A leading Republican congresswoman is urging President Bush to use his scheduled visit with Saudi Arabia's king on Friday to lobby for reform in Saudi textbooks.
U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-NC, wrote to President Bush May 5 expressing concern that Saudi reforms may be focused internally and not on alleviating the threat radicalized Saudi citizens pose internationally.
"While Saudi Arabia is our ally in the Global War on Terrorism, the textbooks used to educate their children, as well as some of our children who attend schools receiving Wahhabi-funds, are spread a dangerous ideology that attacked us on 9/11 and continues to threaten the United States and its allies around the world," Myrick wrote.
It is not clear whether the President will act on Myrick's request or whether the Saudis would listen. His trip to Saudi Arabia reportedly is focused on marking the 75th anniversary of formal relations between the two countries. President Bush also is expected to press King Abdullah to increase oil production. A similar request in January was ignored.
*Updated May 16, 11:30 a.m. (Here's a link to the White House release on President Bush's meeting. There is no reference to education or other cultural reform.)
Few would argue with the need to decrease oil prices. But Myrick's letter was meant to remind President Bush there are other issues with the Saudis that require discussion.
"The President has a rare face to face meeting with King Abdullah, and Rep. Myrick wrote the letter in hopes of reminding the White House that these are serious issues that Americans want addressed," said spokesman Andy Polk.
Similar concerns about Saudi textbooks were expressed in February, when by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., questioned whether a $20 million endowment from a Saudi Arabian prince had a chilling effect on academic research critical of that country's educational and political policies.
Myrick, a seven-term incumbent, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and established the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus. She issued a 10-point action plan seeking closer scrutiny of extremist groups and activities within the U.S. and
Last month, Myrick called on the State Department to revoke former President Jimmy Carter's passport after Carter met with leaders of Hamas, a group the United States designates as a terrorist organization.
The issue of extremism in Wahhabi textbooks has been well documented. In 2005, Nina Shea, then the director of the Center for Religious Freedom, told the Senate Judiciary Committee about materials taken from a dozen U.S. mosques from New York to Texas to Los Angeles.
"They demonstrate the ongoing efforts by Saudi Arabia to indoctrinate Muslims in the United States in the hostility and belligerence of Saudi Arabia's hard-line Wahhabi sect of Islam," Shea testified.
Among the findings were books advocating that women be veiled, segregated from men and prohibited from certain jobs and other activities. In addition, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" a fraudulent narrative of Jewish global dominance is treated as valid, and eliminating Israel is considered "the Muslim's duty."
The issue of Saudi extremism has been a longstanding problem, but it is no less pressing today. Various experts have testified before Congress and met with administration officials warning of the dangerous affects such teaching and preaching surely will have.
Look no further than this week's headlines to see the problem first hand. A report in The New York Times chronicling the issues facing various young Saudis, mostly concerning relations between young men and women, contained the following passage:
In Enad's view, jihad is, too, not the more moderate approach that emphasizes doing good deeds, but the idea of picking up a weapon and fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Jihad is not a crime; it is a duty," Enad said in casual conversation.
"If someone comes into your house, will you stand there or will you
fight them?" Enad said, leaning forward, his short, thick hands resting
on his knees. "Arab or Muslim lands are like one house."
Those sentiments should surprise no one who has a rudimentary understanding of what Saudi children are taught in their schools. It seems to explain what motivated Rep. Myrick's letter.