Saudi Arabia’s new law defines atheism as “terrorism”, bans all criticism of government

Photo courtesy of WikiIslam

By Bob Churchill

Humanist and secular organizations, as well as civil liberties and human rights groups around the world, have responded with outrage to the news that a new law in Saudi Arabia equates “atheism” with “terrorism”.

The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing criminalizes as “terrorism” all free expression on a vast range of topics, including advocacy of “atheist thought”, criticism of Islam as it is understood by the state, and any expression deemed to “insult the reputation of the state”.

Saudia Arabia is a current and recently-elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source below.

56 COMMENTS

  1. there once was a king called abdullah
    who fancied himself as a mullah
    says he it’s a crime
    apostasy prime
    to deny there’s a monster called allah

  2. Either the translator made a mistake or the word ‘terrorist’ has been redefined to mean ‘atheist’. Rather odd, you might think, since atheists are not known for blowing up hotels and staging suicide bombings and other such activities customarily associated with terrorists. The Saudi lawmakers are doing here much the same as American officials did in the 1950s and 1960s when they redefined ‘communist’ to mean someone not sufficiently like a certain type of American.

  3. Saudi Arabia’s new law defines atheism as “terrorism”,

    I suppose the extreme god-delusions find the notion that there are human beings with immunity, who are resistant to the religion virus, and hence are truly terrifying to god-delusions which are in dread of extinction!

    bans all criticism of government

    When there are governments this irrational and antiquated in their thinking, its pathetic thought processes and personal greed, can only appear credible by silencing objective criticism and suppressing rational thought!

  4. Cairsley wrote:

    The Saudi lawmakers are doing here much the same as American officials did in the 1950s and 1960s when they redefined ‘communist’ to mean someone not sufficiently like a certain type of American.

    The word “terrorist” has been so overused and hijacked by governments, law enforcement and media that its significance has been degraded to anybody who does (or says) something reprehensible or perceived as reprehensible by those doing the labeling.

    This phenomenon has now enabled totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia to use the word to describe as terrorists the victims of actual terrorism (atheists like Avijit Roy and Niloy Neel for example or reformists like Raif Badawi). The absurdity of it all is somewhat reminiscent of George Orwell’s “doublethink”.

  5. They can now add atheophobia to their list of psychotic delusions. The idea that you may be terrorised by someone who draws cartoons and raises eyebrows to your stupid ideas must count as one of the most irrational fears.

  6. The Controversial Poster Philoctetes
    Aug 10, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I wonder if the Saudi government feels it is being outflanked by ISIS

    It seems they have been allies in creating this mess! – With a bit of help from guess who?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-saudi-arabia-iraq-syria-bandar/373181/

    McCain was praising Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm Syrian rebel forces.

    But two of the most successful factions fighting Assad’s forces are Islamist extremist groups: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the latter of which is now amassing territory in Iraq and threatening to further destabilize the entire region. And that success is in part due to the support they have received from two Persian Gulf countries: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”

    ISIS, in fact, may have been a major part of Bandar’s covert-ops strategy in Syria. The Saudi government, for its part, has denied allegations, including claims made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that it has directly supported ISIS.

  7. Miserablegit
    Aug 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I am obviously missing something.

    The capacity for psychological projection and self-deception in god-delusion-infested brains perhaps!

  8. Love the concept of “atheophobia”, If we secularists were less scrupulous and more cynical we could use it like islamic fundamentalists use the meme “islamophobia”.
    Having said that the difference is that a phobia is defined as an irrational fear which is exactly what Atheophobia would be, rather than Islamophobia which is a real fear of homicidal maniacs determined to carry out their murderous threats.
    But then again maybe the fear of atheism is really real, because were it to triumph in the “Holy Lands” peace might break out and what self-respecting mad mahdi, mullah or moslem monarchist would relish that?

  9. What pisses me more than knowing Saudi Arabia is as retrograde and suffocating as their next-door dictator, is this :

    Saudia Arabia is a current and recently-elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council

    … all because of that goddamn oil. If we could just stop kissing their royal arses for a minute. The sooner we drop these deadbeats and leave them to their sand castles, the better.

  10. The linked source article is well over a year old.

    This more recent article might make you all feel a little more optimistic:

    Invisible Atheists – The spread of disbelief in the Arab world

    ” In 2012, a wide-ranging WIN/Gallup International poll found that 5 percent of Saudi citizens—more than a million
    people—self-identify as “convinced atheists,” the same percentage as in the United States. Nineteen percent of
    Saudis—almost six million people—think of themselves as “not a religious person”. ”

  11. Saudia Arabia is a current and recently-elected member of the United
    Nations Human Rights Council

    Could this be part of the UN’s “diversity initiative”?

