As current and former heads of major American publishing houses, we know the value of words. They inform actions and shape the world views of all, especially children. We are writing to express our profound disappointment that the Saudi government continues to print textbooks inciting hatred and violence against religious minorities.
A ninth-grade textbook published by the Ministry of Education states, “The Jews and the Christians are enemies of the believers, and they cannot approve of Muslims.” An eighth-grade textbook says, “The Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.” These are just two examples of a long list of hate-filled passages.
Children who are indoctrinated with such hatred are susceptible to engage in bigotry and even violence. Hate speech is the precursor to genocide. First you get to hate and then you kill. This makes peaceful coexistence difficult, if not impossible.
No one wrote about this subject in a way children could understand better than the famous American lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. His words, set to music by Richard Rodgers in the American musical South Pacific, are memorable. Saudi education minister Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah would go a long way to changing the current feelings by putting them in Saudi textbooks instead of the hate they are preaching now.
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught from year to year, It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught! You’ve got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a different shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are 6 or 7 or 8, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught! You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Despite repeated promises to reform Saudi textbooks, the most recent books remain full of bigotry and intolerance. We call on Saudi Arabia to immediately stop distributing and printing children’s textbooks that incite hatred of others.