EXCLUSIVE: Censoring Textbooks For Arab Dictators

Robot policemen in Dubai. (Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/GettyImages)
A robot police officer (r) in Dubai. (Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/GettyImages)

A major Western publishing house is censoring English-language textbooks for publication in a Middle Eastern dictatorship, Clarion Project has learned.

A source who works within the publishing industry who spoke to Clarion on the condition of anonymity revealed the extent of the censorship after becoming appalled at what was being asked.

“Shakespeare, Whitman and other major english language writers have to be redacted,” they said.

The country, which we cannot name, commissioned the publishing house to edit textbooks used to teach English to high school students in grades 6-12. In addition to academic alterations to fit with the curriculum, the education department of the unnamed country gave publishers a lengthy list of demands for editors to bring the educational materials, in line with the state’s official ideology.

The list of demands includes:

  • Changing mixed gender examples to single gender examples unless it is clear it’s between members of the same family.
  • Removing all references to or images of religious buildings or symbols belonging to faiths other than Islam.
  • Removing all instances of hand-holding except members of the same gender shaking hands or very small children.
  • Removing all references to the Arab Spring or revolutions in general.
  • Changing all references to holidays to Islamic holidays instead of non-Islamic ones.
  • Remove all references to sex, magic, alcohol, cigarettes, homosexuality, drugs, gambling, card games, Israel, the supernatural, aliens, nightclubs, pork products or birthdays.

The publishing house appears to have committed to making all the required alterations without protest. Although some staff are reportedly uncomfortable with the proposed changes, they need the money. As an editor in a European publishing house told the source “If they say jump, we say how high?”

It is chilling that Middle-Eastern dictatorships are able to use their financial clout to co-opt Western institutions into helping them oppress their own people. Restricting access to education in this manner and censoring so many topics is an extremely repressive tactic aimed at keeping the populace indoctrinated and loyal to the regime and to state mandated interpretations of Islam.

 

RELATED STORIES: 

State Dept. Buries Evidence of Saudi Textbook Incitement

Twitter Agrees to Censor Content in Pakistan

London Terrorist Tried to Radicalize Children

 

EF
Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.