    Don’t we all cherish diversity?

    Or, maybe there’s some “reverse psychology” going on here.

  12. I think before getting too uptight at the suggestion that atheism is the same as terrorism it’s worth reflecting on how politics work, not just in dictatorships but everywhere.

    When I was younger, I thought I knew what a terrorist was; someone who sought political change through terror, i.e. scaring enough civilians to force political change just to avoid being murdered. This was what I understood back in the days of “the troubles” in NI. the problem with the term is when you define it, you find it applies to virtually every political leader from the UK government supporting loyalist groups to bombing innocent civilians during WWII, and for most if not all groups fighting for freedom within their own land. To stretch the term I can think of at least 2 UK newspapers guilty of inciting terror in the masses for their own political ends.

    It’s time to accept that when governments refer to “terrorists” they really mean “the bad people”. We know that all sorts of novel uses of the UKs anti-terrorism laws that have come into play, not to mention the atrocities commited in US “war on terror”.

    So while it’s quite obvious atheism does not lead to organizations carrying out killings for the sake of forcing a political point, atheists are “the bad people” in Saudi Arabia. Maybe if you’re running a theocratic dictatorship, the thought of atheism spreading might be terrifying. after all it may lead to peace, democracy and finally calling to account those who commited atrocities while in power.

    The use of language in politics is tricky. you can come up with a term that means ‘the bad people’ (e.g. terrorist) but sticks and stones and all that. words lose their power the more they’re used. Those who are given labels often subvert them for their own use making a mockery of those who use such words (think african-american west coast rap group, british-asian fashion company and every term for homosexual that has been embraced by the gay community).

    The fact is, the Saudi government, like many governments, decide who is undesirable first then stick a horrible worded label on them to justify their oppression.

    eventually, if we’re not already, we’ll all be terrorists to someone, then the word stops meaning anything and there’ll be nothing left but to have grown-up political discussions until a new ‘the bad people’ word is invented

  13. Saudia Arabia is a current and recently-elected member of the United
    Nations Human Rights Council

    This needs to change… like….NOW.

  14. Sometimes the truth is terrifying… As Atheists, we represent the truth. We do bring the terror of reality to the ignorant. Just remember there are no bad people, only those harbouring bad ideas. The enemy are not the individual Saudis, but the leaders pushing bad ideas…

  15. I agree wholeheartedly! The fact that they are the #1 Buyer of U.S. international arms sales might make it a bit difficult though. The fact that that will make it hard to do anything to them is so f-ing wrong… Yeah, us Atheists are the problem huh?

  16. I disagree, mostly i think you are right, but I am pretty sure that there most definitely ARE some bad people. Ever notice that there are always a few Theists who claim that they would be raping and murdering if religion wasn’t there? Some (I would hope most) of those probably have issues with backpressure building from their restraint of natural desires and would not carry through, others maybe would.

  17. I don’t see this as irrational fear. If you truly, but truly believe that there’s a god in the sky that will torture your soul for eternity for unbelief, it makes perfect sense to remove any atheist from society that could possibly damn the souls of others. Irrational would be to believe that atheism will damn your soul and let atheist free to convince your kids that there’s no god.

  18. Oh for the millionth time, BY THE LAW OF THE LAND, there is NO death penalty in Pakistan for being an atheist. Yes, there is a mob mentality in Pakistan and you can get killed for anything by the mob but not the government. Have you ever heard Pakistani government executing athiests like Saudi government does all the time? The persecutions for blasphemy do happen by the law of land but even in those cases, the mob drags the accused to courts (if they haven’t killed him/her first) and court HAS to do “something” otherwise the mob will go nuts.

    And NO, there is no Sharia Law in Pakistan despite what Wikipedia says (apart from the notorious blasphemy law, which exists in many countries, including India). Much of Pakistani laws are based upon the British laws since the British left. The MOB do a lot crazy shit and government is too weak to stop it but it is not by the law. I was an athiest in Pakistan (but now live in Australia) and I was scared of the mob all the time but not the government… most of my University friends live in Pakistan and are openly atheists and ALIVE. I always say from personal observation, Pakistan is one of those rare Muslim countries where the government is cooler than people (as opposed to Iran where people are cooler than the government). The a Pakistani government is weak but rather moderate.

  19. I was editing that last sentence in the original comment when the website locked me out of editing, so let me continue.

    There was a Pakistani minister in Pakistani government who criticised and wanted to repeal the blasphemy law (which was originally introduced by a dictator) but the minister was shot and killed. There must be many others but are scared for their life to talk about it. The government is weak but moderate. The mob, which is not necessarily the majority of population, is too scary and wins.

