by Daniel Pipes FrontPageMagazine.com August 31, 2007 A week ago, at "Uniting to Exclude Saudi Arabian Airlines," I called on Westerners to deny the Saudi flag carrier access to their airports on the basis of an unacceptable passage in the company's English-language website (which I saved and have posted on my website): A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the Kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations. These include
alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products, prohibited drugs and narcotics, firearms, explosives, edged weapons and pornographic materials. 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. Saudi Arabian Airline's headquarters in Jeddah.
But look again; the second paragraph of these "Customs Regulations" is now gone, has quietly vanished. (To protect against further changes, here is a link to(2) the version I saved): A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the Kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations. These include alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products, prohibited drugs and narcotics, firearms, explosives, edged weapons and pornographic materials. Further, the Arabic-language version of this same page has now also been rid of the second paragraph, leaving only this one, which states exactly the same as its English translation: هنا,ك العديد من المواد الممنوع دخولها إلى المملكة لأسباب دينية أو لقوانين محلية. من هذه المواد المشروبات الروحية، لحم الخنزير و منتجاتها، العقاقير الممنوعة و المخدرات، الاسلحة النارية، المتفجرات، اسلحة حادة، أو مواد إباحية.
Comments: (1) I am grateful to primerprez at "PRIMER-Connecticut" (where PRIMER stands for "Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting") for pointing out this change in an Aug. 29 posting, "Our Saudi ‘Friends' Respond to Criticism."
(2) As primerprez puts it, the Saudi leaders "appear to have responded amazingly quickly to criticism from Daniel Pipes." PRIMER seeks improved reporting on the Middle East.
(3) Dropping the offending paragraph would be very welcome if it indicated a shift in policy by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one that now permits "Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David." It is less welcome if it merely cleans up the Saudia act for the outside world, as primerprez speculates is the case: "I doubt the Saudis have actually changed any of their obnoxious policies; they're just not publicizing them on the Saudi Arabian Airlines web site."
(4) I agree with this analysis – that nothing substantial has changed – for three reasons: * Allowing non-Islamic artifacts into the kingdom is too momentous an issue to be conceded without a fight. * Nor would such a change happen so suddenly, within a week. * The remaining "Customs Regulations" paragraph retains a more general, and therefore less offensive statement of this same restriction ("A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the Kingdom due to religious reasons"), indicating that the old policy clearly remains unchanged and in place.
(5) The decision to drop the second paragraph on customs restrictions points to the Saudi sense of vulnerability, which is not a total surprise. It's a demographically small state surrounded by predators (Iran in particular), dependent on the income of one fickle commodity. It hardly needs added complications in its relations with the U.S. and other Western governments.
(6) My call of a week ago to "unite to exclude Saudi Arabian Airlines" remains in place. As I put it then: "Western governments should demand that unless the Saudi government at least permits ‘that [religious] stuff' in, Saudia faces exclusion from the 18 airports it presently services in Europe, North America, and Japan." Saudia's access to those airports remains a weak spot that begs to be used as a mechanism to help bring a first step toward religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia. From www.danielpipes.org | Original article available at: www.danielpipes.org/article/4878