Bandow: When will you allow at least one Christian church in your country, Prince Mohammed?

Bandow: When will you allow at least one Christian church in your country, Prince Mohammed?

Opinion

The list of victims continues to lengthen on MbS’s watch. For instance, in January the founders of the Union for Human Rights, Abdullah al-Attawi and Mohammed al-Otaibi, were sentenced to seven years and fourteen years, respectively, in prison. More broadly, reported Human Rights Watch, last year “Saudi authorities continued their arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human-rights defenders amid activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities continued to discriminate against women and religious minorities.”

VIDEO: Open Doors tells the sad story of Fatima, a Saudi Arabian blogger and Christian convert


In December Amnesty International observed that “in the months since the Crown Prince’s appointment, we have seen little to believe that his overtures are anything more than a slick PR exercise. In fact, the dire rights record in the country has far from improved. Witness the ongoing wave of arrest targeting journalists, critics and religious scholars. Virtually all the country’s prominent civil society activities and human rights defenders, including many who had been vocal on corruption, are currently behind bars. Just like his predecessors, the Crown Prince seems determined to crush the Kingdom’s human rights movement.”

Even onetime privileged elites are not exempt. Last fall MbS turned the Ritz-Carlton hotel into a prison and arrested a host of leading Saudis, including his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, ousted earlier in the year as crown prince. The price of their freedom was to sign over significant portions of their assets. Many were physically abused and required medical attention; one apparently died in custody. Some remain imprisoned, and no longer at a luxury hotel. Others have been barred from travel and monitored through ankle bracelets. MbS justified the shakedown as an anti-corruption campaign. But he spent a half billion dollars on a yacht and $300 million on a French chateau, and was rumored to be the anonymous buyer of the $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting last year (Riyadh denied the latter). The entire exercise looks like a redistribution of stolen goods, with the chief crook grabbing more of the booty for himself.

Nor does being outside of the country insulate one from the tender mercies of Saudi “justice.” The Guardian and later BBC documented the kidnapping of at least three dissident princes living outside of Saudi Arabia. All were politically influential and turned critical. All disappeared in the KSA, never to be heard from again.

Nor is there any religious liberty in KSA. Explained the State Department: “Freedom of religion is not provided under the law and the government does not recognize the freedom to practice publicly any non-Muslim religion.” The regime criminalizes many acts, “including non-Islamic public worship, public display of non-Islamic religious symbols, conversion by a Muslim to another religion, and proselytizing by a non-Muslim. Shia clerics and activists who advocated for equal treatment of Shia Muslims were arrested.” State rated the Kingdom a “Country of Particular Concern.”

In December Amnesty International observed that “in the months since the Crown Prince’s appointment, we have seen little to believe that his overtures are anything more than a slick PR exercise. In fact, the dire rights record in the country has far from improved. Witness the ongoing wave of arrest targeting journalists, critics and religious scholars. Virtually all the country’s prominent civil society activities and human rights defenders, including many who had been vocal on corruption, are currently behind bars. Just like his predecessors, the Crown Prince seems determined to crush the Kingdom’s human rights movement.”

The Kingdom does sponsor an interfaith center—in Vienna, Austria. On his visit to the United Kingdom earlier this month the Archbishop of Canterbury said MBS “made a strong commitment to promote the flourishing of those of different faith traditions, and to interfaith dialogue within the Kingdom and beyond.” Yet in the KSA there is not one church, synagogue, temple, or other non-Muslim house of worship. Even private gatherings risk a raid by the security forces, which can result in arrest. And Human Rights Watch published a report last September detailing the extensive “government hate speech, especially speech by state clerics and in the country’s textbooks,” especially against Shia.

The ugly is most worrisome for the rest of the world. Over the last three decades Riyadh has spent roughly $100 billion to advance Wahhabism around the globe. This strain of Islam is intolerant, emphasizing “the other” and denigrating members of other faiths and less fundamentalist Muslims. As such, it fertilizes the ground in which terrorist seeds have been planted. So far MbS’s supposed commitment to religious moderation and dialogue has not shut this extremism spigot.

This article continues at [NationalInterest.org] Saudi Arabia Has Become a Geopolitical Loose Cannon

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