U.S. President Donald Trump’s May 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia and his address to leaders of Islamic nations may open a new era of cooperation between the United States and the world’s leading conservative Sunni Muslim states. Trump’s trip, along with reported warming relations between Israel and some Arab states, may suggest that the initial stages of an anti-Iran, anti-terrorist alliance is in the offing.
In Saudi Arabia, Trump forcefully denounced Iran’s support for terrorism. This speech was welcomed especially by Arabian Peninsula Sunni state leaders, who could well be threatened by the aggressive policies of Shia Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Levant.
Unfortunately, however, the Saudi educational system’s textbooks, at least as of a year ago, remain rife with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish statements, as well as criticism of other Muslim sects. Perhaps one of the real litmus tests of the viability of a new era in relations between the United States and conservative Sunni Arab states will be whether the latter totally purge their abusive denunciations of peoples of other religious faiths.
Recent analyses by experts on religious freedom cite the continued prejudicial declarations against Christians, Jews, and Western civilization in Saudi educational textbooks as evidence that Saudi Arabia still bears ill will against the “infidel” West. Moreover, religious liberty advocates also claim that the Saudis have not removed this material as promised.