Saudi Arabia Makes Discussion of Atheism and Democratic Reform a Form of Terrorism

200px-Coat_of_arms_of_Saudi_Arabia.svgWhile the Obama Administration struggles to restore good relations with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom continues to lead the effort among Arab nations to deny most rights of free exercise, free expression, and free association. Saudi Arabia has fought for the creation of an international blasphemy standard (with the support of the Obama Administration) and has continued to deny basic rights of worship to religious minorities. Now, the the Kingdom has introduced new criminal provisions that makes atheism not only blasphemy but terrorism.

Article 1 of the new regulations state that “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.” The ultimate “thought crime.” Merely discussing atheism in the Kingdom is not a crime.

What is most striking about the regulations is the low quality of the provisions which are poorly written and vague. Article 2 states “Anyone who throws away their loyalty to the country’s rulers, or who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current [of thought], group, or individual inside or outside [the kingdom].” Of course, “throwing away their loyalty” would likely include ideas on religion that do not comport with the Wahhabi beliefs of the ruling family.

Then there is Article 4: “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.”

Thus, like other countries recently, Saudi Arabia is criminalizing conduct that occurs outside of the country and would encompass atheistic writings or statements. Now you can be arrested for “participating in hostilities outside the kingdom” and those hostilities under the new provisions include thought and speech crimes. According to Human Rights Watch, the new regulations were issued in January of this year. They are part of the Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing. The new crimes make clear that “terrorism” can be non-violent – consisting of “any act” intended to, among other things, “insult the reputation of the state,” “harm public order,” or “shake the security of society.”

The rest of the regulations makes clear that even participating in a conference or sharing work on democratic reforms would now be potentially criminalized:

Article 6: “Contact or correspondence with any groups, currents [of thought], or individuals hostile to the kingdom.”
Article 8: “Seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion, or calling, participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form, or anyone who harms the unity or stability of the kingdom by any means.”
Article 9: “Attending conferences, seminars, or meetings inside or outside [the kingdom] targeting the security of society, or sowing discord in society.”
Article 11: “Inciting or making countries, committees, or international organizations antagonistic to the kingdom.”

The government has clearly written the provisions to allow the greatest possible ambiguity to both chill speech and to allow the greatest leeway in enforcement.

The law reaffirms the criticism of some of us of the Obama Administration in its work on an international blasphemy standard. The Administration always justified its reversal of earlier administration in its working on such a standard as an effort to moderate the Arab views on free speech. Instead, the Arab countries heralded the U.S. as supporting in principle the criminalization of speech. The level of hostility of the Kingdom toward free speech is evident in these draconian new laws.

We continue to court Saudi Arabia as our major ally despite its rejection of a litany of basic civil liberties from speech to religion to assembly to press. Women continue to be denied the most basic human rights in the Kingdom. At the same time, the country continues to be a font for terrorists as shown by the national origin of many of the 9-11 hijackers. Now it wants to broader the definition of terrorism to allow it to jail atheists and democratic reformers. It seems that it is far more important to incarcerate those who are viewed as “seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion.”

Source: Patheos

25 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia Makes Discussion of Atheism and Democratic Reform a Form of Terrorism”

  1. nick spinelli

    The “We are just as bad” contingent has appeared en masse this morning. Any of you want to trade citizenship w/ a Saudi citizen?
    That is why a child or other relative does not sit on a jury to determine the guilt or innocence of murdering relatives.

    The jingoism is thick enough to “erase” guilt and pabulum over it.

  2. We all know the Obama WH has conducted a rational foreign policy based mainly on what can be done, versus what cannot be done. We all know Presidents McCain and Romney would have several more wars going now on behalf of both Saudi Arabia and Israel. We all know we can thank President Obama for not engaging in more futile, indefensible, catastrophic, and basically insane wars the way Bush did. We all know that.

  3. We all know the Obama State Dept and Obama have been a failure. What is new This is not going to change with Hillary as President since she was part of the failed foreign policy. Thanks to Obama we have became a joke abroad. Look at what Putin or the Chinese are up to. Why wouldn’t the SA do this now? The US is impotent.

  4. This is frightening legislation and it is difficult to understand who is running our government. With Iraq and Afghanistan, the first thing we did was help them draft constitutions that made them Islamic Republics. Why? President Bush is squarely at fault for that. Yet Obama continues the same thing here. Our principles of freedom and democracy mean almost nothing in foreign policy, yet we keep getting into conflicts that are supposedly based upon these principles. In these countries, we put more importance on voting than we did on principles of individual equality. Who’s really in charge of our government and creating this awful foreign policy that we have?

  5. The “We are just as bad” contingent has appeared en masse this morning. Any of you want to trade citizenship w/ a Saudi citizen?

  6. Nothing new here folks. We have been seeing this from SA for quite some time now. They are in the business of making money, nothing else.

  7. When the Oil-Qaeda virus began to spread from the U.S. & Britain, around the turn from the 19th into the 20th century, Churchill directed our fate by getting all oil-cozy with Saudi Arabia.

    He did so driven by a fear of being unprepared for Armageddon, which he expected to start near that time frame.

    He has long passed away but the only certain Armageddon is the one Saudi oil is heaping on our climate system.

    Now the Saudi Rulers’ fear of truth is becoming paranoid, like Western Rulers who are having a paranoid spygasm.

  8. Lets get the real outline of the place called Saudi Arabia. It is a Pirate Territory which has a purported government run by religious zealots of a particular religion that is part politics, part religion and all about control, called Islam. They are attempting rules of law and attempting to write them down one paper and probably computer. So, they are gravitating to stage two which is fascist territory with religious pretext for the political tune. It is still Pirate Territory in many respects since a sailor cannot sail near shore without risk of being assaulted by pirates, one can not do business with the inhabitants without fear of being cheated without civil redress. One can go inside the boundaries with fear of being killed, maimed, detained, robbed for no legal pretense. One cannot safely fly over, even on a commercial airline. If one does fly over, one should flush the toilet early and often to cleanse the air and ground below.

  9. Critical thinking is a great terror for those who subscribe to monotheistic myth. Attempting to ban and censor such avenues shows how fragile and weak their religious worldview is, irrespective of religion’s unfortunate ability to procreate across generations.

  10. The real terrorism won’t start in Saudi Arabia…. till the populous gets up the nerve to start killing their oppressors, their own Moolah’s.

  11. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have a status-quo they wish to protect in the Middle East. Israel protects theirs by forming hardline coalition governments opposed to Palestine. SA does it by allowing tiny signs of progress like increasing numbers of female politicans, and then outlawing thought that could, theoretically, undermine the Royal House of Saud. That these are our good allies is revolting.

  12. Was Obama aware of this went he traveled to SA to “calm” the little Princes. They are throwing a tantrum about the fact that the US wouldn’t conduct their holy war in Syria. They are mad. How dare the US say NO!

    Theocracies are dangerous to humans and Obama’s silence on these issues is appalling. Of course SA isn’t the only country where this type of legislation exists. In most cases we shake hands with the rulers and send them money and arms by the boat load. We need to stop.

  13. The more that people are exposed to outside influences, the more the totalitarian state must crush those influences. Not much different than the right’s fight ‘against’ those who are gay, or evangelical’s fight against non-Christian beliefs such as evolution. While neither are yet as extreme as the Saudi Royals, they must keep the flock from wondering regardless of the consequences to freedom of expression or thought.

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