The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” following Kuwait’s moves to ban their construction.Elliott Abrams adds:
Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country, Arabic media have reported.
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric made the comment in view of an age-old rule that only Islam can be practiced in the region.
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom. He is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.
This report brought back memories of a trip to Saudi Arabia that I took in January 2001, before joining the Bush Administration. I travelled there as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the delegation (which included Cardinal McCarrick) met with government officials and religious authorities. To several, we made the argument that as Saudis claim to value religious faith and practice so deeply, surely they could understand the terrible hardship they were creating for the many Christians who lived in the Kingdom by forbidding them to worship. They can worship at home, came the reply (somewhat disingenuously, for we knew that the religious police often broke up such private religious services). That isn't enough, we argued, especially for Roman Catholics whose religion includes the sacraments that only a priest can administer. And there are roughly a million and a half Catholics, mostly Filipinos, here in Saudi Arabia, we said. Too bad, came the reply; they knew our rules before they came, and the rule is no religion other than Islam in Arabia. No churches. Period.Will this statement be vehemently condemned by the Western world? Will the UN hold a special session to denounce this bigotry and intolerance? Will other Muslims rise up in disgust and strongly oppose the Mufti's words, saying that he does not speak in their name?
Well, we noted, there are churches in every other country on the Arabian Peninsula: Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE. You are the only exception. Are you suggesting that all those churches should be closed? Yes, came the reply. Every one of them.