Monday, November 22, 2010

In Britain’s Saudi-Backed Islamic Schools, Objectionable Lessons

There is no way to explain chopping off hands in relativist terms ~ there is the reality of someone losing a hand!

LONDON — A British network of more than 40 part-time Islamic schools and clubs with 5,000 students has been teaching from a Saudi Arabian government curriculum that contains anti-Semitic and homophobic views, including a textbook that asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, according to an investigation by a BBC television documentary unit to be broadcast on Monday .

A Web site article and accompanying video clip released in advance of the 30-minute Panorama program quoted the textbook as saying that Jews “looked like monkeys and pigs”. The article quoted a separate part of the curriculum — for children as young as six — saying that someone who is not a believer in Islam at death would be condemned to “hellfire”.

A commentary on the video said the textbooks had been obtained by an “undercover” Saudi Arabian researcher from one of the schools and clubs, which meet in the evenings and on the weekend in a network overseen by the cultural bureau of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London.

On Monday, the embassy did not respond to requests from for comment, but Saudi officials quoted by the BBC disavowed direct responsibility for the schools and clubs and described the teachings cited in the program as having been “taken out of their historical context”.

One of the textbooks, according to a BBC article about the program, prescribed execution as the penalty for gay sex, and outlined differing viewpoints as to whether death should be by stoning, immolation by fire or throwing people off a cliff. Another set out the punishments prescribed by Shariah law for theft, including amputation of hands and feet. A BBC video accompanying the Web site article showed a textbook illustration of a hand and a foot, marked to show where amputations should be made.

Michael Gove, education minister in the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, issued a statement ahead of the broadcast saying the government would not tolerate “anti-Semitic material of any kind in English schools,” and said in interviews with British newspapers that there was no place in British schools for teachings against homosexuals, either. But Mr. Gove appeared to be at pains not to allow the issue to develop into a confrontation with Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia is a sovereign country,” he said in a statement. “We have no desire or wish to intervene in the decisions that the Saudi government makes in its own education system. But we are clear that we cannot have any anti-Semitic material of any kind being used in English schools.” He added that Ofsted, the government-appointed oversight agency, would be “reporting to us shortly” on measures to tighten oversight of part-time schools, whose teaching is currently free of controls imposed on full-time schools.

The Panorama program, which first appeared on the BBC nearly 60 years ago, is described by the corporation as the world’s longest-running current affairs documentary program. Other Panorama investigative programs in recent years have focused on the Vatican’s restrictive rules for dealing with accusations of child molestation by priests, the Pentagon’s inability to account for billions of dollars spent in Iraq, and a pattern of alleged bribes and kickbacks among coaches and scouts in English professional soccer.

Neal Robinson, a theology professor at Leeds University who has written widely about the Koran and Islamic teachings, said in the video clip taken from the Panorama program that the material cited from the school textbooks was taken from ancient texts that were not part of mainstream Islamic teaching.

But he added: “To present it cold, as it is here, as part of the teaching of Islam, is not wise. In the wrong hands, yes, I think it is ammunition for anti-Semitism.”

NY Times

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