Makes sense, right? What could possibly stand in the way of that? Just Islamic law, whose very purpose is to establish Islam’s dominance, and the subjugation of other religions under it. That imperative follows the commands of Qur’an 9:29, which provides unbelievers the options of conversion, subjugation, or war — not reciprocal respect and dignity. Indeed, the entire purpose of jihad in all its forms is to impose the rule of Sharia, and this unjust social order that is enshrined in it.
Saudi Arabia is given particular attention in this story. Ultimately, the Saudis are only carrying out Muhammad’s intentions according to authoritative (sahih, or “solid,” “reliable”) Islamic texts:
“I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.” – Sahih Muslim 19.4366.
Indeed, we are repeatedly told Islam in its “true” form is tolerant, but Islam is tolerant on Islam’s own terms, and by its own definition of the proper extent of religious tolerance. The inherent instability and frequently violent conditions for non-Muslims in Muslim countries are direct consequences of Islam’s utter rejection of the notion of reciprocity and equality between believers and non-believers.
It will be interesting to see what response Pope Benedict’s comments elicit from Muslim leaders, beyond the usual generalities about “tolerance,” “respect,” and “justice,” made with the hope that non-Muslim listeners will project their own cultural understanding onto those terms.
“Pope calls for religious freedom in Muslim states,” by Phillip Pullella for Reuters, November 11:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict Thursday said all states must guarantee the freedom for everyone to practice their faith publicly, a clear criticism of some Muslim countries where religious rights are restricted.
The pope issued the call in a document of nearly 200 pages called an “apostolic exhortation,” in which he offered his reflections on a synod of bishops that met in the Vatican in 2008 on the theme the “Word of God.”
He said the Catholic Church respected all religions and a separate section of the document was dedicated to relations with Muslims.
“All the same, dialogue would not prove fruitful unless it included authentic respect for each person and the ability of all freely to practice their religion,” he said.
“Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres,” he said, adding that this had to include the right to profess religion “privately and publicly and (for) freedom of conscience to be effectively guaranteed to all believers.”
“Reciprocity” is the term the Roman Catholic Church uses in demanding full rights for Christians in Islamic states where laws prohibit them from practicing their faith openly. It has often asked for reciprocity with Saudi Arabia.
At least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world.
The freedom to practice Christianity, or any religion other than Islam, is not always permitted in the Gulf and varies from country to country. Saudi Arabia, which observes an austere form of Sunni Islam, has the tightest restrictions.
The Vatican says Christians in predominantly Muslim countries should be allowed to practice their faith openly, just as Muslims can in predominantly Christian countries in Europe.
In Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, any form of non-Muslim worship takes place in private. Converting Muslims is punishable by death, although such sentences are rare.
Injustice is injustice, and however “rare” it supposedly is does not excuse it as long as the law is on the books. Even without being carried out, it has a deterrent effect on the exercise of the basic right to freedom of conscience.
Services and prayer meetings are often held in diplomats’ homes but access is limited, so Christians meet to worship in hotel conference rooms, at great risk.
The Vatican has expressed concern about the fate of Christians in predominantly Muslim Iraq, where 52 hostages and police were killed Sunday when security forces stormed a church that had been raided by al-Qaeda-linked gunmen.
In the document, the pope re-stated Vatican opposition to the use of violence in the name of religion.