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Religious Intolerance

In Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia has essentially no separation between religion and government. Their citizens enjoy little religious freedom. Its constitution lacks the type of guarantees found in the U.S. and Canadian constitutions. The country is under a particularly repressive interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which forbids Christian worship, literature, wearing of crosses, owning Bibles etc, anywhere in the country. Other non-Islamic religions are similarly oppressed.

Some events which demonstrate this religious intolerance:

bullet Early 1990s: Christian religious services in the American Embassy were terminated at the Saudi government's request.

bullet Two expatriates living in Saudi Arabia were arrested on 1998-JUN-6 for hanging 500 packets of Christian literature on house doorknobs. The Muttawah (Saudi religious police) subsequently raided a number of homes and arrested 10 more Christians.

bullet Out of fear, about 400 Christian house churches have stopped meeting. They were primarily attended by expatriates, mostly Filipinos. Steve Snyder of International Christian Concern said: "There is a silent, mutually understood moratorium on all gatherings in the country...They are staying underground."

bullet The Saudi government controls much of the Internet in their country. They do not permit their citizens to view this web site, or a number of other Internet sites devoted to religious freedom and tolerance.

bullet Their Ministry of Commerce is forbidden from registering trademarks for products whose images are in the form of a cross, a star of David or a Buddha statue.

bullet In late 2003, the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (APVPV) cracked down on stores selling flowers, candles or gifts for New Year's Eve. Only two holidays can be celebrated in the country are the Muslim observances of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

bullet Prior to 2003-DEC, the government banned imports of female dolls and stuffed animals. This was apparently in order to discourage citizens from celebrating Christmas. 1


During 2008, Lebanese TV host Ali Hussain Sibat was arrested on charges of sorcery while in Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He remains in prison as of early 2011. 2

bullet According to Philip Luther, Amnesty International's interim director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, "... the charge of sorcery has often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion." On 2011-DEC-12, Amina bint Abdel Halim Nassar was executed for having "committed the practice of witchcraft and sorcery." 2

bullet Also during 2011-DEC, a Australian national Mansor Almaribe, was convicted of blasphemy while performing the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in prison. The Australian government is appealing his case. 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Saudi religious police ban New Year commercial goods," Mena Report, 2003-DEC-20, at:
  2. Mohammed Jamjoom & Saad Abedine, "Saudi woman beheaded for 'witchcraft and sorcery' ," CNN, 2011-DEC-13, at:
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