2006 News Story

US religious freedom report sees progress in Saudi Arabia

The State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report 2006 today. In the report, the State Department noted progress in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the areas of revising textbooks and government calls for tolerance and moderation.

“This process of revising textbooks and religious materials and retraining teachers is an ongoing process which we are told will culminate within a year or two,” the State Department’s Ambassador At-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford told reporters today in a special briefing in Washington. “We think this is an extremely important development.”

Hanford said that the US is encouraged by other developments in the Kingdom, including assurances on private worship, the religious materials people will be allowed to possess, the establishment of the Human Rights Commission and efforts to rein in the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice.

Hanford added that the United States is also encouraged by the Saudi leadership’s calls for tolerance.

“We are very encouraged by the position of the Saudi government and by their responsiveness, as well as by a number of statements that have been made by King Abdullah, which I think are forward-leaning within that context; promoting tolerance, standing up before the whole organization of Islamic countries and issuing a call for greater tolerance,” he said. “So we see things moving in the right direction.”