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17 Dec, 2018 02:44

So much for reform & tolerance: Saudis open to ridicule over Christmas tree ban memo

So much for reform & tolerance: Saudis open to ridicule over Christmas tree ban memo

Saudi Arabia faced ridicule online after it reminded the international community of its strict ban on Christmas tree imports and celebrations ahead of the holiday season, despite its much-touted liberal reforms and social changes.

The Kingdom’s customs authority has warned citizens and guests that Christmas trees are still banned from entering the ultra-conservative state. Moreover, all state institutions, companies, hotels and restaurants are mandated by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to avoid any possible manifestations of the holiday spirit.

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Many Twitter users found such an approach amusing and puzzling, especially as the Kingdom attempts to amend its image through a series of liberal reforms under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“Where is the tolerance that the state is discussing with the international community?” @FawziahAlamri wondered. “There are many foreign Christian workers working in this country and this is a lack of respect for their beliefs,” another message reads.

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Some joked that lifting a ban on Christmas trees would be just too extreme for the Kingdom, given that only this month, and for the first time, males and females were permitted to attend in one another’s company a concert by an Egyptian pop singer in Riyadh.

The United States must save Christmas and order Riyadh to lift the ban, some said, while others took a shot at American foreign policy and its choice of allies in the middle east.

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“The US government spent years trying to destroy Syria – which protects religious rights for minorities and has a vibrant Christian community – while selling billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi monarchy – which bans Christmas trees and supported ISIS,” journalist Benjamin Norton stressed.

“Saudi authorities ban Christmas trees while every house in Syria has one..!” a Syrian MP for Aleppo added. 

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