A senior education official in Saudi Arabia has been fired after a school textbook erroneously included a digitally altered image of the late King Faisal that showed him sitting next to Yoda, a character from the “Star Wars” movie series, according to reports in the Saudi media.
The English-language Arab News reported that the undersecretary for educational curriculums and programs, Mohammed bin Attia al-Harthi, and the supervisors who reviewed the textbook were being terminated by the Education Ministry on Monday.
The doctored photo of Faisal and Yoda was first spotted last week and swiftly sparked widespread discussion on social media.
The original image showed Faisal, then a prince and foreign minister, signing the Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. Arab News describes the photograph as “iconic” and one easily recognizable to Saudis. Faisal ruled Saudi Arabia for 11 years and is considered a modernizer in the Middle Eastern state.
However, the version of the photograph that ended up in the Saudi social studies textbook had an addition: Yoda, a Jedi master from the “Star Wars” movies known for his small stature, unusual style of speaking and mentoring of Luke Skywalker.
The altered photograph was created by Abdullah al-Shehri, a Saudi artist who goes by the name Shaweesh, in 2013. It was part of a series in which archival photographs of historical events were altered to include iconic figures in American pop culture.
Shaweesh told the BBC that he was confused at how the Faisal-Yoda image ended up in the textbook. “Someone should have checked the image before printing,” he said, adding that he had included Yoda in the picture because both Yoda and Faisal were “wise, strong and always calm.”
On Thursday, after the image in the textbook spread on social media, Education Minister Ahmed al-Eissa apologized on Twitter for the “inadvertent error” and announced that the book would be withdrawn and reprinted.
The state-linked newspaper Okaz reported that Eissa had dismissed Harthi for several errors, not just the Yoda image. Harthi told the newspaper that he planned to remain “faithful to god first and then to the homeland.”
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