It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia is pretty socially conservative, especially when it comes to religion. But their recent recent legislation equating atheism with terrorism is extreme even for them.
In fact, the legislation targets not only atheism, but pretty much all dissident thought and expression. Here’s Joe Stark, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for North Africa and the Middle East:
“Saudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies, but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism … These regulations dash any hope that King Abdullah intends to open a space for peaceful dissent or independent groups.”
The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing, widely referred to as the “terrorism law”, defines terrorism within the country as any action intended to, “insult the reputation of the state,” “harm public order,” or “shake the security of society,”. None of these terms are specifically defined.
The legislation also includes a number of articles which virtually criminalize any expression critical of the Saudi government or its interpretation of Islamic law, including Article 1:
“Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based,”
“Anyone who aids [“terrorist”] organizations, groups, currents [of thought], associations, or parties, or demonstrates affiliation with them, or sympathy with them, or promotes them, or holds meetings under their umbrella, either inside or outside the kingdom; this includes participation in audio, written, or visual media; social media in its audio, written, or visual forms; internet websites; or circulating their contents in any form, or using slogans of these groups and currents [of thought], or any symbols which point to support or sympathy with them,”
and Article 6:
“Contact or correspondence with any groups, currents [of thought], or individuals hostile to the kingdom.”
One of the activists interviewed by Human Rights Watch commented on this particular provision, saying,
“Just talking to you now is considered terrorism – I could be prosecuted as a terrorist for this conversation.”
Read the full story from Human Rights Watch here.
Feature image courtesy of Borgen Magazine.