This House believes Arab governments need to take urgent measures to protect religious minorities

Monday April 30 2012
MOTION PASSED by 72% to 28%


This House believes Arab governments need to take urgent measures to protect religious minorities

Doha, Qatar. May 1, 2012 - A former Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked religious laws in Saudi Arabia, saying they prevented non-Muslims from worshipping and were "profoundly unjust".

Lord Carey of Clifton, speaking at the latest Doha Debate, said there were other governments whose attitudes ranged from "gloomy" to "downright awful".  

"The worst," he added, "is Saudi Arabia where non-Muslims cannot worship."  

Such criticism is normally unthinkable at a public forum in the Gulf, where the media remain under strict censorship and officials avoid any adverse remarks about neighbouring countries.  

Lord Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, made his comments during a debate on the motion: "This House believes that Arab governments should take urgent measures to protect religious minorities."   

Seventy-eight percent of the mainly-Arab audience voted in favour of the motion.  

Among the other speakers was Roger Bismuth, a Tunisian senator and currently the only elected Jewish legislator in the Arab world. He said it was hard to protect minorities - often disparate groups, scattered across a country - and instead favoured better education in order to counter extremism.  

But his argument came under fire from Chairman Tim Sebastian who reminded Bismuth he had personally intervened with the Tunisian government after recent death threats to Jews on the streets of the capital.  
"I wanted to protect against verbal aggression," he countered when Sebastian said he had instructed an Arab government to protect his minority.  

Against the motion was Fadi Daou, a Lebanese Maronite priest, who argued that governments should fight extremism rather than stigmatise minorities. Many Christians in the Arab world, he said, don't consider themselves a minority.  

"The government should face the source of the threat and focus on fighting extremism," he added.  

The Doha Debates were launched in 2004 and are staged before a young audience in the Qatari capital Doha, and televised on BBC World News, available in 300 million homes in 200 countries. 

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