Monday, February 09, 2009

Freedom of religion, Saudi-style

From the Saudi Gazette:
Establishing houses of worship for non-Muslims is a sensitive issue but the Kingdom does not restrict non-Muslims to practice their religion in private, a senior human rights official said here Saturday.

Zeid Al-Hussein, Vice President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, said the Kingdom is not only an Islamic state, but it is also the cradle of Islam and of Islamic civilization. It is the land of the Two Holy Mosques and the destination of Muslims from around the world.

Therefore, he said, the Kingdom is charged with the responsibility of preserving Islam, its rituals and its sanctities.

Regarding not allowing the establishment of places of worship for non-Muslims in the Kingdom, Al-Hussein said, we believe that Islam is the seal of religions and that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Islam, the land of the Two Holy Mosques, and the destination of 1.5 billion Muslims.

Therefore, the religious peculiarities make it difficult to establish worship places in the holy land.

However, non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia are completely enjoy the freedom of worship and can practice the rituals of their religions in their own places.
Imagine the outcry if an Israeli "human rights" official said that "Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people and the object of their prayers and devotions. As a result, there can be no churches or mosques, but everyone is free to practice their religion in private." Or a similar statement from Rome disallowing synagogues and mosques there.

The Saudi article has some humorous sections about Islam and human rights, like this:
Islam supplements, rather than undermines, international human rights standards and Saudi Arabia derives its values from all sources provided that they are compatible with the objectives called for by the Islamic Shariah, Al-Hussein said.

The Shariah pays special attention to the rights of vulnerable groups, such as, minorities and non-Muslims, and, in fact, the Shariah grants women extensive rights.
We all know that Saudi Arabia is hardly a mecca (pun intended) for freedom of religion, but for the "Human Rights Commission" official to justify it in the name of human rights is more than a little hypocritical.