New Law in Saudi Arabia Labels All Atheists as Terrorists

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 1 2014 6:16 PM

New Law in Saudi Arabia Labels All Atheists as Terrorists

481242155-president-barack-obama-walks-with-prince-khaled-bin
President Obama walks with Prince Khaled Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz (C-R), Emir of Riyadh, in Riyadh on March 29, 2014.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

No one has ever accused Saudi Arabia of being the Holland of the Middle East. You know, Holland, the country of unbridled liberalism where they encourage euthanization via legal pot brownie consumption. But, a recent report from Human Rights Watch shows new laws in Saudi Arabia have taken the country a step back and bulldozed what little public space there is for dissent in the country. The changes, predictably, come under the guise of “fighting terror.” And what’s the number one terrorist threat facing the country? Atheists, apparently.

Included under the terrorism provisions is the ban on “calling for atheist thought in any form.” That’s Article 1, in fact. It’s a rather strange headliner to the whole who-is-a-terrorist question considering atheism doesn’t historically raise many red flags in the pantheon of global terrorism. The provisions, which are almost imperceptibly broad, “create a legal framework that appears to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism,” according to HRW.

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And dissent is of rising concern in the country. Here’s why from the Independent: “The new laws have largely been brought in to combat the growing number of Saudis travelling to take part in the civil war in Syria, who have previously returned with newfound training and ideas about overthrowing the monarchy.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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