[The following statement by Dr. Ehrenfeld was read by Alyssa Lappen at the meeting on "Protection of Religious Sites and Prevention of the Use of Religion to Incite Terrorism/Violence" which took place at the U.N. Headquarters in New York on December 13th, 2005. Dr. Ehrenfeld was ill with pneumonia].
No churches or synagogues have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia since it was established in 1932 —because none are allowed. Those who want to establish churches "are, unfortunately, fanatics," according to the Saudi First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, in an interview with the Associated Press on March 13, 2003. He concluded: "There are no churches - not in the past, the present or future....”
There is no declared Muslim state, which offers full civil rights to members of other religions. Many Christians work in Saudi Arabia, but they are not allowed to practice their religion in public because there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. The State Department's report on Religious Freedom points out that the Saudis do “not always respect this right in practice and do not define this right in law.”
Last April, 40 Pakistani Christians including men, women and children were arrested for holding prayers in a private home in Riyadh. Needless to say, their prayer-books were confiscated.
Moreover, in the 1990's, Christian religious services in the American Embassy were terminated at the Saudi government's request. And even websites devoted to other religions and to religious freedom and tolerance are blocked by the Saudi government.
And the Saudis not only oppress all other religions but actively promote an ideology of hate in their own country and abroad. Freedom House documented how the Saudi government is involved in propagating internationally a “religious ideology that explicitly promotes hate, intolerance, and other human rights violations, and in some cases violence, toward members of other religious groups, both Muslims and non-Muslims.”
In Iran, where the president has repeatedly said, "I want to stop Christianity in this country," last month, a Protestant pastor has been murdered because he himself converted from Islam. It is important to note that all five schools of Islamic law agree that the penalty for conversion - "apostasy" - is death.
In Indonesia, especially in the Moluccan islands, thousands of Christians were massacred and tens of thousands driven from their homes in the last decade alone by Islamist mobs.
In Egypt, Christians face persecution in the form of rapes, kidnappings and forced conversions as well as economic discrimination and restriction on their property and on what they can build.
Similar situations apply in most Gulf States, which were Islamized long ago. In Yemen, “the government forbids conversions, requires permission for the construction of new places of worship and prohibits non-Muslims from proselytizing.” The country has two churches in the city of Aden. One of the churches was bombed on January 1, 2001. And on December 30, 2002 - three Southern Baptist missionaries working in the Baptist Hospital at Jibla were killed.
In November 2005, Qatar allowed to construct the first church in 14 Centuries. However, no “freestanding cross” to identify the building as a church is allowed. Yet, this is seen as a big step towards reform.
However, radical Islamists adhere to medieval traditions and laws mandating the Jihad. According to the Dictionary of Islam: conquered by jihad, subjugated people are given three choices:
2) pay a head tax, or
Thirteenth Century jurist Ibn Taymiya, often quoted by Osama bin Laden, wrote that spoils of war “received the name of fay since Allah had taken them away from the infidels in order to restore them to the Muslims.... [The] infidels forfeit their persons and their belongings which they do not use in Allah's service to the faithful believers who serve Allah and unto whom Allah restitutes what is theirs....”
This creed dictated that in conquered regions, ancient religious sites be confiscated and infidels banned from using them. Thus, the Dome of the Rock was constructed on the ruins of the Temple Mount in 691 AD., Al-Aqsa Mosque over the Basilica of St. Mary in 712, AD, and the Grand Mosque of Damascus, was built over the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in 715 AD.
In India, the Vikramasli temple was razed to the ground in the 13th Century, and its foundation- stones thrown into the Ganges. According to scholar K.S. Lal, thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed and their stones used to build mosques.
Muslim scribes recount the detestation on a church in Georgia in 1551 by Safavid Shah Tahmasp. “The Shah and his nobles went to see the church and slew twenty evil priests and broke the bell of 17 maunds...and destroyed the doors of iron and gold and sent them to the treasury.”
