By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (BosNewsLife) — A young Internet writer in Saudi Arabia was in life danger Wednesday, January 28, after he was detained by authorities for announcing on his blog that he converted from Islam to Christianity, religious human rights investigators said.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said Hamoud Bin Saleh was arrested January 13 and officials blocked access to his Website (http://christforsaudi.blogspot.com ) due to his opinions and announcement that he had become a Christian.
The 28-year-old graduate in English literature from the Al Yarmouk University in Jordan, was moved to “the infamous Eleisha political prison” in the capital Riyadh, a facility where several other dissidents have been jailed in recent years, ANHRI said in a statement.
His detention came five months after the daughter of a member of the feared he religious police or Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was reportedly killed for disclosing her Christian faith.
Fatima Al-Mutairi, 26, revealed on Web postings that she had left Islam to become a Christian, Arabic media reported. Her father allegedly cut out her tongue and burned her to death “following a heated debate on religion.”
Al-Mutairi had apparently written about hostilities from family members after they discovered she was a Christian, including insults from her brother after he saw her Web postings about her faith.
However some reports suggested her brother was the one who killed her. ANHRI said it fears that Saleh may be killed as well. “The entire world is busy following up the aggression on Gaza and the Saudi authorities may seize the chance to make him an example with nobody watching,” the group added.
Saleh was reportedly detained twice before because of his writing, including nine months in 2004 and last year. A 2003 graduate in English literature from Al Yarmouk University in Jordan, Bin Saleh’s told his readers that his research led him to an exploration of other faiths, and in his travels he gained access to a Bible.
“My mind was persistently raising questions and desperately seeking answers,” he wrote in comments monitored by Christian news agency Compass Direct News. “I went on vacations to read about comparative religion, and I got the Bible, and I used to give these books to anyone before going back to Saudi, as going back there with such books is considered an unforgivable crime which will throw its perpetrator in a dark jail.”
After reading how Jesus forgave – rather than stoned – a woman condemned for adultery, Bin Saleh said he eventually received Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
“Jesus . . . took us beyond physical salvation as he offered us forgiveness that is the salvation of eternal life and compassion,” he added.
“Just look and ask for the light of God; there might be no available books to help you make a comparative study between the teachings of Muhammad (which are in my opinion a series of political, social, economical and human disasters) and the teaching of Jesus in Saudi Arabia, but there are many resources on the Web by which you might get to the bosom/arms of the Father of salvation. Seek salvation and you will reach it; may the Lord keep you from the devil’s pitfalls.”
ANHRI said it was upset that Saudi Arabia, which recently sponsored an international interfaith conference, jailed the young man for sharing his opinions. “The young man committed no crime and the only thing he has done is exercising his normal right to express his opinions and beliefs, which must not be violated under whatever pretext,” the group said.
The Saudi government, “must meet its commitments and the Saudi king’s statements about the respect of freedom of expression and religious tolerance,” ANHRI stressed.
His detention comes about a year after Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan became the first Saudi known to be arrested for Web site postings in December, 2007. He was released in April 2008.
Saudi officials had no comment. However Saudi Arabia prohibits the public practice of any religion other than Islam within its borders. Under the previous administration of President George W. Bush it was named a “country of particular concern” for alleged severe religious rights violations.
Observers say the situation is forcing up to three million Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other expatriate workers to leave their convictions at the border, since non-Muslim places of worship are prohibited. In addition, non-Muslim religious materials, including Bibles, risk confiscation, and even private worship is affected by the legislation, according to rights groups and local Christians.