The Saudi Ministry of Education recently ordered the removal of pictures of pigs, music instruments and anything else that might be considered “un-Islamic” from English language text books for private schools.
The rationale for removing the images of pigs as being un-Islamic is not unusual in many Muslim-majority countries however it deserves a second thought. Without a doubt Islam does not permit eating pigs. It also does not allow eating falcons, eagles, bears, dogs, cats, monkeys and a whole host of other animals that are sometimes eaten in other cultures. Will all such animal images also be banned?
The religious prohibition against eating an animal does not make the animal inherently “un-Islamic”. Indeed one has to wonder how any of God’s Creation can be considered un-Islamic? Viewing of animals is not banned in the religion (whether one is allowed to eat them or not) so why remove their images from books?
Children in Saudi Arabia will not accidently come across a pig and decide to eat it; they are much more likely to come across stray cats! What is most important in the long run is to teach children what is allowed, what is not allowed and why. Teach them how religious law does not allow eating omnivores; how pigs fall in the category of prohibited animals and how their anatomy prevents Islamically correct slaughter. It is only when they learn the “why” that they will be less tempted to try pork products in the restaurants of neighboring Bahrain. Erasing a picture will not convey the correct message.