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Saudi teacher to be lashed for "mocking Islam"

November 13, 2005

Saudi teacher to be lashed for "mocking Islam"

By Sue Pleming

RIYADH (Reuters) - A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a teacher to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes for "mocking religion" after he discussed the Bible and praised Jews, a Saudi newspaper said on Sunday. 

Al-Madina newspaper said secondary school teacher Mohammad al-Harbi will be flogged in public after he was taken to court by his colleagues and students. 

He was charged with promoting a "dubious ideology, mocking religion, saying the Jews were right, discussing the gospel and preventing students from leaving class to wash for prayer", the newspaper said. It gave no more details. 

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, strictly upholds the austere Wahhabi school of Islam and bases its constitution on the Koran and the sayings of Prophet Mohammad. Public practice of any other religion is banned. 

A U.S. State Department report criticised Saudi Arabia last week, saying religious freedoms "are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam". 

The newspaper said Harbi will appeal against the verdict. 

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