MuslimSpeak

July 16, 2008

Muslim Urban Legends – The Saudi Bible Ban

Filed under: Muslim Urban Legends — abuaisha @ 5:56 am

There seems to be an idea being spread, especially amongst the misguided Islam-bashers on the internet that along with the many things forbidden in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is supposedly forbidden also to bring a copy of the Bible into the country. No real reasoning is needed of course as its well-known that Saudi Arabia is a puritanical, fundamentalist, extremist society. Isn’t that justification enough?

Well.. I guess for those who don’t mind the truth getting in the way of a story and who wants to have a few easy cracks at the Saudis that its very easy to take this ‘report’ as fact. However for anybody like myself who has been to Saudi Arabia and plans to go there again, it would be a decent thing to do to check up on this. For even us Muslims are likely to be carrying a Bible for whatever reason, I myself on my last trip overseas carried with me not 1, but 2 Bibles, along with about 10 or so other Christian books. So, lets try to ascertain the facts behind this tale:

The Saudi Bible Ban

Before searching through any government or travel websites, I remembered a video I had watched some time ago, it was of Ahmad Deedat giving a public talk in the city of Ta’if, Saudi Arabia. As part of his talk he was holding a copy of the Bible, as can be seen in the following video from YouTube:

So before any real research has been done, we can see that at least at some time in the past that Bibles have been allowed into Saudi Arabia, or at least Ahmad Deedat was allowed to do so.

Of course Ahmad Deedat would surely not have brought the Bible because he was a Christian, so let us then investigate further if just anybody is allowed to bring Bibles into the country.

Upon browsing Smartraveller, which is a website run by the Australian government, I easily found the following on its section regarding Saudi Arabia:

Preaching religions other than Islam may result in imprisonment and corporal punishment. The importation and use of alcohol, pork products, pornography (including images of scantily clad people, particularly women), religious books and materials (other than those reflecting orthodox Islam) is forbidden. Generally, individuals are able to bring one bible for private use.

What of course is not allowed is open proselytising to Muslims, as is widely known.

It seems that the only reports I could find of Bibles being confiscated were not by Saudis, but rather by non-Saudi non-Muslims!

The following report from the UK Telegraph details:

Stewardess ‘banned from taking bible on plane’

An air stewardess is claiming religious discrimination against an airline which she says banned her from taking the Bible to Saudi Arabia.

The stewardess has been told by BMI that it is against the law of the insular Middle Eastern country to bring in religious books other than the Koran.

The woman, who is understood to be a committed Christian, takes her bible everywhere she goes and is now set to take the airline to an industrial tribunal claiming discrimination on religious grounds.

BMI, formerly British Midland Airways, said today it was merely following the Foreign Office advice that no non-Islamic materials or artefacts are allowed into the country.

“A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations,” declares the Web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country’s national carrier.

After informing would-be visitors that items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography may not be transported into the country, the Web site adds: “Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others.”

Those who were banning Bibles in the Kingdom in this case claimed to be doing so as per Saudi law, but later in the article it becomes clear that this understanding of Saudi law is only an ‘advice’ from the Foreign Office.

Another article from the Jerusalem Post quotes:

“A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations,” declares the Web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country’s national carrier.

After informing would-be visitors that items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography may not be transported into the country, the Web site adds: “Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others.”

This time at least it is Saudis making the claim, but again it is not the Saudi government, but rather Saudi Airlines making the claim.

Perhaps these warnings are based upon the fear that anyone carrying a Bible might possibly be mistaken for a missionary, or maybe the rumour has become so well established that even these airlines are protecting their staff and passengers from its consequences?

Whatever the case may be, the law of Saudi Arabia stands in contrast to what others are saying. Bibles may be brought into the country as long as they are for personal use and not for proselytising (attempting to convert people).

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