NEW YORK – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised the State Department for acknowledging for the first time that the government of Saudi Arabia is violating religious freedom.
The State Department’s recently released annual report, International Religious Freedom Report 2004, designates Saudi Arabia as a “Country of Particular Concern” for engaging in “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” This is an important first step toward U.S. action to penalize Saudi Arabia for its tyrannical behavior.
The State Department’s report noted:
* “The [Saudi Arabian] Government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion, and such protection does not exist in practice.”
* “Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The [Saudi Arabian] Government prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions. The Government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however, it does not always respect this right in practice and does not define this right in law non-Muslims worship in fear of harassment and in such a manner as to avoid discovery Religious discrimination and sectarian tension in society continued during the period covered by this report, including denunciations of non-Muslim religions from government-sanctioned pulpits.”
* “The Government enforces a strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam. Muslims who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned Salafi (commonly called Wahhabi) tradition can face severe repercussions at the hands of the Mutawwain (religious police).”
* “The Government continued to detain Shia leaders. Members of the Shia minority continued to face political and economic discrimination, including limited employment opportunities, little representation in official institutions, and restrictions on the practice of their faith and on the building of mosques and community centers.”
Note: The ZOA-initiated Saudi Arabia Accountability Act, S.1888 / HR 3643, would impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia unless the Saudis halt stop funding terrorist groups and fully cooperate with U.S. efforts against terrorism. The sanctions would include halting U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia and restricting the travel of Saudi diplomats within the United States. It currently has 18 sponsors in the Senate, where it is led by U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), and 44 in the House of Representatives, where the lead sponsor is U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).