Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Saudi Arabia:

J, at Justify This, has a post up today about Saudi Arabia's sentencing of a teacher for the crime of talking about the Bible, and speaking positively of Jews. A horrific crime, indeed:

Roads Of Tolerance In Saudi Arabia, Where Only Muslims Can Be Citizens

A court in Saudi Arabia has condemned a teacher to 40 months in prison and 750 lashes in 15 weeks for having “mocked Islam”.

The teacher, denounced by colleagues and students a year and half ago, had discussed the Bible in class and spoken highly of Jews. The victim said the charges were made against him by fundamentalist colleagues who were against his moderate positions.

The sentence, handed down on 12 November, was published the following day by a Saudi daily. Al-Madina reported that the crime of the chemistry teacher, Mohammad Al-Harbi, was that he had promoted a “dubious ideology and declared that Jews are in the right”.

The teacher is also charged with having “discussed the Gospel and not allowing students to leave class to wash before prayer”. At the time, the man was teaching in the Al-Fwailiq high school in the town of Ein Al-Juwa.

Interviewed by the Arab press, Al-Harbi described the sentence as “cruel”. He said the students who levelled charges against him were angry because they had not passed a monthly chemistry test. “They asked me if they could repeat it and I refused.”

The teacher said the students had been manipulated into taking legal action by some teachers of Islamic studies, who did not look well upon Al-Harbi’s views. The latter had often said he was against terrorism and fundamentalism, trying to sensitize youth in the school.

In Saudi Arabia, freedom of worship is prohibited to all religions except Wahhabi Islam. Any public manifestation (like having a Bible or wearing a cross) is banned. According to the latest annual report compiled by the US State Department on international religious freedom, “freedom of worship does not exist” in Saudi Arabia.

It's true. Christians are not allowed to live in Saudi Arabia. They may travel there for a visit, or on business, or most commonly, to serve as maids, and nurses, but no one of any faith other than the official Wahabbi faith may live in Saudi Arabia on a permanent basis.

As egregious as that may sound to our Western sensibilities, it is nothing compared to the information which, until about a year ago, was freely available on the official website of the state of Saudi Arabia. (See screenshot above, or click this link.)

On a page of information on Visa requirements, there was a section which said the following:

Visas will not be issued to the following groups of people:

  • An Israeli passport holder, or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp.
  • Jewish people.

We should never forget this.