|10/11/2002: A State of Denial - Wall Street Journal|
Wall Street Journal
Behold the bracing clarity of a simple declarative sentence. "Freedom of religion does not exist." The reference is to Saudi Arabia, and the sentence comes from the State Department's just-released index of religious freedom. So far so good. But the grim assessment raises a question: If Saudi Arabia has no freedom of religion, and if punishment for those outside the Wahhabi fold includes arrest and credible reports of torture, why has the State Department not designated Saudi Arabia one of its "countries of particular concern"?
Nina Shea, who sits on the commission and runs the Center for Religious Freedom, isn't buying the State Department line. "The problem goes far deeper than persecution at home, because the Saudis are also exporting Wahhabi extremism abroad," Ms. Shea tells us. "And when we don't call them on it in our own reports, we just confirm to them that we are the bankrupt materialist culture they accuse us of being."
In this post-9/11 world, we ought at least to have learned the consequences of not calling things by their rightful names. If the State Department is to have a list that designates countries as having "engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom," it ought to be an honest one. And it's hard to think of an honest list that wouldn't have Saudi Arabia near the top.