Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from WorldNetDaily, March 3, 2003, with the headline: “U. S. Gives Saudi Persecution a Pass—Saudi Arabia will be conspicuously absent from a State Department list of the worst violators of religious freedom, confirmed a State Department official, who spoke to WorldNetDaily on condition of anonymity. ‘Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to release tomorrow the department’s annual list of nations subject to diplomatic action because of their systematic ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom,’ the official said. Newsweek Magazine first reported that Saudi Arabia will once again not be a country of particular concern, a designation that requires action by the U. S., ranging from a quiet diplomatic demarche to sanctions.
“The independent panel established by Congress in 1998, to promote religious freedom as a U. S. policy goal, the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, annually recommends to the administration which country should be on the list of violators, and each year it regards Saudi Arabia as an obvious choice. However, America’s strategic ally and trading partner has never been selected by the Secretary of State, despite the State Department’s own repeated assessment that freedom of religion in the kingdom does not exist.
“Nina Shea, one of nine USCIRF commissioners, told WorldNetDaily nevertheless, she is ‘surprised at the omission this year, because it’s incontrovertible that there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. It’s become clear that this extremist, rigid, Wahhabist interpretation of Islam that is practiced and promulgated in Saudi Arabia is an actual security threat to the U. S.,’ she said, noting that 15 of the 19 September 11th highjackers were Saudi. ‘The administration undercuts our security concerns by soft-pedaling that.’
“In it’s 2002 religious freedom report, the State Department says that in Saudi Arabia Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The government prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions, the report states. The Saudis have recognized the right of non-Muslims to worship in private homes, notes the State Department, but do not always respect this right in practice.
“Critics say officials the U. S. might jeopardize its tenuous relationship with Riyadh, which recently agreed to allow the use of its airbases for a possible war with Iraq. But Shea argues that the law established by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act takes into account diplomatic considerations. ‘There is a dichotomy between being put on the list and the foreign policy response,’ explained Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House in Washington, D. C. ‘The policy response to countries making that list is very flexible and broad. The U. S. doesn’t have to slap a trade embargo on Saudi Arabia.’
“USCIRF’s spokesperson, Ann Johnson told WorldNetDaily that the law essentially calls for the commission to examine treatment of religious believers in a country and tell the administration whether or not there are problems. ‘The State Department has already said there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia,’ she said. ‘It would seem logical that they would take the next step.’
“When the commission recommended Saudi Arabia last September it pointed out that the country vigorously prohibits all forms of public religious expression other than the government’s interpretation and presentation of Sunni Islam. The commission charged that the Saudi government’s severe violations of religious freedom include torture and cruel and degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, and flagrant denials of the right to liberty and security of the person, including coercive measures directed against women and the extended jurisdiction of the religious police, who exercised their vague powers in ways that violate others’ religious freedom.
“As WorldNetDaily reported last year, three Ethiopian Christians, detained without charge, were severely beaten and tormented under the authority of a Saudi prison official in Jeddah. ‘Being suspended with chains, each of us were flogged 80 times with a flexible metal cable and also severely kicked and beaten with anything that came into their hands,’ said a letter from the Ethiopians. The Christians were among 14 foreigners arrested after reports of their participation in gatherings that included Saudi converts to Christianity. Saudi law applies a death penalty to citizens who choose to abandon Islam. None of the Christians were formally charged, however.
“Some religious believers in the desert kingdom have suffered the ultimate punishment. In 1997, two Philippino Catholics involved in Bible studies and prayers in a Saudi prison were beheaded by sword.”
Tom: Dave, we usually don’t run our news alerts this long, but I figured let’s just lay it out there—not on the basis of what we’re reporting or what we are saying but on the basis of this report. We’ve got a government that has a forked tongue, in effect. On the one hand, the committee is saying, “Here’s the problem, everybody recognizes it.” On the other hand we have the State Department saying, “We’re just going to bypass this—we’re going to blow over it.”
Dave: Yeah, it’s not right. It’s a compromise of justice, of truth, of principle. As we pointed out in our newsletter recently, Tom, if you want to know what it would be like if Islam took over the world—and Islam must take over the world. The entire world is divided into dar al Islam, the house of peace, and dar al Harb, the house of war.
Tom: There’s a little irony with the first one.
Dave: Yeah, well, no…Islam is supposed to bring peace. Of course, they fight among themselves—there’s more fighting among Muslims than anywhere else in the world, but nevertheless, supposedly, if the whole world is in submission to Islam, then you have peace. So, if we want to know what the world would be like, take a look at Saudi Arabia. There it is. This is where it began, this is where their holiest sites are—Mecca and Medina. This is where the prophet is buried, and so forth. This is where they must go once in a lifetime on their hajj, and what is it like? Well, we just heard about it. Any Muslim who converts to any other religion is killed. Off with their head! They do it in Chop-Chop square. By the way, every town of any size in Saudi Arabia has a Chop-Chop square. I’ve talked to…I’ve never been there myself, but I have talked to those who have been there and witnessed this. You must be a Muslim to be a citizen.
Tom: Dave, can I interject something here, because it just dawned on me. I’ve thought about it before but this really brings it to a head. In Saudi Arabia, they are Sunni Muslims.
Dave: Right, that’s the majority.
Tom: Right, but if there are Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia, they are in trouble. In other words, there is no…
Dave: They’re second-class citizens, but they are still Muslims.
Tom: But we have Iran, which is Shiite, and we have Iraq, which is Sunni, and one of the bloodiest war…more people died in that than—what? The first World War.
Dave: Right. So you’re making the point that you don’t really have peace between Muslims anyway, it goes way back. But there is no freedom of the press, no freedom of religion, no freedom of conscience. You cannot build a non-Muslim place of worship, you cannot hold a non-Muslim worship service there. In fact, did we talk about it on the air just recently? I can’t remember, Tom, but you know a Jew cannot set foot inside Saudi Arabia.
Tom: Yeah, we did. We talked about our boys over there and Jewish soldiers for America.
Dave: It was only because America insisted. They didn’t even want Jewish soldiers over there. This is what the world would be if Islam took over. And we’re going to call this peace and tolerance? Then why doesn’t our government come right out and deal with them like they deal with others, supposedly, where civil rights are suppressed?