“Destroy all churches in the Arabian Peninsula” – Saudi Grand Mufti

From RT (formally known as Russia Today) comes a story about the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia declaring that all churches in the Arabian Peninsula must be destroyed. Given our previous experience of such fanatics, one can’t help but ponder the thought that he might perhaps be quite happy for any demolition to take place with the non-Islamic believers still inside. The story reports …

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah made the controversial statement in a response to a question from a Kuwaiti NGO delegation. A Kuwaiti parliamentarian had called for a ban on the construction of new churches in February, but so far the initiative has not been passed into law. The NGO, called the Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, asked the Sheikh to clarify what Islamic law says on the matter.

The Grand Mufti, who is the highest official of religious law in Saudi Arabia, as well as the head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars, cited the Prophet Mohammed, who said the Arabian Peninsula is to exist under only one religion.

The Sheikh went on to conclude that it was therefore necessary for Kuwait, being a part of the Arabian Peninsula, to destroy all churches on its territory.

As for Saudi Arabia, all religions other than Islam are banned and there are no churches, although a small minority of Christians is theoretically allowed to practice their religion in the privacy of their own home.

First, lets clear up a few things. If you think this is an obnoxious intolerant and completely unacceptable statement, then you would of course be right (that’s the obvious bit). However, what might surprise you is that many others within the Islamic world would privately agree with you. In Saudi the prevailing strand of Islamic belief is called Wahhabism (they don’t like that name and prefer the word Salafis). It is a form of Salafism, and a religious movement within Sunni Islam that was developed by an eighteenth century chap called Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (hence the name).

So who opposed Wahhabism when Abd al-Whhab first started it all? Would you believe his father, and his brother did. Does anybody oppose it today? Yep, one or two do … or to be more precise about 96% of the world’s Muslim population do and consider the Wahhabis to be complete nuts, principally because it is so extreme that it rejects traditional Sunni scholars and interpretation as followed by 96% of the world’s Muslim population. So when will we hear others denouncing him? Er no, sorry, that is not going to happen. You need to also appreciate that anybody within the Islamic universe who wishes to journey on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is not going to be daft enough to scupper that by ticking off the locals by (correctly) labelling them all as complete kooks.

What we actually have here is a very good argument for the support of secularism, it illustrates the intolerance and oppression that will take place when one specific belief gains sufficient power to dominate. There are a couple of very basic human rights at issue here, namely “Freedom of Thought” and “Freedom of Speech”. People should be free to believe whatever they wish, even if it is obvious to all that the belief is daft and silly. Others should also be free to criticise. Humans have learned from a rather bloody and violent past that both of these are essential human liberties and so we now have such rights. These were first enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), If curious, Freedom of Thought is Article 18.

Most nations, including Muslim countries, ratified that Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in 1948. There were however several who refused to do so … guess who is in that mix? Yep, Saudi Arabia.

We now also have the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from March 23, 1976. It commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, and that includes freedom of religionfreedom of speechfreedom of assembly, Here is a map (left) showing you who has signed up …

Dark green = signed and ratified

Light green = signed but not ratified (yes that’s China … but lets save that rant for another day)

grey = refused to sign

And who is that big grey blob in the middle? Sigh! …  it’s the Saudi’s again.

Saudi Arabian law does not recognize religious freedom, and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is actively prohibited. They also have a quite frankly appalling human rights record, there is no free press or political freedom, and they practise what could be best described as “gender apartheid”. They also enforce a quite frankly barbaric system of justice that involves amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and flogging for lesser crimes such as drunkenness.

This latest decree by the Grand Mufti is not being highlighted by many western media outlets, nor are any of these other basic infringements of basic human rights being widely criticised … Why is that?

  • A search on the word “churches” at the Associated Press’s main national site returns nothing relevant.
  • A search on the term “Christian churches” (not in quotes) at the New York Times returns nothing relevant.
  • A Google News search on “churches mufti” (not in quotes) returns 29 items, none of which, except an item at Fox News published earlier this evening, are from establishment press sources.

Need I say it, just one single word appears to be the magical card that enables an almost universal blind-eye to be turned to all of this, and that word is of course “oil”.

This pronouncement also illustrates why secularism truly matters, for that is the only universal even playing field that gives all beliefs complete freedom, and also protects all from extreme fanatics imposing batty beliefs by force. I do of course wonder if Baroness Warsi has any thoughts on this, I suspect not and anticipate that she will most probably remain mysteriously silent.

Ah what do I really know, I’m just a “militant aggressive secularist” but the Grand Mufti is a holy man, so his call for the religious cleansing of a rather large geographical region can only be good … right? Er no, perhaps not. But then that is why this matters, the Grand Mufti is not some random no-name cleric, but rather is the highest Islamic law authority of our “friend-and-ally” Saudi Arabia, should we not be concerned? Given the stunning silence in the media so far, apparently not.

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