The news this week that flags were lowered in Australia to mark the death of a tyrant – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz – came as a shock. The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Flags on government buildings around the country were being flown at half-mast on Saturday to mark the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz…which caused a degree of confusion and consternation among some observers, who pointed to Saudi Arabia‘s poor human rights record.
Under the sharia law that governs the oil-rich state, women have traditionally been forbidden from voting, driving cars or leaving the home without a male chaperone.
A directive issued by the Commonwealth Flag Officer noted Abdullah’s death.
“As a mark of mourning and respect and in accordance with protocol, the Australian National Flag should be flown at half-mast all day on Saturday 24 January 2015 Australia-wide from all buildings and establishments occupied by Australian Government departments and affiliated agencies”.
In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded a Burmese woman – Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim – who was convicted of murdering her daughter, and sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.
Saudi Arabia, the home of the radical Islamist Wahhabi clerics and tyrannical monarchs, has an atrocious human rights record, regularly beheading people, denying rights to women and prohibiting any criticism of Islam or the regime, as we saw with the unfortunate Saudi blogger.
Israelis and Jews have long been banned from entering the Kingdom. Last year, the Saudis denied access to a Jewish journalist, the only one in the White House press corps refused a visa:
The White House expressed “deep disappointment” over Saudi Arabia‘s decision to deny an entry visa to The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief who was planning to cover President Barack Obama’s visit to the desert kingdom.
Riyadh denied a visa to Michael Wilner, the Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief, despite firmly-worded requests from US National Security Advisor Susan Rice and assistant to the president Tony Blinken to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.
Journalists attending the trip were required to submit visa forms to the White House, and not directly to the Saudi embassy. The Kingdom held Wilner’s passport for two weeks, though their embassy’s website claims turnaround for visas within 24 hours.
… In 2011, the Kingdom issued a statement denying that they did or had ever denied Americans entry based on religion.
Reached for comment, the Saudi counselor only told The Jerusalem Post that “the decision has been made” and said the Kingdom would decline to elaborate further. Obama administration officials privately acknowledged the media outlet was discriminated against.
Wilner, a Jewish American, works for the Israeli English-language newspaper, but does not hold Israeli citizenship and has never lived in the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia has no official relationship with the government of Israel.
However, in an apparent softening of this position, it was reported in December 2014:
Jews are allowed to work in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Labor Ministry told the Kingdom’s daily Al-Watan newspaper…it reported that the Saudi Labor Ministry’s website now lists Judaism as one of the 10 religions acceptable for foreign workers to practice.
The paper further cited an unnamed government source who said work permits were issued based on nationality, and not religion, and there was no official ban issuing work visas to Jews, only Israelis.
“We bar entry only to those with Israeli citizenship. Other than that, we are open to most nationalities and religions,” he said, adding that the policy was proof of the Kingdom’s openness to other religions…
“For example, if a worker is a citizen of Yemen but practices Judaism, the [Saudi] Embassy [in Yemen] would not object to issuing him a work visa for the kingdom,” the source added.
Saudi Arabia, which has some of the most restrictive travel policies in the world, does not grant visas to Israelis or people with Israeli visa stamps in their passport. And although the government has officially said that it does not discriminate against tourists based on religious affiliation, some would-be visitors in the past have reported having trouble in obtaining a visa after identifying as Jewish.
Saudi Shura Council Foreign Affairs Committee member said “We Muslims have no problem with the Jews. Our biggest problem, as an Arab and Islamic nation, is with the Zionist movement, and not with the Jews or Christians.”
According to MEMRI’s report, the committee member went on to explain that the Zionist movement exploits Judaism in order to achieve its goals.
MEMRI noted that there is a divide in the Saudi religious establishment over the differing interpretations of a hadith from the Koran that states, “Remove the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula.”
Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf state that still bans the establishment of houses of worship belonging to religions besides Islam.
However, by January 2015, Saudi Arabia had denied this report:
… the Saudi Labor Ministry denied a report in the Saudi al-Watan newspaper that non-Israeli Jews would be able to receive guest worker visas for the first time.
Last week’s report came after the Labor Ministry allowed foreign employees applying for a work visa to select Judaism as their religion; however, the statement of denial said that was not tantamount to allowing Jews to work within the kingdom.
Visitors to the Gulf state in the 1970s reported having to sign affidavits swearing they were not Jewish in order to gain entry to the country.
MEMRI noted that there is a divide in the Saudi religious establishment over the differing interpretations of a Hadith from the Koran that states: “Remove the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula.”
Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf state that still bans the establishment of houses of worship of religions other than Islam.
Jews have a long history in Saudi Arabia, having lived there since the time of the First Temple:
A historical journey to visit far-flung Jewish communities was undertaken by Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela from 1165 to 1173 that crossed and tracked some of the areas that are today in the geographic area of Saudi Arabia…he stopped at Jewish communities living in Tayma and Khaybar, two places that are known to have a longer significant historic Jewish presence in them… the Battle of Khaybar was fought between Muhammad and his followers against the centuries-long established Jewish community of Khaybar in 629.
There is virtually no Jewish activity in Saudi Arabia in the beginning of the 21st century. Jewish (as well as Christian and other non-Muslim) religious services are prohibited from being held on Saudi Arabian soil. When American military personnel were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, permission for small Christian worship services was eventually granted, but Jewish services were only permitted on US warships.[ Census data does not identify any Jews as residing within Saudi Arabian territory.
Persons with an Israeli government stamp in their passport or who are openly Jewish are generally not permitted into the Kingdom. In the 1970s, foreigners wishing to work in the kingdom had to sign an affidavit stating that they were not Jewish…
It should be noted that Khaybar, near Medina, had a large Jewish population before the rise of Islam. The Jews were often skilled artisans and successful in commerce, and many had become prosperous. However, when Muhammad’s moved his tribe from Mecca to Medina, he waged war against the Jews of Khaybar, murdering many men and enslaving the women and children. Even today, at anti-Israel rallies, the chant can be heard:
It’s even hard for footy fans to travel to Saudi Arabia to watch their team if they are women, Jewish or gay:
Western Sydney Wanderers are going to great lengths to ensure their supporters can travel to Saudi Arabia for the final of the Asian Champions League but there is no guarantee female and Jewish supporters will be granted entry visas.
The Wanderers face Al-Hilal in Riyadh on November 1 in the second leg of the continental decider but a section of their supporters may be denied a chance to witness a potential Asian title due to their gender, race or religious background.
The club is in the process of arranging travel packages with the support of Al-Hilal and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation but it will not be known… whether unaccompanied females and Jewish supporters will be able to travel due to the strict laws of the nation.
Due to conservative legislation, women face difficulties in obtaining tourist visas for Saudi Arabia while those of Jewish heritage, Israelis or even those who have visited Israel, are not permitted entry.
While AFC regulations state a club’s fans must be allowed access without prejudice, their stature does not overrule state legislation.
“There needs to be an invitation. We are working with the FFA [Football Federation of Australia], AFC [Asian Football Confederation], the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and Al-Hilal to obtain an invitation for our supporters to travel,” a Wanderers spokesman said.
Single women must be in the company of a male relative or their husband and travel with marriage certificates to obtain a tourist visa, or must be escorted at all times as part of a supervised tourism group.
Saudi football has a long history of banning women from attending games. The nation allowed females to attend matches only last year, and under harsh restrictions.
Only selected stadiums cater for segregated sections, which prevent male and female supporters standing next to each other. Under pressure from international organisations, the Saudi Arabian domestic league allowed a number of women to attend the games in reserved sections of the stadium…
The club has not yet received any advice for homosexual Wanderers supporters… but DFAT states: “Homosexual activity is illegal and penalties include the death penalty.”
It is understood Wanderers are working with the AFC to arrange a way for their chairman, Paul Lederer to attend the match under arrangements often reserved for diplomats.
Lederer, who is Jewish, is understood to be keen to attend the match, but faces difficulty in obtaining a visa.
The club hopes Lederer can bypass those laws under unspecified arrangements as an invited special guest of the AFC. Competition regulations state:
“Hosting Club and its National Association must guarantee and ensure that access to the stadium will be granted to the AFC delegation, officials and players of the visiting club, sponsors, travelling fans and media without any discrimination of gender, race or nationality.”
It beats me why anyone would want to go to this racist, sexist, homophobic, theocratic hellhole.
What puzzles me even more is why the Australian Government is showing deference to a regime that imposes strict sharia, regularly chops people’s heads off in the public square and gives hundreds of lashes to a blogger. Surely they must realize that Saudi ‘values’ are totally incompatible with Australian values, and that by showing ‘respect’ to this evil regime, they are abandoning their commitment to liberal democratic values.
Tony Abbott, in part of his Australia Day speech, said
“we celebrate the history that has made us who we are; the country that we love and the values and institutions that underpin it.”
Empty words, considering he has just commemorated a monarch who exemplifies everything that undermines Australian values.