Friday, May 20, 2005

What about Saudi Arabia?

Today's WSJ printed a marvelous piece of prose by a Muslim, the director of the Saudi Institute in Washington.

As a Muslim, I am able to purchase copies of the Quran in any bookstore in any American city, and study its contents in countless American universities. American museums spend millions to exhibit and celebrate Muslim arts and heritage. On the other hand, my Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia--where I come from--are not even allowed to own a copy of their holy books. Indeed, the Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately.
As Muslims, we have not been as generous as our Christian and Jewish counterparts in respecting others' holy books and religious symbols. Saudi Arabia bans the importation or the display of crosses, Stars of David or any other religious symbols not approved by the Wahhabi establishment. TV programs that show Christian clergymen, crosses or Stars of David are censored.

There is a lot more, but you get the idea. It concludes with this:

The lesson here is simple: If Muslims wish other religions to respect their beliefs and their Holy book, they should lead by example.

Oh, yes.
And here is a very pointed paragraph:

The desecration of religious texts and symbols and intolerance of varying religious viewpoints and beliefs have been issues of some controversy inside Saudi Arabia. Ruled by a Wahhabi theocracy, the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia have made it difficult for Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, as well as dissenting sects of Islam, to visibly coexist inside the kingdom.

Am I the only person in the world who wonders why so many mixed signals from Saudi Arabia are being ignored by policy makers ready to bomb other places into the stone age? Since our Middle East policy is not about oil, so we are told, I am equally confused by our own response -- or lack of response -- to the mixed signals.

This is not some off-the-wall rag reporting here. This is the Wall Street Journal. They have a lot of stuff on culture, art, history and science, you know. Lots of interesting non-financial content to read on the plane. Stuff to make scintillating conversation on the golf course.

It can't be oil. We know that. Of course. Oil has nothing to do with anything. This is about tolerance and religious freedom. An article in the Wall Street Journal is just the ticket to signal how the movement toward freedom and tolerance in Saudi Arabia is reaching avalanche levels.
I know I'm impressed.
Aren't you?
Wow! I'm sure glad we're allies.

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