Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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“Plotting to Celebrate Christmas”

by Elliott Abrams
December 31, 2012

Here’s a non-celebratory story for the new year, from the newspaper Al Akhbar on December 27:

Saudi religious police stormed a house in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” a statement from the police branch released Wednesday night said.

The raid is the latest in a string of religious crackdowns against residents perceived to threaten the country’s strict religious code.

Only in Saudi Arabia could the phrase “plotting to celebrate Christmas” appear in official statement. Religious freedom does not exist in the kingdom. There are literally millions of Christians living there, and according to the government they are permitted to practice their religion in private–though not one single church is permitted. But as this news story shows, in fact the religious police do not permit such dangerous practices as a Christmas party. So the foreigners living there who are Christians will continue to be without churches, priests and ministers, sacraments–or Christmas parties.
King Abdullah has chaired several international conferences on religion in the last ten years and has just established the “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue,” a world center for inter-religious dialogue in Vienna.
What does this all amount to? In 2008 the King opened the first conference with these reported remarks:

“We all believe in one God… We are meeting here today to say that religions should be a means to iron out differences and not to lead to disputes,” he said in an inaugural speech at the three-day World Conference on Dialogue. He called for a “constructive dialogue to open a new page to reconciliation after so many disputes.” “Most of the dialogue (between religions) has ended in failure…,” King Abdullah said in the speech, delivered in Arabic. “To succeed we must emphasize the common link between us which a belief in God.”

Fine sentiments–but until the Saudi government stops arresting people for “plotting to celebrate Christmas” they cannot be taken seriously.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    As usual , there’s a wide gulf between words and actions … Sort of like Barack Obama’s .

  • Posted by Anny Matar

    Watching the treatment Christians receive in all Muslim countries one wonders how the written word and the belief in ONE GOD can be so misinterpreted by so many!!!
    Have a happy 2013 wherever you are!!

  • Posted by neville craig

    Perhaps ‘celebration’ implied consumption of communion wine.
    Therefore technically a ‘civilian’ offence?!

    One that I observed committed by the Baroness Trumpington during a Riyadh visit as a Minister of the British State.
    (She I understand is Jewish, and a most effective operator).

  • Posted by Daniel Thorat

    The Saudi Arabian Ruler and its govt. are terribly afraid of true Christianity, which, if allowed to be preached in that country, may bring about undesirable levels of conversions. It is only that fear that is at the root of such illogical fears of “plotting” etc. The King did say that there is only one God, true, but which and what are His attributes? Their god is totally dissimilar to our God. We cannot discuss all the differences here. But, it is obvious that when a “Christmas” celebration is likened to a deadly sabotage or a threat to an entire kingdom, there is a fiercely burning hatred there. If the rest of the world follows a countervailing response, how painful that may be to the ruler?

  • Posted by daniel thorat

    My earlier comments are by no means radical but only true. So, kindly let them be shared with the readers.

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