The newly enthroned ruler of Saudi Arabia surprised the world last night with a speech in which he reached out to the world and in particular to Christians.
“Christianity is a noble religion of peace,” King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud told an audience of Islamic scholars at a conference in Riyadh. “And any attempt to link this beautiful, tolerant, peaceful religion with historical acts of violence is ill-informed and based on ignorant stereotyping and racism.”
“People say that the Crusades were carried out in the name of Christ, and were in fact called for by the Pope in his role as leader of the Christian church,” said the king. “But this doesn’t mean they had anything at all to do with Christianity.”
He also defended the Inquisition, an attempt by the Roman Catholic Church in the late Middle Ages to suppress heresy and apostasy during which hundreds of Jews were tortured and killed.
“This group of fanatics may have claimed to be acting in the name of God, and many of them may in fact have been actual Catholic priests, but they were just appropriating the name of one of the world’s greatest and most peaceful religions,” insisted the king.
“And anyway, who are we to get on our high camel and criticize other religions?” King Salman continued. “I mean, only yesterday, right here in our own capital city, dozens of young men and women were beheaded or stoned to death for transgressing the rules of Islam — I should know, I personally signed their death warrants! — or mutilated for petty crimes according to harsh Islamic laws.”
“I have been to Europe and the United States hundreds of times for emergency colonic surgery, to take my hareem shopping for clothes and jewellery, or to visit casinos and brothels,” he went on. “And I can tell you that there is no more beautiful sound on Earth than the sound of church bells calling the Christian faithful to prayer on a Sunday morning.”
“However,” added the king, “such churches are not permitted in Saudi Arabia, and anyone who tries to build one or even gather to worship with other Christians will be given 10,000 lashes.”
King Salman, who is thought to be 113, has previously incurred the wrath of hard-line Islamic scholars for spending several minutes in the same room with a liberal Muslim academic who had mentioned in passing that it was conceivable that Jews could be related to humans. Rumors have persisted for decades that the king is in fact a Christian who was born in Belgium.