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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Saudi Arabia sacks official over school textbook image of King Faisal with Yoda

A doctored photo was accidentally included in schoolbooks that showed Saudi Arabia's third monarch signing the United Nations Charter in 1945 with the diminutive Jedi master perched next to him

Schoolbooks were accidentally published in Saudi Arabia that included a doctored photo of the Star Wars character Yoda sitting alongside former Saudi ruler King Faisal. The king is pictured here with Sheikh Zayed in 1974. Al Ittihad
Schoolbooks were accidentally published in Saudi Arabia that included a doctored photo of the Star Wars character Yoda sitting alongside former Saudi ruler King Faisal. The king is pictured here with Sheikh Zayed in 1974. Al Ittihad

A Saudi education official has been sacked over a schoolbook that accidentally included a doctored photograph of a former ruler sitting next to a "Star Wars" character, according to the state news agency.

The black-and-white image shows King Faisal, Saudi Arabia's third monarch, signing the United Nations Charter in 1945 with the diminutive Jedi master Yoda perched next to him.

Saudi Arabia scrambled last week to withdraw the textbook.

The government has now sacked Mohammad Bin Atiyah Al Harithi, the deputy education minister for curricula, saying on Monday that new versions of the textbook were being printed after the "inadvertant error".

"Education minister Ahmed Al Eissa to terminate the mandate of ... Harithi and all those responsible for reviewing and approving textbooks," the education ministry said.

The photo was a creation of 26-year-old Saudi artist Abdullah Al Shehri, who has gained renown for mixing pop culture icons into historic photographs.

Mr Al Shehri said he was surprised to see his photograph end up in the school textbook.

He told The New York Times that he paired King Faisal and Yoda because they are both intelligent and because Yoda's green skin and lightsaber match the green of the Saudi flag.

He stressed he had meant no offence to the king, seen widely as the architect of Saudi Arabia's modernisation.

The error prompted lighthearted banter on social media.

One Saudi schoolteacher jested on Twitter that the error symbolised "payback" after the education ministry introduced an extra hour of classes in schools earlier this year.

Another Twitter user wrote: "Remember when Yoda signed the United Nations charter back in 1945 with Faisal of Saudi, @starwars?

"Saudi Ministry of Education does!"

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