Saudi Grand Mufti Says Destroy Churches

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Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh issued a fatwa last week declaring that all churches on the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed, raising surprisingly few cries of alarm around the world. While Saudi Arabia is on friendly relations with the United States, the country is not on especially kind terms with the Christians within its borders. Church leaders in Europe did offer displeasure at the fatwa, but one of the most direct and vocal criticism actually came from the The Ahl al-Bait World Assembly of Muslims, which rebuked the Grand Mufti, insisting that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism “is not true Islam.”

A Kuwaiti civil society organization approached the Grand Mufti last week, asking what he thought of the new Kuwaiti constitution article that forbids new churches to be built in the country. Kuwait had originally considered removing all Christians churches, but recognizing the number of Christians residing in the country, instead settled on preventing new structures from being built.

In response, the Grand Mufti issued a ruling that all churches on the Arabian Peninsula, including those in Kuwait, should be wiped out, citing Mohammed’s position that no religion but Islam should exist on the peninsula.

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Roman Catholic bishops in Germany and Austria responded sharply to the fatwa, concerned about the human rights of non Muslims working in the Persian Gulf region. Russian Orthodox Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk said the ruling was “alarming.”  Still, it seems that most of the world overlooked the statement.

One loud shout of disagreement, however, surprisingly came from other Muslims. The Ahl al-Bait World Assembly said in a statement, “First of all everyone should know that Wahhabi Muftis are not representatives of Islam.” The Assembly jumped on the Grand Mufti, rebuking him for interfering with the affairs of the other Muslim nations on the Arabian Peninsula. It denounced the Saudi Arabian brand of Islam, calling it, “a fabricated cult.” The statement, published by Ahl al-Bait News Agency (ABNA) on Tuesday, pointed out that Christians, Jews, and Muslims had coexisted throughout the ages, and it declared that the new fatwa contradicted the commands of Allah. “(T)herefore it is not only condemned by Shiite Muslims, but Sunni Muslims are also appalled.”

The Assembly didn’t stop at rejecting the fatwa. It went on to rebuke Western governments for supporting the Wahhabi terrorists in spite of their attacks on their fellow Muslims in Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran.  The statement warned Christian nations that they would be the Wahhabis’ victims one day as well.

Christians in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia has a small Christian population, but no churches are allowed to be built in the country. Christians must quietly worship at home (and not get caught at it), and all non-Muslim houses of worship are explicitly banned. The other Gulf states – Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates – do have a few churches for the 3.5 million Christians in the region, most of whom are foreign workers from countries like the Philippines.

German Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, commented that, “It would be a slap in the face to these people if the few churches available to them were to be taken away.” The foreign workers in on the Saudi Arabian peninsula help make the economy work.  Muslims have great religious freedom in Christian countries, while Christians are treated with much less respect and can be in outright danger in Muslim nations. This is unequivocally true in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia gets away with murder, yet Saudi King Abdullah is considered a reasonable partner in working with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to find solutions to the Syrian problem.  Clinton will be in Riyadh later this week to discuss what to do about Syria. (Saudi Arabia and Qatar have already called for arming the Syrian opposition, but the United States and Turkey want to look at helping the opposition with non violent assistance, like communications equipment.)  Saudi Arabia is ruled with a truncheon, and protesting may be punishable by death in Riyadh, but King Abdullah can freely promote uprisings in places like Libya and Syria. The King will sit with Clinton in judgment of Bashar al-Assad, agreeing that he is unfit to be the president of Syria, days after the Saudi Grand Mufti has called for the destruction of all the churches in the countries around the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia may be on friendly diplomatic terms with the United States and the West, but perhaps the West is morally irresponsible to be on friendly terms with Riyadh.

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By Chuck Missler

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