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Saudi religious police cover 'Christian' UK flag on school uniforms

Christian symbolism is prohibited in Saudi Arabia which has restricted all public non-Islamic worship
A photo shows the altered logo of the British International School (MEE)

Saudi religious police have ordered a Marks & Spencers shop to cover logos featuring the British flag on a school uniform as they feature representations of the Christian cross.

A British expat contacted Middle East Eye after entering an M&S store in the al-Hayat shopping centre, Riyadh, to buy a uniform for the fee-paying British International School.

She was informed that the uniforms were not on display in the front of the store and that she would have to request to see them.

Upon inspection, she found that the logo of the school - which features a palm tree with the British and Saudi flags either side - had been modified by a patch of cloth:

British International School uniform before and after the logo was covered

“Like all retailers who operate in Saudi, we comply fully with local legislation," an M&S spokesperson told Middle East Eye.

"This was an isolated instance on a very small handful of bespoke school uniform products for a local international school in Riyadh. We are now selling the bespoke uniforms directly to the parents at the school.”

MEE contacted the British Embassy in Riyadh, a member of the British Council, the Saudi Embassy in the UK and the British International School for comment, but at time of publication had received no response from any.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia was originally established in 1940 in order to enforce the Kingdom’s conservative values, such as forcing women to cover up and preventing religious proselytising by non-Islamic groups.

Christianity, like all non-Islamic religions, is officially outlawed in Saudi Arabia, although there are thought to be more than a million Roman Catholics within the country, most of whom are expats.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, has previously called for all churches in the Gulf to be destroyed.

Britain and Saudi Arabia have had a long-established relationship since the latter's establishment in 1932.

Following the death of the former King Abdullah in 2015, flags across the UK were flown at half mast, although this provoked criticism in some quarters from human rights activists.

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