Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York
23 March '10
The Palestinian Authority and most of the Arab governments have not missed a chance since US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel to remind us that construction of 1,600 new apartments in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, as well as the renovation of an ancient synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, would trigger a "third intifada" or, even worse, an all-out war in the Middle East -- and is the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East.
It is funny to see countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt condemn Israel for being an "apartheid" state and for restricting freedom of religion. These countries, along with the Palestinian Authority and predominantly Islamic countries, should be the last to talk about "apartheid," freedom of religion bad persecution of minorities.
Of all Arab and Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia is often described as a "glaring example of religious apartheid."
Although Saudi authorities allow Christians to enter the country as temporary workers, they don’t permit them to practice their faith. Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are prohibited. Conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death. Saudi Arabia does not allow non-Muslim clergy to enter the kingdom country for the purpose of conducting religious services. Christians, and other non-Muslims, are prohibited from entering the cities of Mecca and Medina.
In Riyadh, the death sentence against a Lebanese charged with "sorcery" has just been re-confirmed. The man, Ali Hussein Sibat, a father of five, is a former host of a popular call-in-show that aired on a Lebanese satellite TV channel. H was arrested by Saudi Arabia’s religious police and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008. According to his lawyer, Sibat’s only crime was the he used to predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.
The real threat to peace in the Middle East is the absence of freedom, democracy and transparency in the Arab and Islamic world.
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Related: What about the Arab apartheid? Part 1