(CNSNews.com) - A U.S.-based think tank critical of the Saudi government has added its voice to allegations that authorities in the kingdom routinely destroy Bibles.
"As a matter of official policy, the government either incinerates or dumps Bibles, crosses and other Christian paraphernalia," the Saudi Institute said in an article posted on its website.
"Although considered as holy in Islam and mentioned in the Koran dozens of times, the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia, and is confiscated and destroyed by government officials," it said.
Last week a Christian pastor who worked in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s told the Cybercast News Service it was widely known among underground Christians there that Bibles were confiscated -- and sometimes shredded -- by Saudi customs officials at ports of entry.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington has yet to respond to emailed queries about its policies regarding the Bibles and the shredding allegations.
Saudi Arabia was one of the first governments to protest after Newsweek reported earlier this month that U.S. troops had thrown a Koran into a toilet to fluster Muslim terror suspects being detained by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
A statement issued on May 12 said the Saudi government was "following with great concern and apprehension reports that the sanctity of the Holy Koran has been violated on several occasions at Guantanamo Bay."
Following rioting in Afghanistan and protests elsewhere in the Muslim world, Newsweek retracted the report. It said its unnamed government source was no longer certain about his original claim that he saw the Koran flushing mentioned in a military report of abuse at the base.
Home to Islam's two most revered sites, in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia views itself as guardian of the religion. The kingdom is committed to the fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology, and non-Wahhabi Muslim traditions are frowned upon.
Human rights campaigners name Saudi Arabia as one of the world's most egregious violators of religious freedom.
In another article posted on its site -- and published as an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday -- Saudi Institute director Ali Al-Ahmed wrote of his fellow Saudis: "As Muslims, we have not been as generous as our Christian and Jewish counterparts in respecting others' holy books and religious symbols.
"Saudi Arabia bans the importation or the display of crosses, Stars of David or any other religious symbols not approved by the Wahhabi establishment," he continued. "TV programs that show Christian clergymen, crosses or Stars of David are censored."
Based in Washington, the Saudi Institute describes itself as an independent organization that provides information relating to "terrorism, democracy, human rights, charitable organizations, religious freedom and the House of Saud."
Wire services reported Saturday that 18 Saudi Muslim scholars have demanded that "those involved in the alleged desecration of the Koran at the U.S. detention facility of Guantanamo Bay be tried by an Islamic court."
See earlier story:
Saudis Shred Bibles, Rights Campaigners Claim (May. 19, 2005)
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