Saudi Arabia Sentences Poet To Death For Being An Atheist and Insulting The Country

1911We have long discussed our close alliance with Saudi Arabia despite that country’s denial of the most fundamental human rights for women, non-Muslims, journalists, and political dissidents. While the State Department continues to vaguely reference “reforms” in the Kingdom, the Saudi Sharia courts and religious police continue to generate shocking medieval cases where people are flogged or executed for exercising free thought or associations. The latest outrage is the death sentence given Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene. He has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam, being an atheist (which he denies) and insulting Saudi Arabia. Many view his real offense as being his embarrassment of the infamous religious police (mutaween) in Abha after he posted a video of their lashing a man in public. As is often the case in the pseudo, “courts” of Saudi Arabia, he was denied counsel and any real opportunity to present a defense.

Fayadh, 35, was also accused of illicit relations with women due to photos on his phone, which he explained were actually taken during art events. Fayadh (who was born in Saudi Arabia) has been a member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia and represents the population of educated Saudis who want to see their country shed the religious ignorance, medieval practices and Sharia punishments that have long characterized the country. He was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by a court in Abha in May 2014. However, he was then retried by a new panel of judges that found that he could be put to death instead. He was unable to get a lawyer because the religious practice took his ID.

His supporters say that he was fingered by man who had a personal dispute over the appearance of contemporary art at a cafe in Abha. The man went to the religious police and said that he had cursed Muhammad, insulted the country, and promoted atheism in his book. The book, Instructions Within, published in 2008, is actually about his being a Palestinian refugee but in Saudi Arabia any example of free or creative thought is often seen as dangerous and blasphemous.

Of course, it is an outrage for the Saudis to continue to execute people who are atheists or viewed as guilty of apostasy. The Kingdom also bars any other religion from have a house of worship in the country. This is the same country that has sought to create an international blasphemy standard and has objected to any perceived slight against Islam in other countries.

Fayadh insisted that he is a faithful Muslim and repented any sins, but it did not matter.

Our (legitimate) criticisms of Iran seem deeply hypocritical when our close ally in Saudi Arabia continues to apply equally extreme applications of Islamic law and authoritarian practices. Indeed, it is hard to distinguish between the killing of homosexuals and artists by ISIS from such cases in Saudi Arabia beyond the rather laughable pretense of one of these Sharia “courts.” I have met very modern and educated Saudis who are ashamed of these abuses and want reform. However, the Kingdom continues to maintain a close alliance the Wahabi clerics in the imposition of extreme forms of Islamic law. It makes the work of women, journalists, and artists like Fayadh all the more inspirational when they face the threat of not only arrest by Saudi religious police but actual death at the hands of these grotesque Sharia courts.

51 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia Sentences Poet To Death For Being An Atheist and Insulting The Country”

  1. Paul C. Schulte

    “issacbasonkavichi – both religion and government are us. Without religion you wouldn’t have the rules that we have in government.”

    If government is religion extrapolated, does not the Quran illegally and actionably mandate subversion, nullification and voidance of the Constitution, as the Quran mandates its congregation to deny freedom of religion to believers of other religions, AKA infidels, by converting or killing them?

    Are not the Quran and Muslims treasonous, illegal and unconstitutional in America?

    1. John, show me where it says that!
      Mot Muslims around the world do NOT live under shariah law… they lie under and write the constitutions under which they live, everything you just said was gleaned 3rd hand,
      Do your own research.
      Use you own brain and reasoning, don’t borrow someone else’s.

  2. I’m sure that there are some in this country the {American Taliban} would love to have their law of God work the same way here……….If you don’t believe me, you have not been paying attention….

  3. I sincerely wish that Saudi Arabia would at least amend its laws to provide an alternative for such prisoners to emigrate as refugees, lose their citizenship, and be barred from re-entry.

    If apostasy, atheism, premarital sex, homosexuality, insulting the prophet (and all the rest of the long list of social crimes), are all against the law, then I wish they would consider revoking their citizenship and allowing them to become refugees, banned forever from the country. Fayadh would be welcomed here.

    “Illicit relations with women”??? What hypocrisy! Wealthy Saudis act like hedonistic reprobates and libertines on holiday in the US.

    This also reminds us of the propensity to abuse such laws. Anyone with a grudge can fabricate the old “he or she insulted The Prophet /Q’uran/ Islam” charge.

  4. The only salient difference between ISIS’s form of extremism and Saudi Arabia’s, is that ISIS is trying to bring about the End Times through violence, as well as engaging in a holier than thou war with other extremists. Saudi Arabia limits its extremism to the abuse of human rights.

  5. Reform must come from within . . . and yet, we witness such attempts as fatal in extremist regimes like Saudi Arabia. It is true that the government practices extremism by our definition of the term.

    I want us to vote with our dollars, but I doubt we will ever give up our fair weather ally, strategic bases, or risk the wrath of OPEC. This is so frustrating.

  6. Well I’m the Sheik of Araby
    Your love belongs to me
    Oh at night when you’re asleep
    Into your tent I’ll creep

  7. “The difference between religion setting morals and government is that religion is a dictatorship and government is us.”

    It would be pointless to argue over your perception of religion and government. One fact that cannot be denied is that whenever society has relied on the morality of “US”, it has failed miserably.

  8. Paul

    Both religion and government are us. However, we have evolved from religion being government to citizens being government, or at least that is the direction most countries are following. Religion still plays a role but not as the instrument of power except in backward countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. Without religion we would not be where we are only because we came by way of religion along with various attempts involving other governing structures, the Greeks, Romans, etc. The history of mankind has been one of attempting to achieve a balance between the I and the WE. Ideals are goals but systems that are forced on a society have been proved in every case so far to fail. It is only a matter of time before the Islamic religion finds its proper balance with the greater good as has been seen and is being seen with other religions. One of the most definitive illustrations of Islam evolving into balance with society can be seen in the never-ending migration of Muslims away from those areas of the world where Islam is an abomination, as in Saudi Arabia.

