Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti and top authority on Sunni religious law, has called for all churches in the Arabian Peninsula to be destroyed, in accordance with Muhammad’s command to rid the region of all Jews and Christians.
The statement was made March 17th in response to an enquiry from a delegation from Kuwait after Kuwaiti MP Osama al-Munawar made a statement on Twitter in February that he was planning to submit a bill to remove all churches in the country. The same MP later clarified that what he really meant to say was that he would submit a bill to prevent the construction of any new churches in the country, not the destruction of existing church buildings.
Nevertheless, the grand mufti – who is also the head of the Supreme Court of Ulema (Islamic Scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas – said that as part of the Arabian Peninsula, it is necessary that Kuwait destroy all of its churches.
Not the first time the Sheikh has said so, his statement is based on a hadith (a collection of traditions that record what Muhammad said and did) that says: “It has been narrated by ‘Umar b. al-Khattib that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim” (Sahih Muslim Book 019, Number 4366). This order was executed by the second Caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, fulfilling Muhammad’s wish for the sole practise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. As such, there are no church buildings permitted in Saudi Arabia, although expatriate Christians are permitted a certain degree of freedom to practise their religion in private.
In Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism (Salafism) is the state religion. This form of Islam rejects interpretations by the traditional Sunni legal schools of thought, insisting that only the Quran and Sunna can be used as authorities. It also opposes Shia and Sufi interpretations and practice. It declares there must only be one religion on the Arabian Peninsula. Wahhabism is one strand in the theology of the Islamic State, which wages a bloodthirsty jihad across the Middle East for the purpose of creating a caliphate that unites all Muslims under the authority of self-proclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim”, as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is known amongst his followers.
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In a special feature, Barnabas Aid also provides a historical remembrance of forgotten genocide of 1915. In 1900 Christians constituted around 32% of Ottoman Turkey’s population. Just 27 years later the figure was down to about 1.8%.
In early 1915, a fatwa was issued against non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire. Muslims were called to fight the Christian minorities with whom they had been living as neighbours, albeit not on equal or necessarily peaceful terms. Many refused to take part, but those who did inflicted colossal suffering and destruction on the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians.
It is thought that over 1.5 million Armenians, up to 750,000 Assyrians and up to 1.5 million Greeks – men, women and children – were killed in the state-sanctioned genocide over a 30-year period; yet their tragic loss is barely remembered today. The Armenians’ Golgotha and the Assyrians’ Seyfo (“sword”) is a forgotten genocide against forgotten peoples.