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Religious freedom remains 'severly restricted' in Saudi Arabia, says UK government

by Hannah Tooley

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood was responding to a question by DUP MP Jim Shannon, who asked Mr Elwood what the main conclusions were of his Department's recent discussions on the issue.

In a written answer Mr Tobias Ellwood said: "The British Government's position on human rights in Saudi Arabia is a matter of public record. We regularly make our views well known, including through the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's annual Human Rights and Democracy Report."

Saudi Arabia is listed as a 'Country of Concern' under the British Government's 2015 corporate report. It describe freedom of religion or belief in the country as "severely restricted".

It says non-Muslims are not permitted to worship openly or establish places of worship in Saudi Arabia. The authorities take the view that this is contrary to Sharia law in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, and based on a strict interpretation of a specific Hadith (a saying attributed to the Prophet) that "there can be no two religions in the Arabian Peninsula".

The UK also expressed disappointment that Saudi Arabia did not implement recommendations from the previous UPR cycle.

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