US Committee for Religious Freedom delegation cut short its visit to Saudi Arabia after one of its members was asked to remove his Jewish cap

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A delegation of the US Committee for Religious Freedom announced Monday that it had decided to cut short an official visit to Saudi Arabia after one of its members was asked to remove his Jewish cap which he was wearing.

“No one should be denied access to a heritage site, especially a site intended to demonstrate unity and progress, simply because they are Jewish,” Abraham Cooper, head of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, an Orthodox Jew, said in a statement.

He added, “Saudi Arabia is pushing for change within the framework of Vision 2030,” referring to its ambitious reform program aimed at diversifying the economy.

The statement continued, “At a time when anti-Semitism is rampant, the request for me to remove my hood is something that has prevented us, the members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, from continuing our visit” to the Diriyah site in northwest of Riyadh, which UNESCO has included in the World Heritage List.

The statement also said, “We note with regret that this happened to a representative of a US government agency that works to promote religious freedom”.

The Religious Freedom Commission is a government advisory body authorized by the US Congress.

The Saudi Embassy in the United States didn’t immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

This incident occurred on March 5 amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Israel against the backdrop of the war in the Gaza Strip and US efforts to normalize relations between them once the conflict ends.

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