Under the new decree by King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia has officially categorized atheists as terrorists in new laws that can jail someone for up to 20 years for almost any criticism of the government or Islam.
Any secular citizen who commit ‘thought crimes’ are grouped in the same category as violent terrorist groups as it ‘calls for atheist thought in any form or calls into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.’
Saudi Arabia has officially identified atheists as terrorists in sweeping new laws that threaten up to 20 years in prison for almost any criticism of the government or Islam.
The regulations place secular citizens who commit thought crimes in the same category as violent terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch and Saudi Hezbollah.
Under the new decree by King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia will jail for up to 20 years anyone who fights in conflicts abroad – 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 that ‘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, but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,’ said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The counter-terrorism measure have also been mocked by Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch which said they would not deter the Islamist group’s fighters and that they proved the kingdom was in the pay of the United States.
In an online statement, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also said Riyadh’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood – a group whose political wings have contested elections in several countries – as a terrorist organisation proved that secular authorities would never tolerate Islamist groups.