In May 2011 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms published its annual report (covering 1st April 2010 – 31st March 2011). The Commission designated Saudi Arabia a “country of particular concern”.
Here is the Commission’s summary of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia:
“During the reporting period, systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom continued in Saudi Arabia despite improvements. Almost 10 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Saudi government has failed to implement a number of promised reforms related to religious practice and tolerance. The Saudi government persists in banning all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government’s own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam; prohibits churches, synagogues, temples, and other non-Muslim places of worship; uses in its schools and posts online state textbooks that continue to espouse intolerance and incite violence; and periodically interferes with private religious practice. Ismaili Muslims continue to suffer repression on account of their religious identity and there have been numerous arrests and detentions of Shi’a Muslim dissidents, in part as a result of increasing regional unrest. Members of the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice (CPVPV) continue to commit abuses, although their public presence has diminished slightly and the number of reported incidents of abuse has decreased in some parts of the country. In addition, the government continues to be involved in supporting activities globally that promote an extremist ideology, and in some cases, violence toward non-Muslims and disfavored Muslims.
USCIRF again recommends in 2011 that Saudi Arabia be designated as a “country of particular concern”, or CPC. Although so designated by the State Department since 2004, an indefinite waiver on taking any action in consequence of the CPC designation has been in place since 2006.
USCIRF traveled to Saudi Arabia in January/February 2011 to assess the Saudi government’s progress in advancing freedom of religion or belief. Despite King Abdullah undertaking some limited reform measures and promoting inter-religious dialogue in international fora, there has been little progress nearly five years after the State Department publicly announced that, as a result of bilateral discussions, the Saudi government had confirmed that it would advance specific policies with the aim of improving religious freedom conditions. During USCIRF’s visit, Saudi officials often cited national security concerns as grounds for cracking down on minorities and dissidents; however, in some cases, such explanations served as a pretext to engage in an array of severe violations of freedom of religion or belief. USCIRF continues to find that full implementation by the Saudi government of the July 2006 policies would diminish some of its institutionalized abusive practices.”