Again with the Saudi Arabia Comparisons…

Ok, Saudi Arabia has less freedom than the US. Why do some people think that should form the basis of an argument about appropriate behavior in the US?

Following in the footsteps of Newt Gingrich and Andrew McCarthy, the editorial board of the Washington Examiner, have deployed the Saudis as some sort of measuring stick for behavior in the realm of liberty:

There are 100 mosques in New York City: Will 100 Christian churches ever be permitted in places like Riyadh and Kabul?

First, the answer is probably not, if not certainly not.

Second, what does that prove?

Why does anyone think that this constitutes an argument, let alone a good one?

Indeed, since that is the last line of the editorial it would appear that the editorialist thought that it was something of a self-evident slam dunk.

Forget for a minute one’s view on the broader questions about Park51 and tell me why the Saudi Arabia comparison is supposed to be some kind of evidence or support for, well, anything.

FILED UNDER: Religion, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    You’ll note they never ask whether you could build a Church in large Muslim countries like Indonesia, Turkey, or Kazakhstan because… YOU CAN.

  2. “Yeah, but … your <i>mother</i>!”  That’s about the strength of the “But the Saudis are <i>really</i> intolerant” argument.
    The real question is whether America is living up to <i>its own</i> ideals. If not, why not, and what are we going to do about it?  The Saudis are as irrelevant as the V’s for this analysis — maybe less so, because science fiction aliens are at least intended to be a literary device allowing for reflection on actual human behavior.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Note that Indonesians, Turks, and Kazakhs aren’t flying planes into our skyscrapers, either. Nor are they funding radical imams all over the world.

  4. john personna says:

    Off and on, for the last couple thousand years, Christians and Muslims have lived together “church by mosque.”
    The other thing about WWSAD is that it buys into the radical framework, denying the history, and the possibility of tolerance.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Why does it matter?  It illustrates the intolerance of Islam while Muslims berate us for being intolerant.  It doesn’t so much make an argument but shoots down theirs.  It’s fair game if they want to lecture us in such a manner.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Steve – it might shoot down the arguments of, say, Saudi Muslims who work in government.  But I fail to see how it shoots down the arguments of, say, a third generation Muslim who lives in Manhattan.

  7. sam says:


    ” It illustrates the intolerance of Islam the Saudis while Muslims berate us for being intolerant”

    Or did you just skip by the part about Indonesia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan?

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Ummm. . . did anybody read the editorial?

    The Saudis are not being deployed “as some sort of measuring stick for behavior in the realm of liberty.”  They are being deployed for the opposite reason, since the article criticizes barbaric practices in some Middle Eastern countries.  The editorial is an attack on the Imam’s charachter and sincerity for being one-sided in his criticisms.

    In short, the Saudis are being deployed as a measuring stick of the Imam’s charachter.

  9. But PD, I don’t ask you to condemn every abhorent practice everywhere before acknowledging your right to equal treatment. 

    What if I said that Jew in the United States are not allowed to condemn anti-semitism here unless they acknowledge every wrong act of Israel?

    How about if I insisted that before any Church can be built the pastor had to first publicly condemn the inquisition or something?

    People would consider me a lunatic.  The idea that a Muslim in the United State is suspect unless he repeatedly and continuously engages of ritual condemnation of intolerance in the Muslim world is just bizarre.

  10. anjin-san says:

    > Why does anyone think that this constitutes an argument, let alone a good one?
    Ummm, because it is what they see on Fox News or hear on right wing radio?
    These folks have been told what they think. I don’t think reason is going to have much impact on them. Doing your own thinking is hard work, so a lot of people outsource.