An atheist in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 2000 lashes, and fined (the equivalent of) $5300 for posting over 600 tweets denying the existence of God, mocking passages in the Quran, and critiquing teachings of prophets. The man was caught when Saudi religious police (I honestly can’t believe that’s a real thing that exists somewhere) in charge of monitoring social media (again, a thing I can’t believe actually exists) found the man’s tweets.
This comes after former Saudi Arabian King Abdullah made it illegal to denounce religion in 2014, classifying atheists as “terrorists,” and criminalizing dissension. This gives Saudi Arabia’s religious police organization, called “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” legal authority to incarcerate those violating the Saudi’s strict iteration of Sharia Law.
Human Rights Watch shares some excerpts from the law:
- 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.”
- Article 2: “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].”
- 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.”
What this means is by sharing an opinion that is contradictory or inconsistent with the Saudi Arabian government’s political or religious ideologies is illegal. Kind of puts the whole false narrative of “Obama is taking away our freedom” into a little perspective, no?
Historically, dissension against the Saudi Arabian government has been punished by fines, prison time, beatings, and executions. Additionally, Saudi Arabia conducts some executions as public beheadings.
This is yet another example of Saudi Arabia’s history of persecuting atheist and free speech. In 2015, Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death after being accused “atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society,” despite Fayadh affirming his Muslim faith.
It is absolutely astounding to me that things like this are still occurring in the world. If nothing else, this exemplifies how terrified religious extremists are of having their belief system challenged by something as harmless as a post on social media. They have an entire division of their law enforcement agency solely dedicated to monitoring social media. If that’s the case, one can only assume that Saudia Arabia must be a Utopian society where religious dissension is viewed as one of the biggest problems.
A 2012 Gallup poll found that 5 percent of Saudi Arabians identify as atheist. The actual number is likely much higher than this though, given how extreme the punishment is for being a terrible, no good, very bad godless heathen.
Laws such as these do nothing to further a society. They punish free thought and progress at best, and result in pointless deaths at worst.