Saudi Arabian churches: a Vatican pipe dream?

April 19, 2008

Prophet Mohammad’s Mosque in Medina, 3 January 2007/Ali JarekjiMuch has been made of reports that the Vatican is holding talks with Saudi Arabia on building churches in the Gulf monarchy, the birthplace of Islam and stronghold of the conservative Wahhabi school of thought.

But it’s hard to imagine imminent breakthroughs, given broad-based scholarly opposition anchored in prophetic traditions and centuries of jurisprudence and commentary.

The IslamOnline (IOL) web site posted an article in Arabic polling prominent clerics on the issue, and offers some insight into the magnitude of clerical opposition such a prospect would generate.

The sheikhs rejected the idea as violating a basic Islamic commandment.

Crucially, IOL’s correspondent said a source close to a Saudi government-appointed religious body said that the issue would be raised with a view to issuing a fatwa, or religious edict, reiterating the existing prohibition.

Church tower and mosque minaret in AmmanAn earlier fatwa by the same body several years ago and signed by Saudi Arabia’s mufti Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, among others, had upheld the ban on all non-Muslim houses of worship.

At the heart of the issue are spoken traditions of the Prophet Mohammed ordering the expulsion of the Arab peninsula’s non-Muslims and saying that no two religions are to co-exist there.

Past scholars have debated the extent of the hadiths’ application, and a significant number of scholars advocated an interpretation that covers the Peninsula south of the Levant, with some excluding Yemen.

Even relative liberal Taha Jaber el-Alwani said the issue is effectively closed to reinterpretation due to the volume of existing commentary and rulings, dating back to Islam’s first centuries.

The crux of the matter is a conception of the peninsula as a bastion of Islam, akin to a Muslim Vatican. Muslim scholars are fond of saying it’s as unreasonable to ask to build churches in Saudi Arabia as it would be to ask to build a protestant church in Vatican city… much less a mosque.

The issue is already marring Muslim-Christian dialogue prospects. The Vatican has been lukewarm in responding to calls by Muslim scholars for an interfaith dialogue, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said talks would need to address why some Muslim states limit church building while Muslims can build mosques in Europe.

That’s unlikely to overcome doctrinal opposition, especially since European mosque building is facing a raft of troubles, from petitions and protests, to clashes and court cases.

It’s illustrative to note that a Saudi quasi-parliamentary body recently refused to Saudi King Abdullah at a cabinet meeting in Riyadh, 24 March 2008//Ho Newsupport moves by Muslim countries to have the U.N. draw up a pact on respecting religions, for fear it would require Saudi to recognise faiths it considers mere idol-worshipping.

The Vatican could be banking on King Abdullah’s reputation as a reformer at odds with an entrenched and conservative clergy. But it’s a tall order to expect Abdullah to defy centuries of doctrine, risking his standing with Islamic scholars for little in the way of tangible returns.

It looks like the building of churches in Saudi Arabia will remain a stumbling block in Muslim-Christian dialogue for the foreseeable future.

13 comments

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Yes there are mosques in Europe, but those mosques are banned to call for Prayers for the simple reason that the call for prayers “disturb”. My question is that: Can the Europeans bear the 5 times a day call for prayers in their country. The answer is NO. A mosque where there is no loudspeakers to call worshipers for prayers is like a House!

Posted by Omar | Report as abusive

Omar, a Catholic church opened in March in Doha and it has no bell tower or cross outside, in respect for local traditions. Catholics traditionally ring bells before Mass starts but they cannot do that there. They obviously thought this was a reasonable concession so they could have a church at all. Do you think they should have insisted on having bells and a cross?

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Muslim’s want to spread faith but then it come to freedom an freedom to choose they are afraid to let their people try other faiths, now is this freedom or is it control? Countries like Malaysia one of many refuse to allow muslims to convert freely to other faiths, this is not the modern world we live in. Government’s have no right to control it people when it comes to faith. Look at the banks we have Islamic banks, do we see Buddist or Christian Banks don’t think so. Muslims in Malaysia are given preferred treatment with loans, housing an in the Corporate world over other faiths, is this right NO. So who should be opening their doors to other faiths, the middle east should show their belief in freedom this way.

