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Saudi Arabia Reaffirms Ban on the Building of Non-Muslim Places of Worship

Bishops from several European countries are criticizing Saudi Minister of Justice, Mohamed el-Eissi, after he insisted that "the cradle of the Muslim sanctities will not allow the establishment of any other places of worship."

The statement has reflected the Saudi government's intention to resume its ban on the building of non-Muslim places of worship within Saudi territories, or even the observance of non-Islamic religious rituals.

The minister reaffirmed the commitment to the exclusion of other religions in the Arabian country during a meeting with a number of European parliamentarians and members of the Foreign Relations Committee this week.

"My country will not allow the establishment of places of worship for non-Muslims," he said in response to a question raised by the parliamentarians on the matter.

Saudi Arabia has long faced criticism due to its position of limiting religious freedom within the country. The banning of other religious houses of worship comes from a Salafi tradition that prohibits the existence of two religions in the Arabian Peninsula.

Other Gulf States, however, do not uphold such a law. German, Russian and Austrian bishops strongly criticized Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh for issuing a fatwa calling for the demolition of churches in the Arabian Peninsula.

It was a rare criticism from Christian clerics against their Muslim counterparts.

The Saudi king has led a number of initiatives to support dialogue between religions and cultures, but the strict position against the building of churches remains despite the millions of expatriate Christians in the country.

The Vatican has called upon Saudi authorities to change its policies on other religions in the country.

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