    Of course, there will always be extremists and opportunists but the mast majority of Muslims that seek safe harbor in Western nations wish only to practice their faith freely and not under the scrutiny of religious fascists.

    Mankind’s godhead is itself.

  9. Olly

    We’ve freed ourselves from the moral dictates of religion. If there is a god and we are his or her creation, then it is obvious that this god is not running things. It follows that his or her intention is for us to figure out how to run things. Given the examples of societal evolution in the West and now in the rest of the world, in spite of the religious extremism and barbarity that still exists, we are doing a pretty good job. The great game which was subduing whole civilizations by force is evolving into a global economic game with more and more recognized rules. We may be screwing up the environment but for the first time in human history there is a movement to stop screwing up the environment.

    The difference between religion setting morals and government is that religion is a dictatorship and government is us.

    1. issacbasonkavichi – both religion and government are us. Without religion you wouldn’t have the rules that we have in government.

  10. Ben Franklin, we gave you “…a republic, if you can keep it.”

    Ben Franklin’s republic was RESTRICTED-VOTE not one man, one vote democrazy.

    The criteria were Male, European, Age 21, 50lbs. Sterling or 50 acres.

    Representative government began in the home with the man’s vote representing the family.


    We couldn’t keep Freedom and Self-Reliance. Complete Freedom and Self-Reliance.

    We’ve been “amending” our freedom for 226 years – there is very little left.

    Once you jump in the golf-mine shaft of whinny, hand-holding collectivism, you’ll never get out.


    Alexander Fraser Tytler

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy–to be followed by a dictatorship.”

    Sorry, Ben, it would take a second revolution now.

  11. “The successful paradigms today are humans governing humans without the religious mumbo jumbo. These facts are there to see.”

    If this were true then less and less government would be necessary. What has actually taken place is as we’ve abandoned the moral influence of religion and replaced it with the controlling power of government. Man’s nature hasn’t changed one iota, it is simply being checked by government force. The even bigger problem is that force is made up of men and women with the same flawed nature and there is no one checking them.

    Those facts are there to see yesterday, today AND tomorrow.

  12. Olly

    If you take only a cursory look at history you will see that mankind has evolved. The death and destruction visited on each other may have eclipsed with the 20th century WW2 but that was due primarily to technology. It was also technology that illustrated that it could not go on. The great world powers have listened and are listening. What would send nations to war against each other through treaties and alliances produce sanctions these days. Mankind is evolving, therein lies the rub, not evolved just evolving.

    The world’s second greatest religion numerically is also the world’s least capable people. Muslims are by and large third world people. They would be next to nothing more than tribal curiosities if it were not for oil and even with oil they are a joke, albeit a fairly deadly one at times. Islam has produced culture but nothing compared to the West. There is no manufacturing technology to speak of and almost all of Islam’s modern day achievements have been merely hastily purchased, like the World Cup. This makes some of them barking mad when they realize that their religion states that they are the greatest, no other way, etc, then they realize that they don’t really figure in the great scheme of things, that is to say the world would not suffer much if they had never existed. Then add the ingredient of the petty thief or the unfulfilled third son of a wealthy family and you get terrorism or the big “HEY”.

    Religion may have guided mankind through centuries of basic animalistic behavior, or not. Call it human nature, the nature of the beast or whatever but mankind has evolved through and beyond religion. The successful paradigms today are humans governing humans without the religious mumbo jumbo. These facts are there to see.

    Things are not getting worse, unless of course you are a religious person and desire to be ruled through religion.


    Clans are peoples of a family, extended, sometimes beyond blood. The use of the word clan can be extended to include entire nations as it did at one time. The main ingredient is not blood but the desire to belong to a group that will provide the ultimate protection of the identity.

  13. For believability, those who devise US official statements and positions need to be consistent. Attacking one country for “killing its own people”, and befriending another country that kills its own people to a much worse degree, is inconsistent and reduces the credibility of all official statements and positions. Why not just say, countries who allow Western oil companies to control their oil will be considered US friends. Countries which do NOT allow Western oil companies to control their oil and oil transport routes, will be terrorized and plundered. That would be consistent and have credibility, although it lacks morality and humanity.

  14. The text of the Quran is why there should not be one Muslim or mosque in America.

    The Quran controverts and nullifies the Constitution.

    The Quran requires sworn Muslims to convert or kill believers of other religions.

    The Quran constitutes depriving others of their first amendment right to freedom of religion.

    Being a Muslim constitutes treason, insurrection and subversion.

    An apt analogy would be allowing Nazis and Gestapo Headquarters to exist in America knowing their

    religion’s requirements and goals.

    The ultimate goal of Islam is world domination to the exclusion of all other religions.

    That is unequivocally and irrefutably anti-American.

    That is a crime.

    Islam’s most vaunted members blow themselves up with suicide belts.

  15. issacbasonkavichi – I think you are over-reaching with your definition of clan. Americans are not a clan. You failed sociology didn’t you.

  16. issac,
    You can scrub religion out of every culture and you’ll change nothing. The root cause is human nature. That will NEVER change! Perhaps all any society needs is really smart people to run a government that ‘allows’ the masses to enjoy their freedom as government sees fit. Oh wait, we’ve been trying that out for 50+ years and things are getting worse.

  17. “Athiesm should be a pre-requisite to run for the Presidency in America.”

    I don’t care what you believe in as long as it is subordinate to the rule of law (constitution). The rest will then take care of itself.

    Trump and Obama are cut from the same cloth. They both believe they are the “higher” power and IF they align WITH the constitution it will be by coincidence.

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