US body urges "aggressive action" against S Arabia
By: Mohamed Ali
WASHINGTON: The US Commission on
International Religious Freedom called on the government to take
"aggressive action" against Saudi Arabia for religious freedom
In its annual report to Congress and President Bush's administration,
the Congress-mandated Commission also urged Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice to maintain Saudi Arabia as well as China, North
Korea, Sudan, Iran, Vietnam, Eritrea, and Myanmar in the annual
government blacklist of "severe religious freedom violators."
The commission, in addition, proposed that Pakistan, Uzbekistan and
Turkmenistan be included in the blacklist.
The commission cannot mandate any specific action and its past calls
for steps to punish violators have been ignored.
However, last year the United States denied the export of some defense
items to Eritrea, the first action to be taken against another country
as a result of its designation by the commission as a "country of
On Saudi Arabia, the commission concluded that "freedom of religion
does not exist" as the government banned all forms of religious
expression except its own interpretation of Islam and continued to
finance "extreme religious intolerance and hatred" around the world.
It criticized the Bush administration for failing to punish Saudi
Arabia for violations listed in last year's report and urged it to
take action this year.
In Egypt, "discrimination, intolerance and other human rights
violations affect a broad spectrum of religious groups," including
Coptic Christians, Bahais, Jews and members of Muslim communities.
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