The letter was addressed to Afghan
President Hamid Karzai and was specifically about the an Afghani facing court
for converting to Christianity – but everything Howard said in the letter and
yesterday applies equally to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis haven’t killed anyone recently
for resigning from Islam, but it remains their law and they very actively
pursue official and unofficial policies of religious intolerance. It’s not even easy belonging to the minority
brand of Islam in Saudi
Arabia, let along
anything more exotic.

There’s a detailed account by the US
Department of State on Saudi
Arabia’s lack of
religious freedom here.

Only Muslims are allowed to be citizens,
ministers or officers of any other religions are banned from entering, other
religions may only be followed in secret, there are no churches or places of
worship aside from the many Mosques, any attempts to convert a Muslim will
quickly feel the lash, and so it goes. A
couple of Christian Filipino workers were lashed and deported for allegedly praying
together in private.

Have a read – and remember this is a report
prepared by the US Government about its very good friend and ally. No wonder
John Howard is appalled by such policy as it is indeed medieval – and that’s
being a bit harsh on the Middle Ages which weren’t entirely intolerant.

I’m sure the Prime Minister would enjoy the
report as well. It’s always good to know what values we’re fighting to protect
in the Middle East.

Back at the Afghan court, it looks like Mr
Rahman will escape execution on grounds of insanity. It’s an easy plea – the
whole thing is insane.

Peter Fray

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