Saudi Arabia ‘agrees deal with Vatican to build churches for Christians living in the Muslim country’

515fcf92a97931d5719e6ab6c697a146b585e43dSaudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.

The reported agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (file photo) and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history

Saudi Arabia has agreed a deal with the Vatican to build churches for Christian worshippers in the Arab country, it is claimed by Middle Eastern media.

The reported agreement between Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa of the Muslim World League would mark a first in Saudi history.

The cardinal has visited Saudi Arabia this year and met the royal family, urging the Muslim country to treat its citizens equally.

The churches will be built alongside the establishment of a committee to improve relations between the two, Egypt Independent reports.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-extremism Etidal centre also hosted Cardinal Tauran last month as the crown prince pushes for inter-religious exchange in the ultra-conservative Sunni kingdom.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY MAIL (UK)

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Christians should not be second-class citizens, cardinal tells Saudi Arabia

1689484-cardinal-1524118709-380-640x480French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran’s trip, the first by such a senior Catholic figure, raised hopes of more openness in the kingdom, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites but bans the practice of other faiths. It included a meeting with King Salman, his first with a Catholic official.

“I think all religions are faced with two dangers: terrorism and ignorance,” Tauran, who is head of the Vatican’s Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, told Vatican Radio.

“During my meetings, I insisted very much on this point, that Christians and non-Muslims are spoken of well in schools and that they are never considered second-class citizens,” he said.

Tauran, 75, who signed a cooperation accord with Saudi authorities, said he sensed that they wanted “to show that even in Saudi Arabia there is the possibility of discussion, and therefore of changing the country’s image”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

Signs of Saudi shift to ‘moderate’ Islam emerging at home and abroad

ss13LONDON – Saudi Arabia is increasing efforts to promote a “moderate” form of Islam, a promise made by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to help move the kingdom into the modern era.

A member of the kingdom’s Council of Senior Scholars, considered the country’s chief religious body, recently stated that women were not under religious obligation to wear the abaya, the traditional loose-fitting black robe worn by Muslim women in the Gulf region.

During a question-and-answer session on a Mecca radio station, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq said Muslim women should dress modestly but that the abaya was not a religious requirement.

“More than 90% of committed Muslim women in the Islamic world do not wear the abaya,” Mutlaq said. “We see them in Mecca and Medina. They are women who, may God bless them, are committed and memorise the Quran and preach for God but they do not wear abayas. For this reason, my friends, we do not oblige [women] to wear abaya.”

On the same programme, Mutlaq said long fingernails were frowned upon in Islam.

Mutlaq’s comments, which carry significant weight in religious circles, led to fierce debates and the creation of the Twitter hashtag #Al-Mutlaq_theabaya_not necessary.

“Those who trade in religion know that the life the Muslim Brotherhood has grown accustomed to in the past 40 years is over and these hypocrites must a find a different path instead of using religion to control people’s lives,” wrote Twitter user @OmrRian.

Other reactions were less supportive.

“Even if 100 fatwas have been issued, I swear to God I will never leave my abaya. Over my dead body. Girls, do not listen to the fatwas,” wrote Twitter user @Kooshe90.

As home to two of Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia has long been defined culturally by its role and place in the religion. However, in a post 9/11 world, the kingdom has also been accused of supporting an intolerant form of Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARAB NEWS

Saudis dedicated to enhancing role of dialogue to combat violence in name of religion

1098101-1650648600JEDDAH: The Secretary-General of the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar, affirmed the center’s commitment to enhancing the role of dialogue in combating violence in the name of religion.

Muammar was addressing an audience at the International Conference on “Tackling Violence in the Name of Religion” held in Rome on Saturday, in the presence of a number of religious, political and intellectual leaders from around the world to discuss best practices to activate the role of individuals, leaders and religious institutions in this field.

He pointed to the importance of the Vienna Conference, which was organized by the center under the title “United against violence in the name of religion,” explaining that the outcomes of that conference were the basis of the center’s future strategy and played an important role in the formulation of the United Nations Plan of Action for the year 2015 to combat violent extremism leading to genocide.

