US Commission Criticizes Saudi Arabia for ‘Severe Violations of Religious Freedom’
By Munir K. Nasser
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that Saudi Arabia be listed as a country of “particular concern for engaging in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
Saudi Arabia was among four countries on the list, which includes Laos, North Korea, and Turkmenistan as "Countries of Particular Concern" under the US International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
The Commission further concluded that Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Serbia, Sudan, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan should be kept on the list, which the State Department will release in September.
The Commission said in its recommendation to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the Saudi government “brazenly denies religious freedom and vigorously enforces its prohibition against all forms of public religious expression other than that of Wahabi Muslims. Numerous Christians and Shiite Muslims continue to be detained, imprisoned and deported,” according to the Commission. As the State Department's 1999 Annual Report bluntly summarized: "Freedom of religion does not exist."
The Commission said in its letter to Albright this week that it has investigated violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by governments of a number of countries. It noted that it has used information from victims, religious groups and other private organizations, the United States government, and others.
Based on this information, the Commission concluded that the governments of Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan “have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom, and therefore recommends that the President designate these four countries as "countries of particular concern."
The letter said that Commissioner John Bolton voted "no" on including Saudi Arabia in the list. An Arab American member of the Commission, Laila Al-Marayati abstained.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to give independent recommendations to the executive branch and the Congress – Albawaba.com.
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