Posted by wade | Report as abusive

Religion is 66% responsible for every war. If the Catholics and the Muslims destroy each other that is really good because the rest of the human race is sick and tired of been intimidated by Religion. The Catholics and the Muslims do not have a license (permit), never had one and will never get one from God to kill and sexual abuse people who refuses to join their fanatic Religion. The Catholics and the Muslims are ‘War Lords’ and they use the Bible and the Koran to identify themselves as a “Religion” so that the International Criminal Court do not arrest them when they commit crimes against humanity using the name of God. The Catholics and the Muslims did not created man so they have not right to kill others who refuses to join them. The human race must rise and must give the Catholics and the Muslims who think that they are untouchable a taste of their own medicines. When Catholics and Muslims ‘War Lords’ (Religion) do not longer exist the human race can will be able to live in peace. Why should the human race wait until the war of Armageddon to live free from intimidation? The human race must go to Russia and the American countries and steal their Nuclear Weapons to put a end to the Catholics and Muslims war lords. If the human race died when using the Nuclear bombs it will be better to died standing than live in fear of terrorists Catholics and Muslims.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Life without religion is worthless. for this person to talk about faiths and wars i believe has no common sense. Islam nor Christianity do not kill people so that others join them. you have to read and study religions before making an idiotic comments like that. Christianity and Islam forbids killing of any sort. where he got his information is absurd. if you have no faith or religion you should seek the trueth and find out yourself without anyone forcing you or putting a gun on your head to join there religion. It amazes me to see people with this type of mental degeneration like yourself. read and learn about the bible, quran or tora. do not judge people nor religions based on false information.

God bless

Posted by Bilal | Report as abusive

I believe this guy is a marxist who do not believe that there is a God. His information is baseless, he is misinformed, he has no common sense. he needs to be evaluated for psychological problems.

Posted by BOB | Report as abusive

you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. i think religon is good if we take the essenc of it, and stop dectating to others what they should do, so build a mosque next to the church it is not the matter , the matter is in the people who think they own the truth >>>>>>> please lets help to stop them otherwise they will control us and make life hell >>>>>>

