Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Saudi Arabia Desecrates Hundreds of Bibles Annually

Friday, 20 May 2005

by Zachary Liben
Staff Writer

Washington DC - The Saudi government burns and desecrates hundreds of bibles its security forces confiscate after raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately or at border crossings.



As a matter of official policy, the government either incinerates or dumps bibles, crosses and other Christian paraphernalia.

Hundreds of Christian worshipers are arrested every year by Saudi police in raids on their private gatherings. Bibles, crosses and printed materials are confiscated and later burnt or dumped into trash. Bibles and other Christian paraphernalia found with travelers into the country are confiscated and destroyed.

Although considered as holy in Islam and mentioned in the Koran dozens of times, the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia, and is confiscated and destroyed by government officials.

Recently, there has been a crackdown on symbols of Christianity in Saudi Arabia. On April 21st Saudi authorities raided a make-shift church in Riyadh and arrested 40 Christians. Many Christian religious symbols, such as crucifixes and bibles were later destroyed by Saudi security forces.

When it was revealed last week that a copy of the Koran had allegedly been desecrated by American military personnel at Guantanomo Bay, the Saudi government voiced its strenuous disapproval of such activities. More specifically, the Saudi Embassy in Washington articulated “great concern and urged Washington to conduct a quick investigation”. The Saudi government has also recommended to the American government to install “deterring measures” so that an incident such as this would not be repeated. The Saudi government would not comment on their policy of desecrating bibles that had been seized from foreign nationals.

Interestingly though, desecration of religious texts and symbols and intolerance of varying religious viewpoints and beliefs has been the official policy inside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ruled by a Wahhabi theocracy for some time now, the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia have made it difficult for many Western religions, as well as dissenting sects of Islam, to visibly coexist inside of the kingdom.

Another way in which religious and cultural issues are becoming more divisive is the Saudi treatment of Americans who are living in their country. As of today there around 30,000 Americans living and working in various parts of Saudi Arabia, who are not allowed to visibly celebrate their religious and even secular holidays if they are not of the Wahhabi faith. This includes holidays such as Christmas and Easter but also such secular holidays as Thanksgiving. All surrounding Gulf States allow non-Islamic holidays to be celebrated with the exception of Saudi Arabia.

The American State Department had no comment on this issue.

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