CAIRO Ñ At least two Arab allies of the United States are
considering changing the way Islam is taught by their mosques and schools.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia are reviewing Islam curricula amid the
recent wave of Al Qaida suicide bombings in the Middle East. The two
countries have been considering curriculum revisions as
well as examining the role of clerics.
Officials in Egypt and Saudi Arabia acknowledge that the United States
has pressed for a review of Islamic teachings since the Al Qaida strikes on
York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Fifteen of the 19 Al Qaida suicide
hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Diplomatic sources said the Al Qaida suicide attacks in Casablanca
and Riyad over the last week have alarmed the regimes in Arab allies of the
United States. They said some of the regimes have concluded that many
Islamic preachers and instructors hampered public support for any
In Saudi Arabia, officials described a major review of clerics
throughout the kingdom. They said 1,000 mosque preachers and other staff
have been replaced over the last year.
In addition, the kingdom is expected to appoint its first commission on
civil and human rights. The panel will consist of 40 prominent Saudis and
will be announced by next week.
In Egypt, the effort was said to have been launched over the last two
months. Arab diplomatic sources said clerics deemed as anti-West have been
either fired from state jobs or denied access to state radio and television,
which broadcast from major mosques during Friday prayers.
Egyptian Islamic Affairs Minister Mahmoud Hamedi Zaqzouq said his
ministry has begun revising sermons given in state-run mosques. Zaqzouq told
a seminar in the Al Qalyubia governorate on Monday that the effort is meant
to ensure that sermons given by clerics paid by the ministry are "in
accordance to the correct Islam."
The minister said clerics would be ordered to return to what he termed
were the original principles of Islam. This, he said, would ensure
that social, rather than political, issues would be discussed.
The Riyad seminar is meant to discuss the Muslim curriculum in 13
countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. They
include Israel, Jordan and Morocco.
"Changing the Saudi school curriculum should be done according to
detailed and objective research carried out by those who have expert
knowledge in the area," Abdul Rahman Al Turairi, dean of education at King
Saud University, and a leading organizer of the symposium, said. "We aim to
present a comparative study between our school curriculum and those that
exist in many other countries, and so give researchers and
specialists a complete international perspective of developing what we
should teach in Saudi Arabia."
In March, Egypt's leading state-financed clerics urged Muslims to wage a
holy war against Western allies that invade Iraq. Some of them also
expressed support for Palestinian suicide bombings. In the aftermath of the
U.S. victory over Iraq, some of those clerics have revised their positions.
In Rabat, the Moroccan parliament has moved to approve legislation that
would facilitate investigations and arrests of suspected Islamic insurgents.
The legislation, expected to be approved in a vote on Wednesday, had been
delayed for four months amid objections that the bill violated human rights.
On Wednesday, the kingdom hosted a two-day symposium on revising the
Saudi educational curriculum. The Riyad conference, entitled, "Curricula:
Principles and Fundamentals," has been chaired by Higher Education Minister
Khaled Al Anqari.