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Question/Criticism: There Are No Churches In Saudi Arabia? Isn't Islam Evil?
That’s like saying because I don’t see any Mosques, Temples or Synagogues in the Vatican, then that makes Christianity evil. How Silly!!! The questions that should be asked are (1) is it really true that there are no churches in Saudi Arabia and (2) is this something that Islam teaches or is this a decision made by the Saudis and have nothing to do with Islam. Let’s look at the answers for both with credible evidences.
The truth is there are religious places of worship for other religions all over the Muslim world and they have been there for centuries. The oldest synagogue in the world is in Iraq (if it is still standing after the US invasion). In Iran the Jewish communities there remain loyal to Iran, despite lucrative offers from the Israelis for Jews to migrate to Israel. According to this article in the Jewish Haarertz magazine, the Jews in Iran responded to the Israeli cash offers as follows:
"[The money is] inappropriate and politically immature, "the group said in a statement that was carried by Western and Iranian news outlets.
It added Iran's Jewish community has remained loyal to the Islamic Republic and that their "Jewish Iranian identity is not a commodity that passes from the hands of one merchant to another in return for money."
As for Christians amongst Muslim nations, it should be noted that Jews, Christians and Muslims have lived in Palestine together in peace and harmony for centuries under Muslim rule. There was absolute liberty of conscience for the Christians; they kept their most important Churches and built new ones; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem has always been a Christian place of worship.
The Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem is another church that has a long and rich history. In Israel the Sephardi Jews, Muslims and Christians are united against the Zionists. These are the local people who lived in Palestine long before the invasion by European Ashkenazi Jews. These three groups have formed a close bond against Zionism. In fact, in 2002 it was the Christian Church of the Nativity that gave shelter to Muslim Palestinians and protected them against the Israeli army.
M. Pickthall, an Englishman, wrote the following around the turn of the Century about the differences in behavior of Christians when they conquered Jerusalem and of Muslims when they conquered Jerusalem from the Romans at two different points in history:
"To turn to the Christians, the story of the triumphal entry of the Khalifah Umar ibn al-Khattab into Jerusalem has been often told, but I shall tell it once again, for it illustrates the proper Muslim attitude towards the People of the Scripture....The Christian officials urged him to spread his carpet in the Church (of the Holy Sepulchre) itself, but he refused saying that some of the ignorant Muslims after him might claim the Church and convert it into a mosque because he had once prayed there. He had his carpet carried to the top of the steps outside the church, to the spot where the Mosque of Umar now stands –
"From that day to this; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has always been a Christian place of worship, the only things the Muslims did in the way of interference with the Christian's liberty of conscience in respect of it was to see that every sect of Christians had access to it, and that it was not monopolized by one sect to the exclusion of others. The same is true of the Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem, and of other buildings of special sanctity.
"When the Crusaders took Jerusalem they massacred the Eastern Christians with the Muslims indiscriminately, and while they ruled in Palestine the Eastern Christians, such of them as did not accompany the retreating Muslim army, were deprived of all the privileges which Islam secured to them and were treated as a sort of outcasts. Many of them became Roman Catholics in order to secure a higher status; but after the re-conquest, when the emigrants returned, the followers of the Eastern Church were found again to be in large majority over those who owed obedience to the Pope of Rome. The old order was reestablished and all the Dhimmis once again enjoyed their privileges in accordance with the Sacred Law (of Islam)."
So Islam is not against the establishment of churches in Muslim lands. Churches have existed there for centuries and there are large numbers of Christians still existing in the Middle East. If the vicious lie told about Muslims practicing “convert or die” was true, there would not be a single church or a single Christian existing in Muslim countries today over the centuries of Muslim rule. But Christians and their churches continue to be present in large numbers in the Middle East, Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, Turkey and other Muslim countries. This is due in large part to the tolerance of Islam for other religions and the specific directive that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave to Muslims to protect the sacred places of worship of other religions.
For Saudi Arabia the whole country had converted to Islam. So for a long time there was no need for churches simply because there were no Christians there. But since the discovery of oil and the increase of Christian workers into Saudi Arabia, that has changed. Today in compounds, where ex-pats live, there are churches and places of worship for people of other religions. On the compound where I live, there is a church across the street from me. My mother, who came to visit me for a month, and is a Catholic, went to Mass every Friday at a church for Catholics on my compound. She went Friday instead of Sunday because in Saudi our Fridays are like the Sundays for Christians in the West.
So for a long time in Saudi Arabia the reason for no churches being there was cultural and not an Islamic edict. The fact that there are churches in Muslim lands, and they have been there for centuries, shows that Muslims are not against having churches in their lands.