Tue 2nd Sep 2014 | Last updated: Tue 2nd Sep 2014 at 16:41pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

Saudi Grand Mufti calls for churches to be destroyed: will David Cameron mention this next time he’s in Riyadh?

Freedom of religion is non-negotiable

By on Friday, 16 March 2012

Here is a news story that I have picked up on Twitter but which you may have missed elsewhere. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has called for all churches in the Arabian peninsula to be destroyed. Read all about it here and here

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is not some marginal figure, rather he is the chief religious authority of the Saudi Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in the Sunni Muslim world. The Mufti’s words will surely be taken seriously by many. We ought to take them seriously too.

This does not mean that the bulldozers are about to demolish churches in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They can’t, because there are no churches in Saudi Arabia – the government of the kingdom has never allowed them to be built in the first place. Nor are Christians allowed to organise, to meet in worshipping congregations, or to celebrate any Christian feast. Nor is it true that there are no Christians in Saudi. Expatriate workers from the Philippines and Kerala and other Christian lands form a significant part of the population. If they wish to practice their faith, they have to do so in fear and trembling, conscious of the much feared Saudi religious police. 

The only place Mass can be offered in Saudi Arabia is inside a foreign embassy. If it is, it is never publicised, for fear of upsetting the Saudi authorities.

But the bulldozers could make an impact in the Gulf States, which have allowed the building of churches for their foreign residents.

This story reminds us of the intolerance of the Saudi state, a state with which our own government enjoys the warmest of relations, it seems. Next time Mr Cameron goes to Riyadh, will he mention the plight of Saudi Christians to his hosts? I doubt it.

One person who has brought this up is the Pope. Benedict XVI has constantly urged what he calls “reciprocity”. This means effectively that Muslims should grant to Christians the same freedoms that Christians grant to Muslims. Just as the Italian state has allowed the building of a mosque in Rome, our holy city, so should we be allowed to build a church in Riyadh or even Mecca.

The Grand Mufti and all who think like him need to be challenged. Religious freedom is something we claim of right, not of privilege. The freedom of Christians to pray, to meet, to organise, to own buildings – these are non-negotiable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

    You are absolutely right about this, Fr. Lucie-Smith.

    We should celebrate that our own Church moved away from it’s old insistence that “error has no rights” to the recognition the *people* do have a right to religious freedom.

  • ms Catholic state

    Cameron is not interested in the plight of Christians.  Has he ever stood up for persecuted Christians anywhere?!  Not that I know of.  They are invisible as far as most MPs are concerned.  But then…..Islam is the future of Europe according to birthrates and immigration rates.  So I guess knowing that, they don’t even feel the need to try.

    The Pope should warn Christians against working in Saudi Arabia.  This inequality cannot contiue.  Let them get their own workers.

  • StewartG

    “Just as the Italian state has allowed the building of a mosque in Rome, our holy city, so should we be allowed to build a church in Riyadh or even Mecca.

    The Grand Mufti and all who think like him need to be challenged. ”

    While I like your ambition – a Church in Mecca! – I am not convinced that much can be done about this, without divine intervention, at the present time.

    For now, rather than worrying about Churches in Saudi Arabia, I would concentrate on Churches in Rome and the rest of Europe. If Christians lose majority status to Muslims in any European nation it is not beyond impossible for them to face the same difficulties as many Christian communities do in the current Islamic world. We do not want the problems that Christians in Lebanon, Egypt or Constantinople face repeated in any other nation, especially one closer to home.

  • Anonymous

    ms Catholic State, things are not as bleak as you imagine. First the fertility rate of many islamic countries is dropping off a cliff, second Islam is aggressive because it is weak
    http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2011/on-the-fragility-of-islam.html 

  • ms Catholic state

    It doesn’t matter really what the Islamic fertility rate is.  The demographic hole in Western societies will continue to be filled with Islamic immigration.  This is the Islamisation process of the West.

  • http://jamiemacnab.wordpress.com/ Jamie MacNab

    It is time our leaders polished up their leadership qualities.  Events are moving much faster than they appear to realize.

