(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
US allies including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain did not uphold principles of religious freedom in 2016, while Islamic State has carried out "genocide" against religious minorities, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.
Tillerson made the comments at the State Department while introducing the agency's annual report on religious freedom, required by a 1998 act of Congress. The report is the first to be released during the Trump administration and covers 2016.
Saudi Arabia, Tillerson said, ought to "embrace greater degrees of religious freedom for all of its citizens." He cited criminal penalties for apostasy, atheism, blasphemy, and insulting the Saudi state's interpretation of Islam, as well as attacks and discrimination targeting Shi'ite Muslims.
The kingdom follows the strict Sunni Muslim Wahhabi school of Islam.
The report said Saudi Arabia has used counter-terrorism laws to target atheists and Shi'ite Muslims. The United States and Saudi Arabia have long been close partners in counter-terrorism efforts and the kingdom was the first stop on US President Donald Trump's maiden international visit.
Tillerson singled out another Gulf Arab state, Bahrain, saying it "must stop discriminating against the Shia communities."