I wouldn’t bother with this story, except that the UK media seem to have received a 3-line whip, directing silence about it. ArabianBusiness.com reports (four days ago!):
Destroy all churches in Gulf, says Saudi Grand Mufti
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” following Kuwait’s moves to ban their construction.
Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country, Arabic media have reported.
Fox News reported the story from the Washington Times, and commented:
If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.
On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” The ruling came in response to a query from a Kuwaiti delegation over proposed legislation to prevent construction of churches in the emirate.
The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad declared, “There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula.” This passage has long been used to justify intolerance in the kingdom. Churches have always been banned in Saudi Arabia, and until recently Jews were not even allowed in the country. Those wishing to worship in the manner of their choosing must do so hidden away in private, and even then the morality police have been known to show up unexpectedly and halt proceedings.
This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.
There’s nothing novel in the demand, in truth. This is how Islam is, as a look at the dismal stories in the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria reveals. Usually the method is to forbid repairs, which, over time, amounts to the same thing; but direct demolition or theft of the premises is also fairly common. How else, indeed, did Hagia Sophia come to be a mosque? How much longer we may be allowed to say this, however, I do not know.
But the real issue for me is the media silence. Fox News make precisely the right point. For instance, I can see no sign that the BBC have reported this. This happened a week ago. And I didn’t know until, by accident, I saw the story on Facebook.
We cannot trust the mass media. Incidents like this, where a story with all sorts of important implications go unreported, should act as a wake-up call. Our mass media are in the hands of a tiny minority of people whose values are not our own.
It isn’t that the stories they run are untrue — although the framing of the story is often dishonest or polemical. It is the selection and the editing that ensures that only stories that reflect one particular political agenda and narrative can even be reported. Dr Goebbels did it first (and isn’t it curious that, in all my 40 years of watching TV, I have yet to see a documentary on the media methods of the good doctor?)
And that should worry us all.