Saudi Arabia’s highest religious official announced Monday that Christianity will not be tolerated in the Arabian Peninsula, proclaiming it “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” Bikyamasar reported.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti, based his statement on the Islamic belief which states that only Islam and no other religion should be followed in the region. The mufti’s declaration was in response to Kuwait’s call for a ban on construction of non-Muslim places of worship, the report said.
The mufti further added that the move should be followed by the Kuwaiti government as well, given that the country is a part of the peninsular region.
It’s also been reported that Osama Al-Munawer, a Kuwaiti parliamentarian, will soon introduce legislation that would call for a ban on constructing new churches in the kingdom. Existing churches, he added, will be exempt from demolition.
The announcement has apparently prompted fury among Christians who make up around five percent of the population in the Middle East. Furthermore, the mufti’s words may provoke the Muslim community to launch attacks on churches, thereby raising fears of religious violence.
“What we see with this is the turn toward ultra conservatism in the region,” Noha, an Egyptian Coptic Christian, said in a statement on the report. “What we need to do now is bring together people and show this mufti that us Christians and Muslims can live and share the same street. And that it is a right granted by Islam for others to pray in their own place.”
The grand mufti apparently wants the law to mirror Saudi Arabia’s own code of religion which severely restricts the practice of non-Muslim religions. Although private practice is theoretically permitted, religious police have often made it difficult for Christians to worship in the privacy of their own homes.
According to a Jihad Watch report, Abdullah is the “Grand Mufti of the nation that brought Islam to the world.” And as the President of the Supreme Council of Ulema and Chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas, the mufti has the final say and his pronouncements are highly regarded.