Last year, all atheists became terrorists – at least according to new laws introduced in Saudi Arabia. Non-believers aren’t alone though: anyone who criticizes the state, its rulers, or the Saudi version of Islam could be charged with terrorism. The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing explicitly includes non-violent acts, effectively prohibiting any semblance of free speech, association, or religion.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union explains some of the key terms of the legislation:
The provisions of the “terrorism” law define and outlaw numerous acts and forms of expression as “terrorism”, including:
“Calling for atheist thought in any form”
any disloyalty “to the country’s rulers”, or anyone “who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current [of thought], group, or individual inside or outside [the kingdom]”;
anyone who aids, affiliates, or holds “sympathy” with any “terrorist” organization as defined by the act, which “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”;
contact with groups or individuals who are “hostile to the kingdom”
and the article on “Seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion” prohibits all protest, without qualification as to its message or intent, by outlawing “calling, participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form”.
Additionally, apostasy (denying Islam by adopting another faith or becoming an atheist) is punishable by death. The International Business Times states that 100 people have been put to death already this year, in compliance with laws prescribing capital punishment for “murder, rape, armed robbery, using recreational drugs, and smuggling, in addition to homosexuality, false prophecy, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft and sorcery.”
Raif Badawi is a case in point: he’s a Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes for political criticism. It sounds crazy and it is, yet he is only one example of extreme corporal punishment among countless others that remain invisible to the international world.
With this lovely human rights record, Saudi Arabia somehow remains a full member of the United Nations. Not only that, but one of its representatives was quietly selected in June to head a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council.
This appointment followed on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s job opening for eight new executioners, described in the ad as “religious functionaries” working in the civil service, according to The Independent.
It’s like putting the head of ISIS in charge of human rights. Actually, the folks at UN Watch say that Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people than the famous extremist group this year.
Somehow, this is the real world, where farce sometimes merges with tragedy.