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If you’re looking for places that demonstrate religious tolerance, you probably should skip over Saudi Arabia. That was conservative talk show host Sean Hannity’s point as he talked with a caller on his radio program on April 8, 2015.
"You can’t build a Christian church in Saudi Arabia, did you know that?" Hannity said.
A reader didn’t know that, and asked us to look into Hannity’s claim. It checks out.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told us that while many Muslim countries allow churches, and synagogues for that matter, Saudi Arabia is unique.
"I believe Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country in which churches are prohibited," Hooper said.
Akbar S. Ahmed is the chair of Islamic Studies at American University. He told PolitiFact in 2010 that there is nothing formalized in Islamic law that forbids the building of churches or synagogues.
Saudi Arabia has a tradition of adopting the most restrictive interpretations of Islam. It is perhaps best known for its opposition to women driving cars.
In 2008, representatives of the Vatican and Saudi Arabia held secret talks to clear the way for building a church in the Saudi kingdom. But the talks stalled.
Christian bishops in Germany, Austria and Russia rebuked Saudi Arabia's top religious official in 2012 after reports that he issued a fatwa saying all churches on the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed. According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim houses of prayer. Christians there, typically foreign workers, pray in private homes.
Hannity said that Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow Christian churches.
That’s correct. The Saudi Arabian government’s policy bans the construction of churches. Saudi Arabia is an outlier among predominantly Muslim countries.
Hannity’s claim rates True.
Sean Hannity, April 8, 2015
PolitiFact, Rev. Franklin Graham says churches and synagogues are forbidden in most Muslim countries, Oct. 6, 2010
Reuters, Europe bishops slam Saudi fatwa against Gulf churches, March 23, 2012
Guardian, Vatican in Saudi talks on building churches, March 17, 2008
Email interview, Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman, Council on American-Islamic Relations, April 9, 2015
Photo, via Flickr Creative Commons
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