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US Commission on religious freedom cuts short official visit to Saudi Arabia over kippa incident

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A delegation from a US commission on religious freedom announced on Monday that it had decided to shorten an official visit to Saudi Arabia after one of its members was asked to remove his kippa.

Abraham Cooper © The Forward 

A delegation from a US commission on religious freedom announced on Monday that it had decided to shorten an official visit to Saudi Arabia after one of its members was asked to remove his kippa.

"No one should be denied access to a heritage site, especially one designed to showcase unity and progress, simply because they exist as a Jew," said the president of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Abraham Cooper, who is also an Orthodox Jew, as cited in a statement. 

"Saudi Arabia is promoting change as part of its Vision 2030," referring to an ambitious reform program aimed at diversifying the economy. "However, especially at a time when anti-Semitism is rampant, being asked to remove my kippa prevented us, members of the USCIRF, from continuing our visit to the Diriyah site," a UNESCO World Heritage site located northwest of Riyadh, according to the statement. 

"We note, with particular regret, that this happened to a representative of a US government agency promoting religious freedom," he added.

This commission on religious freedom is a government advisory body mandated by the US Congress.

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