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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says Stephen Schwartz does not go far enough...

11:35 AM, Mar 22, 2005
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THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.

*1*

IN Time to Take Saudi Arabia Seriously, Stephen Schwartz calls on the State Department to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its religious freedom violations pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). It is not enough to designate Saudi Arabia a CPC. Follow-on responsive action also must occur under the statute. The deadline for taking responsive action under IRFA was March 15; the deadline was already extended once. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently recommended to Secretary Rice a number of specific minimum policy actions that the Bush administration should take to demonstrate its concern and to advance freedom in Saudi Arabia. These include: denying any Saudi official who was responsible for or directly carried out religious freedom violations entry into the United States; barring those Saudi government officials who have been responsible for propagating globally an ideology that explicitly promotes hate, intolerance, and human rights violations, from entering the United States; and stopping the export of items--such as thumbcuffs, leg irons, and shackles--that are presently exported from the United States and could be used to perpetrate human rights violations such as torture.

--Preeta D. Bansal

Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

*2*

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ actually soft-pedaled Saudi Arabia's religious bigotry in his Daily Standard piece of March 14.

Possession of literature deemed Sufi, or performing Sufi rites of worship including meditation, is not simply illegal but punishable by death. Wahhabi authorities have declared all Sufis to be apostates.

Jews are not merely forbidden from practicing their religion, they are not even allowed to enter the country. The same holds true in the Gulf Emirates. My father was a victim of this policy. He was told that he would not be permitted to enter the kingdom because he is Jewish. The letter said "the rules of the Kingdom are strict" on this matter.

--Todd Ellner

*3*

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ's rhetoric only increases the anti-American sentiment that already exists in the Middle East--a sentiment fueled by a biased American attitude with regard to Islamic affairs. The Saudis have been allied with the United States for the last fifty years in addressing our mutual interests--such challenges as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Iraq, oil, terrorism, and other security issues. Furthermore, as the Saudis are in the process of tackling their political, social, and economic challenges by expanding freedom on all fronts, we keep reading more of the same from radical intellectuals attempting to influence U.S. foreign policy for their hidden agenda, as was the case with Iraq.

As we are in the middle of our first local elections in thirty years, the Saudi King and Crown Prince are taking a personal lead in promoting human rights. They are setting up an independent human rights watch committee, easing regulations with regard to freedom of the press, initiating civil representative institutions, and granting more rights for women. We admit that we have a long way to go before we achieve our democracy, but we are progressing at our own pace, while ensuring stability in an unstable region.



--Khalid AlSaeed



Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

*4*

WHILE I usually agree with Fred Barnes, I must challenge his vigorous assertion in this Daily Standard article: that moral issues transcend legal issues in the Terri Schiavo case. I am a life-long Republican but I am increasingly nervous about the eagerness of the current Republican majority to impose its moral (religious) views on the rest of us.

Congress's Schiavo legislation is clearly unconstitutional. The Republican administration had better check the pulse of its constituents more closely. They are coming very close to losing my support and that of others as well. In my opinion, it is our mutual agreement to live under the rule of law that makes this country great, not agreement to worship in any one way.

--Jim Bloom

*5*

PLAIN AND SIMPLE, Fred Barnes must recognize that this is a states' rights issue. The Feds have no business in this one.

I don't like the outcome any more than Barnes does, but Florida's laws are clear regarding the rights of the guardian. Besides, isn't there a law against Congress enacting legislation to the benefit or detriment of a single individual?

--Chris Bryer