WASHINGTON — In the classroom and across Saudi society, Saudi officials insist their message has changed dramatically. The land that produced 15 of the 9/11 hijackers now officially preaches religious tolerance and moderation.
In numerous statements, senior Saudi officials have specifically claimed that the kingdom has cleaned up all school textbooks.
"We eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system," says Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
There has been progress. However, a new study found examples of intolerance, even hate, in multiple Saudi textbooks now used in grades 1-12.
Nina Shea's group — the Center for Religious Freedom — examined textbooks used during the past school year, and found the following teachings, which were verified by NBC News:
- Jews and Christians are "enemies" of Muslims.
- Every religion other than Islam is "false."
- "The hour [of Judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them."
"It's taught that Christians and Jews are the enemy of the Muslim," says Shea. "And that the Muslim must wage jihad in order to spread the faith in battle against the infidel."
What's more, an eighth grade text equates Jews with "apes" and Christian infidels with "swine." A tenth grade text teaches that the life of a Muslim is worth twice that of a non-Muslim.
"This is the ideological foundation for building tomorrows' terrorists," says Shea.
And it's not just textbooks. In Canada, moderate Muslims like Tarek Fatah charge that militant literature provided by the Saudis is radicalizing some young Muslims, like the 17 men arrested there last month for planning bombings in Canada.
"I see Saudi influence," says Fatah, the communications director of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
Fatah says a version of the Quran sent to Canada from Saudi Arabia in his possession includes added language encouraging jihad.
"The Quran does not ask people to conduct war against non-Muslims, but that's what the Saudis are distributing," says Fatah.
In one example, the word "Jews" is added to the translation, identifying "people" who have "strayed from God's laws."
"It's totally unethical, immoral and un-Islamic to do that, to play around with the words of God," says Fatah.
Middle Eastern sources tell NBC that the Saudi government has stopped distributing the Qurans in question. As for the textbooks, Saudi officials say they can only change as much and as fast as Saudi society allows, and that they are more concerned about how reforms are perceived at home than in the United States.