U.S. isn't just turning a blind eye to Saudi religious violations—it's part of it, says report

The death toll in Monday night's car bombing attacks in Saudi Arabia has risen to 34, but the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said yesterday that the attacks "may be portents of things to come" unless the American and Saudi Arabian governments get serious about religious freedom in that country.

In issuing its fourth annual report yesterday, the USCIRF drew special attention to Saudi Arabia. It's the world's top violator of religious freedom, the panel said, but the State Department has refused to name it a "country of particular concern" as it did with China, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, North Korea, and Sudan.

"Saudi Arabia is a uniquely repressive case where the government forcefully and almost completely limits the public practice or expression of religion to one interpretation: a narrow and puritanical version of Islam based on the Wahhabi doctrine," says the commission's report. "Consequently, those Saudis and foreign contract workers who do not adhere to the Saudi government's interpretation of Islam are subject to severe religious freedom violations." Followers of other religions—even of other forms of Islam—are detained, imprisoned, and tortured, the report says.

"These are not idiosyncratic American perceptions of religious freedom," said USCIRF vice-chair Michael Young. "We don't understand how one could not name Saudi Arabia as a CPC. Saudi Arabia has been explicitly left out of any [State Department] citations."

At yesterday's press conference, chairman Felice Gaer was forceful: "It's time to apply the same standards to Saudi Arabia that are applied elsewhere," she said.

And there's no time like the present, added ...

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