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Palestinians Reprint Schoolbooks Praising Jihad 'Martyrs'

By Toby Harnden in Jerusalem

A textbook on Islam that preaches the value of "holy war" and "martyrdom" for all Muslims is being reprinted by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for use in schools in the occupied West Bank.

Entitled Islamic Culture, it was originally published in 1994, but has been reproduced this year, despite undertakings from Palestinian leaders - following international pressure - that new books would be introduced.

The book, intended for 17-year-olds, explains: "Jihad is an Islamic term that equates to the term war in other nations. The difference is that jihad has noble goals and lofty aims, and is carried out only for the sake of Allah and for His glory." It also refers to shahada, or martyrdom. A suicide bomber sent to kill civilians in Israel is celebrated as a shaheed in the Israeli-occupied territories.

One passage in the book states that if a Muslim is "blessed with shahada and honour, his soul returns to its Creator to live a different life, content with the rewards and honour bestowed upon it, a life of grace thanks to Allah."

The translation of Islamic Culture was released by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors writings and sermons in the Arab world. Yigal Carmon, president of the institute and a former Israeli military intelligence officer, said: "This is our problem. This is where terror comes from and this is where we can stop it."

Above the title on the cover is the eagle symbol of the Palestinian Authority. The year 2003 appears on the frontispiece and on the following page is the statement: "The ministry of education in the Palestinian Authority decided to include this book in the curriculum in Palestine."

Since the second intifada began three years ago, 121 Palestinian suicide bombers have died, along with hundreds of victims. The most recent and youngest was Sabih Abu Saud, 16, from Nablus, who killed only himself in a failed attack this month.

His family praised the concepts of jihad and shahada. "It is better he die like this than to become a collaborator or be killed in his home by Jews," said his mother, Nawal. His father, Kamal, said: "He was older than his age. They didn't force him. Even if he didn't kill anyone, it was a symbol. He expressed himself."

Ali Jarwabi, a political science professor at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah on the West Bank said Israelis had misunderstood the passages and taken them out of context. "Martyrdom is an Islamic concept," he said. "It doesn't say anything about suicide bombings. Jihad is a pillar of Islamic faith. The point is: how do you interpret and deal with that?"


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