  20. Don’t they still do that? – e.g. anyone who supports Obamacare is labelled a socialist, or sometimes a communist.
    Half the country would still be regarded as somewhat right-wing capitalists by the rest of the democratic world, …, but the other half regard them as communists.

  21. This presupposes that belief in a god in the sky etc. is a rational belief, which it’s not.
    A fear of atheism is consistent with the other irrational beliefs, but that’s not the same as rational.

  22. Oh for the millionth time…

    “I’ve told you millions of times not to exaggerate!!”

    You seem to have proven conclusively that Pakistan,
    along with many other Islamic countries is run by
    terror.

  23. Mike,

    If atheists have to lie to protect themselves from tyrannical regimes, they are constrained to do it. That is completely different from religious believers. Religious believers don’t actually lie. They use every trick in their bag to avoid coming face to face with reason and logic.

    Atheists are atheists because of their concern for the truth. They repudiate religion because of its fantastic claims, unsupported by any evidence.

    Fortunately many of us live in countries where we don’t have to resort to the cowardly and humiliating act of having to pretend that we are believers when we are not.

  24. Marktony: ” In 2012, a wide-ranging WIN/Gallup International poll found that 5 percent of Saudi citizens—more than a million
    people—self-identify as “convinced atheists,” the same percentage as in the United States. Nineteen percent of
    Saudis—almost six million people—think of themselves as “not a religious person”. ”

    While it’s difficult to break down degrees of religious piety or disaffiliation among age cohorts of populations living in Islamic countries because of official restrictions on free speech. Nevertheless embedded observers have reported growing dissatisfaction with Islamic rule, notably in Iran and Saudi Arabia, among younger people who find their hopes for employment and free expression stifled. The Saudi government, bloated with oil wealth, keeps the population in line with relatively generous allowances and subsidies. Still a growing body of young men and women faced with a bleak, idle and austere future have become disillusioned with faith and regime. Perhaps the new laws represent a reaction against the sound of footsteps the princes are starting to hear. Developments over the next 10 to 20 years may turn the tables much more than we can currently imagine.

  25. It rather amuses me to learn that I, quite harmless by most criteria, am a cause of terror to the Saudi government.

  26. Hello everyone,
    I was trying to find other sources for this than the IHEU website, but to no avail. Could anybody point me to another news website or any other credible source? Thanks a lot

  27. Andreas
    Aug 12, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Hello everyone,
    I was trying to find other sources for this than the IHEU website, but to no avail. Could anybody point me to another news website or any other credible source?

    Various newspapers have reports.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-declares-all-atheists-are-terrorists-in-new-law-to-crack-down-on-political-dissidents-9228389.html

    Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

    In a string of royal decrees and an overarching new piece of legislation to deal with terrorism generally, the Saudi King Abdullah has clamped down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could “harm public order”.

  28. Andreas
    Aug 12, 2015 at 4:43 am

    I was trying to find other sources for this than the IHEU website, but to no avail.

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/saudi-arabia-new-law-sees-atheism-terrorism-1442819

    Saudi Arabia has passed a new terrorism law which will treat non-believers and political dissidents as enemies of the state.

    Critics say the new legislation – which uses a broad definition of “terrorism” to include any act intended to insult the reputation of the state, harm public order or destabilise the security of society – is a threat to freedom of speech and thought in the kingdom.

    Wahabi Islam does not do “tolerant co-existence”, or recognise the human rights of others, regardless of what they may have signed up to on the international stage.

  29. you’re taking pleasure in your terrorist status?! wow that’s cold

    how would you like it if you were a genocidal dictator and someone walked into your palace and let an idea off? with no thought to how many innocent bystanders might be interested or suffer inspiration while caught in the cross-banter? and worse, was amused at your discomfort?

  30. Baffled by this

    Are there any active atheist terror groups?

    In China? Russia?

    Europe?

  31. The definition of terrorism is amusing. It says, “calling for atheistic thought in any form, or …”

    Does it mean to include atheistic thought vis-a-vis Christianity and other religions, other than Islam, too? 🙂

  32. Something similar here in Thailand–
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/thai-man-jailed-for-30-years-for-facebook-posts-insulting-monarchy-10445226.html

    Read this in the Bangkok Post- astonished that such ridiculous law has not been rescinded.
    His sentence was 60 years, halved on a guilty plea. How generous!

    And… 2 days ago the police arrested 400 (yes, 400) young kids on a motorcycle charity run-
    on suspicion that “some of them rode modified motorcycles and we feared they intended
    to begin street races”

    So much for the “Land of Smiles”.

  33. Yes, that was the biggest joke and just about the death blow to the crecibility of the U.N. But alas, our own elected bigot governments are the ones who keep this oppressive government alive by providing them everything they want and need to suppress their population.

