June 18, 2014
The Saudi Embassy in Tokyo is closely following the case of a Saudi citizen studying in the country, recently arrested for breaking four 300 year-old Buddha statues at a temple in the capital. The embassy has reportedly condemned the statues’ destruction as "contrary to the principles of Islam," and has reached out to the temple's director.
The head of Saudi Arabia's department of information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly condemned the student's act on Twitter. In an effort to promote a national image of tolerance, he retweeted one prominent Saudi professor’s praise of the embassy’s response: “A tribute to our embassy in Japan for its good actions and its efforts to protect the image of Islam and preserve its name.”
— Ø¹Ø¨Ø¯Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Ø§Ù„ØºØ°Ø§Ù…ÙŠ (@ghathami) June 16, 2014
In the meantime, a Japanese student tweeted an angry message along with an image of a broken statue:
— åœ¨æ—¥å¤–å›½äººã‚"æ—¥æœ¬ã‹ã‚‰å¾¹åº•æŽ"é™¤ã—ã‚ˆã† (@Laune_Katze) June 13, 2014
Saudi Arabia’s ruling family follows a Wahhabi version of Islam, in which images or statues are thought as idolatrous or blasphemous. Wahhabism was born in the 18th century as a religious revival movement, focused on a return to the scriptures and on the strictest interpretation of monotheism and the absolute uniqueness of God.
The founder of this radical branch of Islam particularly forbade the construction of statues — even for Muslim religious figures — out of fear that Muslims would forget that the statues only represented divine figures and were not, in themselves, objects of worship. “Associating partners to God” is a serious transgression, described in Arabic as shirk.
Photo: Screenshot from ANN Japan TV showing the destroyed Buddha statues in Tokyo.
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