Prominent liberal Muslims in Austria have requested that Saudi Arabia build a church in the Kingdom to balance the country's funding of mosques in Christian countries.
The Initiative of Liberal Muslims in Austria (ILMOe) have reiterated their call for Saudi Arabia to build a church in the Kingdom. Churches are not officially allowed in the birthplace of Mohammed.
Naharnet reported the ILMOe have requested Saudi ambassador Mohammed al-Salloum pass a letter to the authorities in Riyadh, requesting the construction of a church. The letter said:
"Saudi Arabia supports the construction of many mosques and thousands of prayer rooms in Christian countries like in Europe, both financially and organisationally. The principle of reciprocity should also obviously allow the appearance of non-Muslim sacred buildings in their country."
The ILMOe first called for a church in Saudi Arabia in March this year, in response to a fatwa issued by Saudi's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh against churches in the Arabian Peninsula. Christian Today reported the Grand Mufti decreed it is "necessary to destroy all the churches" in the region.
Liberal Muslims in Austria condemned the statement, as did Amnesty International who said: "The grand mufti’s reported comments, which fit into a wider pattern of discrimination against religious minorities in Saudi Arabia, are a serious cause for concern."
The Jerusalem Post reported Human Rights Watch also condemned the statement, saying: "some Muslims argue a prophetic tradition holds that no houses of worship for religions other than Islam must be built – are certain to be deeply offensive to believers of other faiths who have long suffered from religious persecution and discrimination in Saudi Arabia in particular."
The Austrian liberal Muslims are not a lone voice in the Muslim world condemning the words of the Grand Mufti. Reuters reported Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate in Ankara, said that "Islam respected the rights of other faiths and calls for the destruction of churches went against centuries of tolerance."
Although Saudi Arabia allows those who practice other faiths than Islam to gather in private to worship it makes no provision for churches for the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers who live in the Kingdom.