  • John Byrne

    Fr Lucie-Smith writes:  “Nor are Christians allowed to organise, to meet in worshipping congregations, or to celebrate any Christian feast. …..  If they wish to practice their faith, they have to do so in fear and trembling, conscious of the much feared Saudi religious police.”

    Yes, I agree, dreadful.
    But this is exactly what is likely to happen when wooden-headed religious fundamentalists hold sway.

  • Anonymous

    Ah. Reciprocity. Now there’s an excellent word.

    For every church that is burned or homosexual hanged or adulterer stoned, a cartload of Korans should be publicly burned at Marble Arch, the ancient site of Tyburn.

  • Anonymous

    Then, whether our politically correct friends like it or not, Muslim immigration MUST be halted and all illegals deported and Christianity must begin a serious fight back against the dismal religion of Islam.

    It is no good crying ‘racism,’ Islam is no more a race than communism is. With which it shares many features.

    The future of Western civilisation is at stake. Seriously. I defy anyone to say otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    ….and your point is? caller

  • Anonymous

    So what errors, have which rights?

  • J G

    One could ask any immigrant if they agreed with the Mufti. If so then they would be denied and permanent barred from coming to the West. Any that are here that agree with the Mufti get automatically sent back. Then all Muslim children are required to receive education on religious liberty and equality under the law. 

  • http://ironburka.blogspot.com/ Mullah Lodabullah

    The Saudis, while repressing Christianity at home, are simultaneously going to great lengths to “build bridges of tolerance and understanding” between islam and the West, and investing large sums in university chairs of islamic excellence and the like. Western politicians and academics lap up these advances and funding grants, oblivious to the nature of “allah” and islam.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697126564 Paul Halsall

    The mistake in the past was to focus on “error” and ignore the rights of people as individuals to respect even when they hold beliefs we may consider wrong.

  • Fm_faith

    This is what happens when you allow a government to let you live by “accommodations”.

  • Anonymous

    I have to say sir, I find your answer irrelevant and nonsensical

  • Oconnord

    Imagine the outcry if the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury last week had preached true reciprocity and called for muslims to be treated as christians are in islamic countries.   

  • Anonymous

    That would be most un-Christian Damo.

  • John Byrne

    “I find your answer irrelevant and nonsensical” 

    And that, teigitur, seems to me a consequence of your own shortcomings.

  • James H

     Indeed – revealing his ignorance and apathy.

  • Denis van Paassen

    One day Mosques and Churches as well as their serving clergy will be things  that only can be found in historybooks

  • Anonymous

    Well its nice that it made sense to someone. Here was me thinking that the Church was not about individuals and their rights. But the collective good. Silly me.

  • Anonymous

    Ditto.

  • ADMH

    This article gives a dangerous distortion of the story.  In fact it is based on a non-story, that has been left out of mainstream news with good reason.  The Saudi Grand Mufti is not a Muslim Pope.  He may be “the chief religious authority of the Saudi Kingdom”, but this does not mean the same thing as it might in a Christian context, certainly not a Catholic one.  The Grand Mufti is a bureaucratic official responsible for state supervision of mosques and shari’a courts.  The Mufti does not represent anyone, nor does he command them.

    The subject is frankly absurd.  The Grand Mufti calls for non-existent churches to be bulldozed?  Obviously this is rhetoric taken out of context.  Probably a symbolic way of calling for Islamic revival in the country in terms of its religious purification.

  • ms Catholic state
  • Ianlogan

    Incorrect

  • GFFM

    Cameron will say nothing and Obama will go out of his way to act as if this proclamation never happened.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Please read the story. The Mufti clealry implies that the churches in the Gulf Sates should be demolished. This includes Kuwait. Follow the link to the story about legislation to impede church building there. The fact that anyone, in whatever position, should call for churches to be destroyed is deeply irresponsible.

  • Brian A. Cook

    I will say otherwise.  Islam is NOT a monolithic political ideology.  It is a loosely connected group of peoples–from Sunnis to Shiites to Sufis–trying to follow what they understand to be the word of God.  Not all Muslims are Wahabi Muslims. 

