…of religion as it relates to education, this week hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims will make their way to Mecca for the Hajj.

The New York Times yesterday ran an interesting piece, written by a Muslim, titled "The Destruction of Mecca." Here is the concluding paragraph:
Mecca is a microcosm of the Muslim world. What happens to and in the city has a profound effect on Muslims everywhere. The spiritual heart of Islam is an ultramodern, monolithic enclave, where difference is not tolerated, history has no meaning, and consumerism is paramount. It is hardly surprising then that literalism, and the murderous interpretations of Islam associated with it, have become so dominant in Muslim lands.
The author, Ziauddin Sardar, did manage to leave out one interesting tidbit of information – non-Muslims are prohibited from visiting Mecca – but his thesis is solid nonetheless.

How is this ‘literalism’ perpetuated? Through education, in part.

Here is the State Department’s 2013 International Religious Freedom Report for Saudi Arabia:
Revisions to textbooks for grades 10, 11, and 12, which were slated for review and reform, had not been undertaken by year’s end. The textbooks retained inflammatory and anti-Semitic material. For example, the textbooks stated apostates from Islam should be killed if they did not repent within three days of being warned, and described Islamic minorities and Christians as heretics. Some Quranic passages likening Jews and Christians to apes and swine continued to be included. The textbooks also stated treachery was a "permanent characteristic" of non-Muslims, especially Jews, propagated conspiracy theories that international organizations such as Masons support Zionism, and presented historical forgeries, such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as fact.

The Ministry of Education stated the textbooks for grades one through nine were reformed in 2012 to remove intolerant language. Textbooks for these grades continued to contain directives to kill "sorcerers" and socially exclude infidels as well as accusations that Jews, Christians, Shia, and Sufis did not properly adhere to monotheism.
But it’s not all bad news. Some Christians and Jews are, apparently, "prone to goodness." Who knew?
Textbooks at all levels contained positive statements as well, including rejection of terrorism, acknowledgement that some People of the Book (understood to be Jews and Christians) "are prone to goodness," and support for religious tolerance.
So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.
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