Westminster Abbey criticised for flying flag at half mast for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah

Saudi King Abdullah (C) walks with former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (R) and Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia's official religious representative, at Al-Saffa Palace after the opening ceremony of the International Islamic Conference on Inter-Faith Dialogue in Mecca June 4, 2008.REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout

Westminster Abbey is under fire for its decision to fly its flag at half-mast in an effort to honour the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In a blog published by The Spectator, Catholic Herald's Deputy Director Ed West questioned the decision to honour the king of a country in which Christianity remains illegal and where conversion from Islam to the Christian religion is considered a capital offence.

"It's appropriate for the Foreign Office in Whitehall to mark the late king's passing, but for a church to do so, when Saudi treats Christians so badly, is utterly pathetic. If the Saudis despise us for such craven behaviour, they are right to," West wrote.

Saudi Arabia has been criticised in the past for its lack of religious freedom. In the country, apostasy is punishable by death. In addition, the country has been accused of financing extremists around the world and is currently under fire from religious freedom advocates because of the plight of Raif Badawi, a blogger who is facing imprisonment and 1,000 lashes for discussing Islam and liberalism through the Internet.

King Abdullah passed away early Friday morning, at the age of 90. He is succeeded to the throne by his brother Salman bin Abdulaziz.

World leaders immediately paid tribute to the late king of one of the world's top oil exporters and producers. British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the King would always be remembered for his "commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths," with Queen Elizabeth echoed Cameron's sentiments, citing King Abdullah's work for "peace and understanding between nations and faiths."

US President Barack Obama also paid tribute to King Abdullah, describing him as a man of conviction. "One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the US-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond," Obama's statement said.

UN General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon credited Abdullah with the "remarkable progress and prosperity" of the Saudi people. He also thanked the king's support for humanitarian aid and development.