Only when infidels surrendered could they preserve religious buildings, and then only if a clause specifically allowed them, but in that case modifications and improvements were prohibited. Furthermore, 11th Century jurist Abu Al-Hasan Al Mawardi wrote that non-Muslim dhimmis “are not allowed to erect new synagogues or churches in the territory of Islam and any built are to be demolished without compensation.”
In countries with a Muslim majority, Islamists regularly target churches, synagogues and other non-Muslim holy sites for desecration and destruction. The list of old and new examples of Islamic edicts preaching intolerance of others and calling for their destruction as well as the destruction of their holy sites is long.
Unless those - still the majority of the world - who do not adhere to such dogma, take action to stop this aggression, our future is in jeopardy.
The history of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat, is filled with religious violence. From 1975 to 1982, when the PLO operated in and from Lebanon, it terrorized Christian communities and ransacked their churches. Even after the newly established Palestinian Authority committed to religious tolerance in the Oslo Accord, its own police forcefully took over Abraham's Oak Russian "Holy Trinity" Monastery in Hebron, on July 5, 1997, wounding several monks and nuns.
Then, in January 2000, the PA evicted five White Russian monks from their 19th Century Jericho Monastery.
In September 1996, Palestinians destroyed the synagogue at Joseph's tomb in Nablus. Then, in October 2000, the reconstructed synagogue and yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb was sacked and burned by mobs, and Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, who went there hoping to save Torah scrolls and other holy objects, was murdered. The next day his bullet-ridden body was found in a cave. Today, the Jewish holy site is buried under the new mosque that was built over the ruins of Joseph Tomb.
The PA’s Tanzim terrorist group invasion and desecration of Bethlehem's Church of Nativity, in May 2002, was premeditated, according to their commander Abdullah Abu-Hadid. He stated on record: "The idea was to enter the church in order to create international pressure on Israel... We knew beforehand that there was two years worth of food for 50 monks. Oil, beans, rice, olives, good bathrooms and the largest wells in old Bethlehem."
The PA terrorists "stole gold objects from the monks, ate their scarce food, and urinated on the church floor."
Muslims have attacked the “infidels” and their houses of worship in order to take over their properties for centuries. In the September 1955 “Istanbul Pogrom,” Muslims sacked the homes, businesses and churches of tens of thousands of Greek Christians, Armenians and Jews in Istanbul. “Dozens of Greek men and women were raped, and a number of men were forcibly circumcised by the mob.” Today, of the 200,000 of the Greek community, only 1,500 live in Istanbul. And only 24,000 Jews remained of more than 100,000 at the beginning of the last Century. As for the Armenians, their massacre in 1915 has been well documented.
In the Balkans, since the Serbs were defeated in Kosovo in 1999, more than 100 ancient Orthodox holy places were destroyed, some dating back to the 13th through 15th centuries.
The destruction of the two fifth-century Buddha statues lining Bamiyan Valley's soaring cliffs, in March 2001, came after a fatwa ordered by the Taliban that all Afghan “idols” be destroyed as anti-Muslim.
Islamists scholars supported the destruction of the Buddha statutes. Among the supporters was American Muslim, Sheikh Ali al-Timimi, who in July this year was sentenced by a judge in Virginia to life in prison because he worked to get a group of young Americans Muslims to obtain terrorists training so that they could go to Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban against the “infidels.” He wrote that there is “overwhelming evidence from the Quran and the Sunna where we have been commanded to destroy all images and flatten all graves.”
Unfortunately, many other holy sites of other religions have been destroyed because of the intolerant Islamists – both Shiite and Sunni dogmas that teach disrespect for the rights of Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims. The most flagrant proponent of this hate lately is Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who not only denies the Holocaust as a historical event, but uses every opportunity to reiterate that Israel "must be wiped off the map."
Statements like this encourage not only the massacre of Jews and their holy sites, but also are responsible for the mass murder of Christians and the razing of churches worldwide—in Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan and Nigeria—which happens in in 83% of nations with Muslim majorities, according to Tom Barrett in American Daily.
To remedy the situation, the UN—as well as all other international organizations—should sanction all the countries that do not allow religious freedom and withdraw all membership privileges of all the countries that do not provide legal protection and equal rights to all their citizens.
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