  • Anonymous

    Error simply has no rights.
    If a surgeon mistakenly decides to amputate a man’s left leg when in fact it is his right leg which is diseased what should the theatre staff do? Allow him to continue because he is entitled to his erroneous belief or point out his error? Similarly a Catholic state should not permit any religion other than the Catholic Church to be established in its territory as the consequence might be that people will be seduced into error and lose their immortal souls which is infinitely more serious than amputating the wrong leg.
    Fr Courtney Murray was forbidden in 1954 from writing upon the subject of religious liberty. Despite this, he was invited to the second session of Vatican II  and was responsible for the final drafts which became the Constitution, Dignitatis Humanae Personae on religious freedom. It was almost like asking Martin Luther to contribute to the Council of Trent.
    Courtney Murray, it is alleged, was also responsible for heavily influencing Fr Robert Drinan, a consistent supporter of abortion rights and a member of the U.S. Congress convincing him that there was a difference between the legality  and the morality of abortion rights.
    Shifting the focus does not mean the original question has been answered at all. The original question does not become irrevelant it still remains, demanding an answer but is not addressed, because no one is willing to answer it, because it is inexpedient.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent analogy there. A paradigm shift has occurred, because the Church went “back to the sources”, and doing so made the more recent argument that error has no rights, inapplicable. Not only is this not a bad thing – it is an improvement on the pre-conciliar approach, because it means the Church can no longer use force of any kind – if it is going to affect society for the better, it has to do so like the yest in the parable, & not imperiously as it did before. “Freedom of religion” is not even the main issue. It is a more Christian approach than the old one, which was too keen on fighting fire with fire. If we are to be in dialogue with other Christians & other religions, we cannot have a doctrine that does not allow them to live in peace. Let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest – including the tares in the Church.

  • Anonymous

    The Church is not a collective – it’s a communion of individuals, with one another, & with God. The Church cannot trump individuals – man was not made for the Church, but the Church for man, to help less in communion with God & with one another. The danger with giving the Church absolute priority over its members, is that it then becomes a holy totalitarianism – & human totalitarianism always becomes tyrannical. That is not the Church of the NT. It’s fine for Christ to have totalitarian power, because He is not corrupted by possessing Divine power – but man is.

  • ConfofChi

     “The word of God” in fact is the word of Mohammed!

  • ConfofChi

     Thank you Fr. A for your comments  regarding the
    Saudi Grand Mufti. Spot on.
    I have read others who have reported on his remarks…some non-story ADMH!!

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    You ought to be more concered with promoting religious freedom in countries which claim to have it – and this includes the U.K. at present – than in imposing it in countries which make no such claim – as I’m sure Saudi Arabia does not.

    Furthermore, in agreement with “ms Catholic state” I’ll point out that the political leadership of the U.K. has shown great animosity towards Christianity, and it’s quite outrageous to think that promoting the rights of Christians would even register anywhere near a priority list of a man of  so unprincipled as your prime minister.

  • chrism

    This Saudi pronouncement doesn’t apply to Saudi Arabia where Christianity is banned , it applies to such ‘liberal’ Middle East states such as Oman where I lived and worked. The Christian churches are behind a  high walled compound and have the shape of mosques . Rocks are thrown over the walls , attempts are made to smash the Christian graves [of the soldiers who liberated Oman from the previous tyrannical ruler] On Mass day [ a friday by edict] young men dressed in football shorts and garb , run into the compound with grinning faces , in the belief , for them , their ‘nakedness’ defiles Christianity. But that was 10 or more years ago , when this present Sultan is gone , I am sure they will burn down the compound.

  • chrism

    Like the current Hadg exhibition at the British Museum . A Christian equivalent in the ME is unthinkable. Imagine the burning and slaying ! That is what galls me. But then it’s all about oil money.

  • chrism

    Don’t think you understand the ME at all. ‘The subject is not absurd.’  Such apologists for Islamic states seem to ignore what goes on there , or what it is like to live there , as if the West were ethnocentrically inventing  an imagined  phantom. For example , some years ago some Muslim graves were desecrated by spray paint in the UK . A spokesperson for Islam spoke on TV to a deferential interviewer , how Muslims , because they were religious , could never do so , how the Muslim world was outraged.   Quite funny to me when Christian graves , if they exist in the ME , are behind walls or on Islands where the they cannot be reached  , or else they are destroyed .As they were recently in ‘liberated’ Libya. Just when is the West going to stop accepting such propaganda ?

