battling a wave of attacks by armed dissidents believed to be linked to Saudi-born Usama bin Ladin's al-Qaida. The attacks have killed more than 50 people since May 2003.

    In October, Education Ministry officials began removing references they saw as encouraging "militancy".
     
    ٍٍٍٍٍSaudi Arabia, along with five other Gulf countries, also agreed last month to amend its school books. 

    Changes criticised
     
    The warning criticised the proposed changes in the curriculum as American pressure that was aimed at "taking the kingdom along the path of infidels".

    "Any omissions or mutilation of what was written by the Islamic scholars... contradicts the national unity the state is calling for, as this unity is based on our religious creed," the
    statement said.

    "Any omissions or mutilation of what was written by the Islamic scholars... contradicts the national unity the state is calling for, as this unity is based on our religious creed"

    Statement by scholars

    Reformists in the conservative kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, criticised the warning. "This is an attempt by hardliners who benefit from the status quo to keep their
    influence," said one, who declined to be named.
     
    The signatories included Shaikh Safar al-Hawali, a cleric with links to armed dissidents who reportedly encouraged some of them to surrender to the police.

    It named others as Nasir al-Umar, a professor at an Islamic university, and Abd Allah bin Jibrin, a former religious authority.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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