Saudi Arabia declares atheists are terrorists

Saudi Arabia has declared atheists are terrorists in new laws.

Lengthy prison terms are threatened for almost any criticism of the government or Islam.

The new laws are accompanied by a series of related royal decrees which seem to criminalise virtually all dissident thought or expression.

Secular citizens who commit thought crimes are placed in the same category as terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch.

Under a new decree by King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia will jail for up to 20 years anyone who fights in conflicts abroad.

This is an apparent move to deter Saudis from joining rebels in Syria.

But the law also applies to any Saudi citizen or a foreigner residing in the kingdom who “calls for atheist thought in any form or calls into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based”.

The laws have been denounced by human rights groups for making no distinction between religious expression and violent extremism.

“Saudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies,” said Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch.

“But these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,” he said.

Human Rights Watch describes the laws as having “serious flaws, including vague and overly broad provisions that allow authorities to criminalise free expression, and the creation of excessive police powers without judicial oversight”.

Blogging for Al-Bab, Brian Whitaker wrotes that while the new laws might seem bizarre, “in Saudi terms it does have a certain logic”.

“Since the entire system of government is based on Wahhabi interpretations of Islam, non-believers are assumed to be enemies of the Saudi state”.

He cites a 2012 WIN/Gallup International poll which found that almost a quarter of people interviewed in Saudi Arabia described themselves as “not religious”.

And of those, five per cent declared themselves to be atheists.

Whitaker adds: “Extrapolating that figure on a national scale suggests there around 1.4million atheist terrorists living in Saudi Arabia.”



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