Mummar added that the center’s strategy of activating the role of religious individuals, leaders and institutions is based on making them key partners, working side by side with policy makers in effectively addressing the multiple threats to peaceful coexistence and tolerance that extremist groups are involved in.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARAB NEWS

Mohammed bin Salman’s Next Saudi Challenge: Curtailing Ultraconservative Islam

saudiCrown prince’s overhaul includes a crackdown on religious fundamentalists who exercised rigid control; female drivers and music concerts

ABHA, Saudi Arabia—Arwa Alneami wanted to be an artist ever since she was a child. But growing up in the conservative region of Asir, she was constrained by a rigid strain of Sunni Islam that has long defined life in Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s image to the outside world. When she drew a bird, Ms. Alneami recalls, teachers would scold her and cross off its head, saying only God can create life.

Now that religious control is coming under its sharpest challenge in modern times. Saudi leaders, spurred by the need to diversify the oil-dependent economy, are moving faster than any of their predecessors to unravel the legacy of Islamic conservatism that had taken hold of the country four decades ago and shaped the education of generations.

Spearheading the transformation is 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who sees social liberalization as a vital part of his radical economic modernization plan and has vowed to return his country to a more tolerant form of Islam.

“We are only going back to how we were: to the tolerant, moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people,” Prince Mohammed said during an investment conference in Riyadh in October.

Ms. Alneami, 32, today is a rising star of the kingdom’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. “Before, I had a love-hate relationship with Saudi Arabia,” she says. “I used to think a lot about leaving the country. I wanted to go somewhere where I could have a normal life. Now, normal is coming to us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Game of Thrones Christians Should Be Watching

79795Before the crown prince of Saudi Arabia stunned the world with his sudden arrest of dozens of fellow princes and millionaires on corruption charges, he stunned many Christians with his stated desire to moderate its version of Islam, commonly dubbed Wahhabism.

 Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 as an alliance between Bedouin warriors of the al-Saud tribe and strict Salafi Muslim scholars following Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Discovering oil six years later, it also became one of the Muslim world’s wealthiest nations. The combination has led many religious freedom advocates to blame Saudi petrodollars for funding a worldwide rise in Islamist extremism.

But last month, Mohammad bin Salman said his conservative Muslim country would return to “what we were before: a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.”

Extremist ideas would be destroyed, the crown prince proclaimed, blaming Iran for sparking Saudi Arabia’s notoriously tight religious control. He pledges now to reverse this and stamp out extremism.

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia,” bin Salman said. “What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries; one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Saudi Arabia scholar issues fatwa, says Muslims may pray in churches and synagogues

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A top scholar from Saudi Arabia has said that Islam is a religion of tolerance and mercy and that Muslims should spread true Islam and should be tolerant in their treatment of people from different religions.

Abdullah bin Sulaiman Al-Manea, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said that Islam does not support violence, intolerance or terror. Al-Manea gave a fatwa (religious advisory opinion), stating that Muslims may pray in Shiite or Sufi mosques, churches or synagogues, according to reports by Al-Anba’ Kuwaiti newspaper.

He added that all the land belong to God and cited the Prophet’s words:  “The earth has been made a place of prostration and a means of purification for me.”

The Saudi scholar said that Islam is a religion of tolerance that Muslims cannot have differences in the basic principles of Aqidah (creed) of Islam, but they may differ in the branches, according to Arab News reports.

Citing an occasion where the Prophet received a delegation of Christians from Najran in his mosques, and allowed them to perform their own prayers, Al-Manea said that this is how non-Muslims should be treated by followers of Islam. He also cited several other sayings of the Prophet which reflected his kindness and mercy on non-Muslims.

The scholar said that Islam spread in several countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, because of the good manners of Muslim merchants. He said the behaviour of the merchants attracted the citizens of these countries to embrace the religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES