The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More Fish 

We've been talking about fish a lot recently. Not least the special "Allah" commemorative fish, limited edition, personally autographed by Him. And as several readers have pointed out, the fish also has a special significance as a Christian symbol. I understand that this sign was marked at the entrance to the Rome catacombs where the underground Christian church would hold its services, in the times before Constantine made it the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Not that the Christian Church is underground any more. Although the Christian church is being physically attacked in a number of countries, for example Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria, nowhere is it actually underground. Or is it?

Well (and you already know the answer) yes, it is. In Saudi Archaica, the Land That Forgot Time, it is illegal to worship in any religion other than Islam. In public, that is. In private, in theory, you are free to do as you wish. But theories are of course just theories.

It's OK if you are a Westerner. A number of the Western embassies hold religious services for their expatriates, and that's all legal, because they are the sovereign territory of the country concerned. So the authorities can't do anything about them, except presumably mutter angrily to themselves. A Christian Westerner friend of mine (Oh, I can't believe I said that, I deserve another "disappointed" email from Hussein Sakr) told me about how he had been to a confirmation service in one of the embassies, complete with the local Bishop, normally resident in the Emirates, in full Bishop's outfit. He told me he couldn't begin to describe how great it was to see a fully-robed Bishop in Riyadh. Sadly, it'll be a few decades or centuries before he's able to emerge out of the Diplomatic Quarter.

But what about this theory that you can do whatever you wish behind your own front door? Well, thanks to "Mahmood" of "Mahmood's Den" who sent me this item, the theory is slightly flawed.

Catholic priest arrested and expelled from Riyadh

A Catholic Indian priest was yesterday forced to leave Saudi Arabia. He was discovered by the religious police as he organized a prayer meeting in the lead-up to Easter. Arrested on 5 April, he remained in police custody for four days and on Saturday 8th April he left for India. The practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Meetings held privately in people’s homes, among friends, are also banned.

Actually, they are not supposed to be unlawful. Islam is really quite strict in saying that what people do behind their own closed doors should be their own affair. But The Muttawa make an exception for Christians. Especially dark-skinned Christians from the sub-continent.

On 5 April, Fr George had just celebrated mass in a private house when seven religious policemen (muttawa) broke into the house together with two ordinary policemen. The police arrested the priest and another person.

But they only kept him for four days, so he was lucky. Lay Christians can just disappear for months.

The Saudi religious police are well known for their ruthlessness; they often torture believers of other religions who are arrested.

Yes, but at least they don't nail them to crosses, because crosses are haram. Nor do they feed them to the lions. You just can't get the lions these days.

AsiaNews sources said there were around 400,000 Indian Catholics in Saudi Arabia who were denied pastoral care. Catholic foreigners in the country number at least one million: none of them can participate in mass while they are in Saudi Arabia. Catechism for their children – nearly 100,000 – is banned.

So the children of Western Christians are small enough in number to be prepared for confirmation by a bishop in their embassies. Whereas those from the sub-continent are too numerous, even if their own embassy were interested, which it's probably not. So they have to go underground, but without the fish symbols on the door. And even then they are not safe. That's why the life of a sub-continental "Guest Worker" in Saudi Arabia is complete crap.

But then, you already knew that.

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