On NYT and IHT:"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 a BBC documentary broadcast on Monday.
The 30-minute “Panorama” program quoted the Saudi government-supplied textbook as saying that Jews “looked like monkeys and pigs,” and that Zionists set out to achieve “world domination.” The program quoted a separate part of the curriculum — for children as young as 6 — saying that someone who is not a believer in Islam at death would be condemned to “hellfire.”
The program said the textbooks had been obtained by an “undercover” Saudi Arabian researcher who asked for them during a visit to one of the Saudi-backed schools and clubs, which meet in the evenings and on weekends in a network that is linked to the cultural bureau of the Saudi Embassy in London.
On Monday, the embassy did not respond to requests 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 the BBC 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 offenders off a cliff. Another set out the punishments prescribed by Shariah law for theft, including amputation of hands and feet. A BBC video accompanying an article on the program’s Web site showed a textbook illustration of a hand and a foot marked to show where amputations should be made.
Michael Gove, the education minister in the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, said on the program that the government would not tolerate “anti-Semitic material of any kind in English schools.” He elaborated in interviews with British newspapers, saying there was also no place in British schools for teachings against gay men and lesbians. 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 issued as the program was broadcast. “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.”
Mr. Gove added that Ofsted, the government-appointed agency with oversight of education and children’s services, would be “reporting to us shortly” on measures to tighten oversight of part-time schools, whose teaching is currently free of the controls imposed on full-time schools.
“Panorama,” 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 BBC program that the material cited from the textbooks was taken from ancient texts, and 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.”