Saudi plan to open Dublin school -letter from Peter Thompson

The Irish Times – Monday, December 14, 2009

Saudi plan to open Dublin school

Madam,  –   As an Irish journalist who has worked in Saudi Arabia (1990-’93), I am very concerned at the proposal to open a Saudi government school in Ireland (Home News, December 9th).

I am vehemently against this proposal at this time. No school with a religious ethos other than an Islamic one can be established in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. No secular schools exist there, except those of foreign embassies in which the state has no input, and which only exist at the insistence of foreign governments.

There is no co-education in Saudi schools. The type of Islam completely dominant in the policy of Saudi Arabia, as a state as distinct from individuals within it, is Wahhabism, an intolerant and puritanical philosophy which exhibits one of the worst aspects of a religion which, in other contexts, such as the Turkish one, shows tolerance and, at its best (in Bahai’ism, for example) enlightenment.

We have recently (see the Ryan and Murphy reports) had deep and profound evidence of the evil to which religious control of education and society can lead. It is time to remove God from the classroom, and keep him out. We need a secular French-style lycée system, co-educational and non-denominational, to replace our present divisive structures. It is time to move forward in our society, not backward.

There is a sub-text to the circumstances in which the present Saudi proposal is being made which is overlooked, but which is very important. In a world of economic uncertainty, the huge wealth and investment power of Saudi Arabia may have a fatal attraction for us, allowing us to put aside social concerns for economic reasons. This must not be allowed to happen. – Yours, etc,

PETER THOMPSON,

Ferrybank,

Arklow,

Co Wicklow.

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