Manama: Saudi Arabia’s schoolbooks and curricula are free of the “contamination” from the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, one of the country’s ministers has said.
“The books and the curricula in our schools have no link with the Muslim Brotherhood dogma,” Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Eisa, Minister of Education said.
“The past issues about the Brotherhood’s influence were linked to the extra-curricular activities in some schools and to the mentality of some teachers. The ministry had dealt with both.”
Schoolbooks reflect the genuine values of Saudi society, are in line with state policy, and cannot be linked in any way with the Muslim Brotherhood, he added.
In March, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman told CBS News that “Saudi schools have been invaded by many elements from the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, surely to a great extent.”
“Even now, there are some elements left. It will be a short while until they are all eradicated completely. No country in the world would accept that its educational system be invaded by any radical group,” he said.
‘Root of all problems’
Saudi Arabia declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation in March 2014 and had worked diligently to put an end to its infiltration of the society and on curbing and eliminating its influence.
The Muslim Brotherhood, established in the Egyptian city Ismailya in March 1928, came in regular contact with Saudis in the 1950s, when thousands of Egyptian teachers were recruited to work in Saudi Arabia’s emerging public schools.
For many of them, it was an opportunity to flee Egypt where the ruling elite was planning to eliminate them whereas, for Saudis, they were teachers who would provide formal education for their young people.
However, as the number of Egyptian teachers who supported the Muslim Brotherhood grew in Saudi Arabia, they sought to organise themselves and set up a branch or at least an offshoot to help them with their agenda in the kingdom.
But, the Saudi authorities flatly refused to give the Brotherhood a chance to use religion for political purposes.
King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz, who ruled from 1964 to 1975, reportedly explained the refusal by telling the Muslim Brotherhood: “All Saudis are Muslims and as such, they do not need an organisation to spread Islamic ideology.”
The Brotherhood got the message and stuck to its limits in terms of influence amid local aversion to their ideology.
However, after several years, they crossed the limits and sought a more decisive status that would empower them to influence Saudi society.
Their moves sparked the anger of the late Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, the interior minister, who in 2002, became highly critical of their attitudes and vocally shared his suspicion of their tendency to “politicise Islam for self-serving purposes”.
“I can tell you without the slightest hesitation that the root of all our problems and issues is the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said in an interview with Kuwaiti daily Al Siyassah.
“When matters became extremely difficult for them and gallows were readied for them in their home countries, they came to the [Saudi] kingdom that looked after them, took care of them, preserved their dignity and made them feel safe. After some time, they wanted to work and we helped them by opening the schools and the universities, but they unfortunately revived their past links and started recruiting people and founding movements. They turned against the kingdom. They should not have hurt the kingdom. If they wanted to say something, they should have uttered abroad and not in the country that honoured them,” he said.
In 2003, the Muslim Brotherhood joined other Islamist societies that objected to the presence of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia in the Second Gulf War against the Iraqi regime.
In 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood hailed the election of Mohammad Mursi as president of Egypt and openly supported uprisings in Arab countries, sending a shock wave across Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
With its masks coming off and self-serving agendas laid bare, the Brotherhood could no longer be trusted and in 2014, Saudi Arabia declared it a “terrorist organisation”.
Riyadh warned affiliates, supporters and sympathisers of the Brotherhood and all other intellectual or religious groups and offshoots categorised as extremist or terrorist that they would face jail terms varying between three to 20 years for disruptive activities, incitement and funding.
The decision was widely welcomed in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries amid concerns that the society was spreading its tentacles ominously in the region.