Thank you, protesters, all 100 of you, for protesting the lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia during King Abdullah’s visit to the UK.

Human rights groups have called on the UK government to react to allegations about the treatment of women and the gay community in the Saudi kingdom, while other protesters have attacked the failure of the Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged bribes surrounding arms deals.

At least there are a couple people who think that women should be able to drive, vote, or go about without being covered from head to toe, or that gays shouldn’t be stoned to death for playing footsie in airports.

But you forgot one freedom that is restricted in that country: Freedom of religion.

A lot of Yanks are sort of sensitive in that matter, since our ancestors came to the US because they couldn’t worship the deity as they desired.

I mean, next to other Middle Eastern countries, which do allow some freedoms, Saudi Arabia is a prison that imposes their strict version of Islam on all it’s inhabitants, whether they be the mere 40% of the native Arabs that follow Sunni Wahhabi, or the majority Sunni who do not followers of the Wahhabi sect, or the Arab Shiites that live in the oil rich area of the Gulf. As a US State Department document notes:

Reports of harassment of non-Muslims and non Sunni-Muslims by mutawwa’in continued, but there were fewer reports than in the past. The Government enforced a strictly conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam. Muslims who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned interpretation of Islam can face significant societal discrimination and serious repercussions at the hands of mutawwa’in. Members of the Shi’a minority continued to face political, economic, legal, social, and religious discrimination, including discrimination in employment, little representation in official institutions, and restrictions on the practice of their faith and on the building of mosques and community centers.

But if it’s that bad for Muslims born in Saudi Arabia, then what about the “invisible man”…(or woman).

Who is that? The 7 million overseas workers who live and work in that country.

The foreign population reportedly included approximately 1.4 million Indians, one million Bangladeshis, nearly 900,000 Pakistanis, 800,000 Filipinos, 750,000 Egyptians, 250,000 Palestinians, 150,000 Lebanese, 130,000 Sri Lankans, 40,000 Eritreans, and 25,000 Americans. Comprehensive statistics for the religious denominations of foreigners were not available; however, they included Muslims from the various branches and schools of Islam, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. Approximately 90 percent of the Filipino community was Christian. There possibly were as many as one million Catholics in the country.

The Christian population includes several hundred thousand Keralan Christians from India and 800 000 Filipino Christians, but also includes Christians from Lebanon, Africa, and Palestine.
Yet there is not one church in that country.

Indeed, my cousin had her baggage searched and her rosary thrown out at the airport. Presumably although she was good enough to nurse Saudi citizens, she wasn’t given the dignity to pray or read the bible quietly in her own room.

But few protest the lack of human rights for these invisible men and women, who often support and pay the school fees of large extended families back home.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 


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