After touring the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Saudi-born liberal Mansour al-Hadj described how education in his birth country did not consider the Holocaust to be a crime, but rather an ideal.
"[M]ost of what I heard was that the Jews exaggerated the number of victims, that they used the Holocaust to arouse the world's pity, and that they indisputably deserved their fate," al-Hadj wrote in an article for Saudi reformist website Aafaq. The article was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
"I did not feel any empathy toward the victims of the Holocaust, despite the atrocious things that happened to them, only because they were Jews. The word ['Jew'] was associated in my mind with negative qualities like deceit, enmity, racism, miserliness, and going back on one's word," he added. He was instead taught the ideas of scholars like the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who praised the Holocaust and prayed that "Allah willing, the next time [this happens, it] will be at the hands of the believers."
Saudi authorities repeatedly refused to make the Holocaust part of national studies, al-Hadj wrote, but instead "continue to incite to violence and hatred against non-Muslims in general and Jews in particular." Currently, Saudi textbooks teach that there is an eternal conflict between "heresy and faith" and between the Muslims and Jews that will end in the destruction of one of the religions.
A lack of education about the Holocaust and similar crimes has desensitized Saudi society from the prejudices that led to state-sanctioned hate, al-Hadj wrote. Hatred toward foreigners in the kingdom resembled the ostracizing of Jews practiced by the Nazis, particularly the portrayal of foreigners as "plundering all the good of the land."
"From my visit to the museum, I learned that what happened to the Jews was a human tragedy in the full sense of the word, and that it is a grave mistake to deny it, to downplay its horror, or to justify it, and that all people must work together so that it will never happen again to any nation in the world," he wrote. With such an education, Saudi kids could play a role in a better future "in which tolerance, mutual understanding, and respect will prevail."