The outcomes of the Arab Spring remind us how Middle Eastern countries are divided along religious fault lines that are easily shattered by violence. Yet governments in the region have tried to forge a sense of national unity that transcends religious divisions, and one vehicle has been teaching a common version of Islam in public schools. It hasn't worked. Inclusiveness under one religious umbrella has instead created categories of excluded citizens, while discontent has been channeled into a world-wide wave of radicalism influenced by Saudi Arabia's textbook version of Islam. So what's in those textbooks that inspires transnational militancy?
Dr. Eleanor Abdella Doumato is an historian and consultant who specializes in gender and Islamic education in the Gulf region. Her books include Getting God’s Ear: Women, Islam, and Healing in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, which explores the historical impact of Wahhabism on women, and a co-edited volume, Teaching Islam: Religion and Textbooks in the Middle East.