  34. Baj
    Aug 13, 2015 at 12:47 am

    Quercus. Like to go to hell? Seems like

    Hell is a place in the imagination of tormented faith-believers.

    It it of no more concern to atheists than magic spells from Hogwarts!

  35. In the United States, we badly need a constitutional amendment the states that we have as a fundamental right of freedom FROM religion. Look what happens when any religion becomes the majority. Freedom OF religion means that any religion has the right to impose its beliefs on everyone else, such as our Roman Catholic US Supreme Court.

  36. of course they do! excuse my french, but they are the most sneaky guys in the world. Those Arabs never know nothing. Yet they give tons of money to extremist movements (al qaida) . I don’t even like them as a people. Still using slaves to build their buildings, not respecting women, …

  37. Nice of you to try to protect what is yours, and I respect that, Imran, but it seems that this is a new law. A religious ideology can do a whole lot to people.

  38. and as you say, every word, if it is the tora, bible, quran… every word has been turned over and around for them to see what benefit they can get from it.

  39. Here’s the link for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia:

    http://www.kaust.edu.sa/

    I wonder if they teach students about fossil discoveries there – and, by extension, how life has evolved on earth. I think I know the answer to this ( ;o) ) but nevertheless wonder how on earth these topics could be ignored in a science teaching establishment!

  40. Erol
    Aug 14, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Here’s the link for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia:

    It seems in the UAE and other parts of the Arabian peninsular, the technology of robotics is replacing child abuse on things which are deemed important!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/sports/camel-racing-in-the-united-arab-emirates-is-a-blend-of-centuries-old-traditions-and-modern-technology.html?_r=0

    Camel racing, in one form or another, has been part of Arabian culture for generations, with some historians tracing races to the seventh century.

    Racing in the U.A.E. became more organized in the 1980s and ’90s, when Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the first president of the federation, oversaw construction of several racetracks. As races became more competitive and prize money grew, many camel owners began to use lightweight children as jockeys, some as young as 2 or 3, importing them from countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. Falls and critical injuries were common. Trading, bartering and kidnapping of child jockeys, as well as accusations of physical and sexual abuse, were frighteningly frequent, too. At one point, it was estimated that 40,000 child jockeys were being used across the Persian Gulf.

    The horrors of that human trafficking left a scar for the sport that lingers even now, 12 years after the practice was officially banned in the U.A.E. Some owners said quietly that they still might prefer to have human jockeys — though none would say so publicly — but a majority, perhaps recognizing the troubling perception of having children ride animals that stand 6 feet tall and can run up to 40 miles per hour, unabashedly praised the technology now widely used instead: robots.

    Early models of the robots, which were first produced in 2003, were cumbersome and weighed as much as 30 pounds. The camels generally did not respond well to them, and owners were put off by the difficulty of obtaining them.

    In the years since, the production of the robots has become more local and more streamlined. Now, camel owners can go to numerous shops or markets in the U.A.E. to buy robots and accessories, which can even include deluxe silks (the robots are made to actually look like tiny jockeys). The latest version of the robot weighs only a few pounds.

  41. When a regime in the year of our worldwide web 2015 proclaims a law attempting to control “thought,” or more precisely, to impose the profession of faith in the ancient superstitions of Islam, you can hear its lips puckering soon to be smacking as it kisses its ass goodbye.

  42. Alan – that’s innovation for you! The article refers to ‘child jockeys’ – implying both sexes. Presumably the robots that might look like ‘tiny female jockeys’ are not now garbed in tiny burkas! But seriously, doesn’t it dawn on the Saudi authorities that science teaching should include topics such as fossils while also considering the plethora of evidence for evolution. Give them another 20 years, perhaps.

  43. Barbaric Islam and rational thought will never peacefully co-exist. Amazing how virtually no one knows or admits that.

  44. Erol
    Aug 15, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    But seriously, doesn’t it dawn on the Saudi authorities that science teaching should include topics such as fossils while also considering the plethora of evidence for evolution.

    They don’t seem to have a problem employing geologists to find fossil oil!!!!
    Perhaps employing foreign ones, educated elsewhere, helps to “keep the faith pure” – while still collecting the money!

  45. Not to be upstaged by the pope!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33972240

    Islamic environmental and religious leaders have called on rich countries and oil producing nations to end fossil fuel use by 2050.

    The Islamic Climate Declaration says that the world’s 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change.

    It urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, “or preferably 1.5 degrees.”

    The Declaration asks Muslims, in the words of the Koran, “not to strut arrogantly on the Earth“.

    Drafted at an international symposium in Istanbul, the Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses …to commit to 100% renewable energy“.

    It also argues for increased financial support for communities vulnerable to climate change.

    I wonder how that will go down in Saudi Arabia in view of the law against criticism of the state?

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