The religious police in Saudi Arabia has often been blamed for high-handedness and harassment.Reuters File

At least 27 men, women and children were reportedly arrested in Saudi Arabia, following a raid on a home, where a group of Christians had gathered to pray.

The incident has sparked a major debate on freedom to worship in the puritan Islamic country.

According to a report, on Friday the members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) raided a house in the city's Aziziyah neighborhood and arrested 27 people of various Asian nationalities, including women and children, and seized copies of the Bible and various musical instruments.

The Saudi Gazette report noted that the Haia members who stormed the house found the men, women and children engaged in religious rituals in one of the rooms.

هيئة #الخفجي تداهم كنسية أقامها عمال آسيويون بمسكنهم.. وضبط 27 رجلا وامرأة بداخلها | #مداهمة_كنيسة_في_الخفجي pic.twitter.com/lmUU7WzYAR

— iContent (@iContent_AR) September 5, 2014

Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia has always has remained an issue of contention.

According to Reuters, at least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world.

The freedom to practice Christianity — or any religion other than Islam — is not always a given in the Gulf and varies from country to country. Saudi Arabia, which applies an austere form of Sunni Islam, has by far the tightest restrictions, the report had noted.

In Saudi Arabia even the freedom of worship is not granted to other religions, where the dominant brand of Islam is Wahhabism or, more precisely, Salafism, which has a far more insular approach than other forms of Islam.

However, recently King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has announced his intention to reach out to the leaders of the main religions of the world to convene an interfaith dialogue and to work together to address major global challenges.

The recent incident, however, has sparked quite a furor on Facebook where many were less tolerant towards the plight of non-Muslims. However, there were a few Saudis who came in support of the arrested Christians.

A social media user, Moamar Amer said: "It is forbidden to practice your religion in the kingdom. just pray silently in your room no need to organize or to attend a gathering by group of people to preach. To the non-Muslims, if you can't follow the rules, better leave the kingdom."

Another use Rana Alshehri but said: "As a Saudi citizen i think this action is insane ..people have equal rights to follow their religions and to practice religious rituals in everywhere as they want .. always Ha'ia members prove how stupid and ignorant they are."

A Facebook user, Christophe Abdulmosawwer noted: "Would Saudi arabia be happy if all the christian and non-muslim countries were doing the same to their Muslim citizen and destroying all the mosques? People have the right to practice their religion in their hous, alone or with their friends."

A young Saudi national, Taha Khan stated:"Islam preaches Peace. Haia these days have gone wild and stupid. There is no point of storming people's house you are responsible for your own deeds. You wont be asked at the day of judgment that non Muslims were practicing their religions why did you not storm their houses..."