    Or the Muslim youths attacked by ‘footballers ‘ in the North of England , the father saying on BBC news how his son was so religious etc. , this was why presumably he was going around the clubs and pubs at midnight chatting up the semi nude girls there . 

    Put simply , I am sick of hearing this kind of crap. To anyone who knows and understands the culture of the ME it is laughable. As they were recently in liberated Libya. Just when is the West going to stop accepting such propaganda ?

  • Anonymous

    I never said it was. It might be just as varied as Christianity, but all its sects acknowledge the Koran as the immutable word of God.
    And the Koran instructs (unequivocally – so don’t give me that ‘out of context’ stuff) its followers to do some rather unsociable things, especially to Jews.

    ________________________________
    From: Disqus
    To: badgerostripeyone@yahoo.com
    Sent: Saturday, March 17, 2012 8:36 PM
    Subject: [cherald] Re: Saudi Grand Mufti calls for churches to be destroyed: will David Cameron mention this next time he’s in Riyadh?

    Disqus generic email template

    Brian A. Cook (unregistered) wrote, in response to noodling:
    I will say otherwise.  Islam is NOT a monolithic political ideology.  It is a loosely connected group of peoples–from Sunnis to Shiites to Sufis–trying to follow what they understand to be the word of God.  Not all Muslims are Wahabi Muslims. Link to comment

  • Oconnord

    True. I have no problem with stating unequivocally  that I think christian culture and tradition is simply better than it’s islamic alternative. Being un-christian is a bad thing but being un-islamic is generally good for everyone involved :-)

    Thanks for the paddy’s day greeting (os gaeilge, no less!) 
    Though I have to admit I never go near a pub on that night, it’s way too busy for my taste. I had a couple of Guinness at home with a couple of Brendan Gleeson comedies. Far more enjoyable in my book.

  • Anonymous

    The Mufti of Saudi Arabia is indeed a marginal figure in the entire Islamic world. He is a member of the tiny Wahhabi sect, founded by Muhammad Abdul Wahhab in the 18th Century. The Wahhabi sect does not represent either the Sunni world nor does it represent the Shi’ite world in (mostly) Iran. Simply put, it doe not represent Islam in any shape or form. It routinely distorts the true message of Prophet Muhammad, who loved Christians – he sent his own people to Christian Abyssinia (Ethiopia) when they were being persecuted by fellow Arabs in Mecca.

    Infact, Wahhabism is equivalent to a modern form of fascist ideology – it is very much like the Ku Klux Klan and therefore people will be making a very serious error if they judge the world of Islam by the sayings of a Mormon-like sect (apologies to Mormons who are much more decent than wahhabis) but I hope you understand what I mean.

  • Jason Clifford

     If Muhammed loved Christians why did he say that the rules in Islam protecting the “people of the book” do not apply within Arabia. What the Grand Mufti has said is not new. It is simply a reiteration of what Muhammed demanded upon his own death bed.

  • Jason Clifford

     This is true but only because one day the Lord Jesus Christ will return in glory bringing the Day or Judgement. Then the new Heaven and New Earth will be fully realised and we will have no need of clergy or the buildings where the Church congregates as we will bask in the full presence of God.

  • H. Smith

     As a Middle East/Islam scholar, you’ve got that bit about Mormonism wrong. I see your point, but if you are saying that Mormonism is like the Ku Klux Klan, someone didn’t do their homework. That is an erroneous comparison to the max.

  • H. Smith

     As a Middle East/Islam scholar, you’ve got that bit about Mormonism wrong. I see your point, but if you are saying that Mormonism is like the Ku Klux Klan, someone didn’t do their homework. That is an erroneous comparison to the max.

  • S. Strauch

    There are numerous ‘churches’ in Saudi Arabia, but they are secret. Every US compound has a church.

  • S. Strauch

    The comparisons between Rome and Mecca are erroneous. Mecca is a Holy City, according to the Qur`an and Sunnah, while Rome simply happened to be the capital of the Roman Empire when it became Christian. There is nothing holy or sacred about the land of Rome. So far as I’m aware, the Bible doesn’t mention Rome.