Posted by MOHAMMAD YAHYAWI | Report as abusive

Bila and Bob who posted a comment on this Blog are being brainwashed by their “War Lords” who use the Bible and the Koran to identify themselves and their organization as a “Religion”. Bila talks about ‘false information’ and Bob talks about ‘his information is baseless’. Do not tell me that my information is false and baseless because when I was 3 years old the Roman Catholic Church committed Genocide when they kill my entire family for refusing to become Catholics. For some reason I survived the assassination but two years after the same day when I turned 5 years old 3 Catholic Priests and 3 Catholic Nuns came to the my foster house where I was living in a grey limousine similar to a Volvo car because they were investigating rumors that I was still alive. The Catholic Priest and Nuns told a Catholic woman call Blanca to poison me with Rat Poison and she did obey their order. I know it because the Catholic woman call Blanca had a big mouth and she told me that she poisoned me before when I was 3 years old when other Catholics used machine guns to kill my parents, my sisters, and my brother. I survived the second assassination attempt but I was force to have nine operations to stay alive because of what the Catholics did to me. The Catholics did not want any witnesses to survive when they kill my parents so they almost kill me again when I was 5 years old. I was even beat up by a Police who was a Catholic when I was 8 years old for telling him what happen to my parents when he asked me ‘where are your parents?’. I never got an apology from any Catholics neither compensation money (like the American gets) for the hell that I went through in the hands of Catholics Priest, Nuns, and members of the Roman Catholic Church. A few years after in 2004 Muslims blew up 202 man, women and children who were on holiday near where I was staying in Bali, Indonesia. It makes me laugh when I hear the Catholics and the Muslims that their Religion does not kill infidels. Did the terrible things that was done to me by the Catholics was just a dream? Did I had nine operations just for fun? I wish it were a dream but in reality when I open my eyes every day I cannot find my parents neither my sisters and my brother because they are all death. So now you know a bit more why I believe that the Catholics and Muslims needs to be erase forever from this planet Earth. Bila and Bob who placed a comment on this Blog are the ones who needs to be evaluated for psychological problems because they forget too quickly the crimes against humanity that their Religions has committed in the past. I really do hope that the Armageddon War or War World three come soon so I can have a party when I see the Catholics and Muslims get a taste of their own medicines.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Equating war (today) with Christianity is absurd. Claiming that Islam is like Christianity and does not kill to convert is false. The Muslims do such all the time, they kill both those coming in and those attempting to leave the religion (unlike any other religion in the world) Islam is unique sick and evil so called religion. It is a cancer, and much like cancer its intent is to take over the host. Therefore only a fool will allow the cancer to grow; only a fool will allow this cancerous religion to grow in his host country.
Arabia is a closed society and will remain close. Muslims have no intentions whatsoever to include anyone therefore they do not include or make any attempt to include others. They have laws written in their books banning the Bible, banning even talking about other religions, are we to encourage those that do this, are we to ignore those that do this. We then learn that this same closed Arabian society intends finance and build the largest mosque in England and they have support from the Mayor in England??? The Mayor supports the spreading of cancer in England. That is more shocking than the news of Arabians intent to build what they would never allow anyone to build in their country.
We can do nothing to aide in growth this cancerous religion. It must be confined at all cost to its place of origin by any and all means and never allowed to spread.

Posted by Redman | Report as abusive

People like Jack are no better than the religios fanatics he talks about.Whether the catholic clergy or muslim clergy don’t get along, who cares.people in the states are over the religion game who is what? no cares what religion you practise but when you start harming innocents then you have to question the authority of the leaders. Muslims in the US who truly know what freedom means now there here, are not the ones to worry about, just as all americans should feel. It is the fanatical people who are the ones most like kicked out or banned from the sect they where from these are the ones who seek out the weak minded to do there bidding. And JACK you sound know better then the ones you speak of. Do be mad at GOD because you got screwd over in life, blame your fellow man. God Bless and Peace always in Yeshua. Matthew

Jack, I as a christian apologize to you and pray for your family since they where murdered as you say they are in heaven with GOD whether you believe it or not. Don’t forget the people who did this and other things in the name of religion are not serving GOD but satan. People can call themselves what ever they want, but when they do it in the name of the CREATOR and it is evil it is not of GOD. God gives men and women free will HE does not force us to do what HE wants we make the choices of wrong and right. You have the right to blame religions because they where created by man it is Faith that we are givin and I am sorry you lost yours. I hope you can shake off the darkness and seek the truth again. I know the FATHER loves us all even you. Remember like you said people use GOD’s words for evil will be payed back with evil. If you allow me consider me your brother now, If you would like to talk you can email me at PathofYeshua.net. Don’t worry I am not connected to any church, I like you have been through many hardships, but I did not lose my Faith I just got ride of the religion. Well you decide my ear will be here if you decide to. If not I pray for your safety and well being and ask the Father to help you prosper in your journey in this Life. God bless and Peace always in Yeshua. Matthew

P.S. Remember if you seek the truth you have to seek it yourself.

sorry jack pathofyeshua@comcast.net. My first reply I did not read your response till afterwards. God Bless and Peace Always. Matthew

life with religion is worthless. islam and christianity preach that killing is wrong. But it goes on relentlessly by both faiths in a struggle for dominance.
I wish all the religions with a chip on their shoulder would hurry up and waste each other so that the rest of us can get on with our lives in peace, respect and unity.
Shame on you all.

Posted by alex | Report as abusive