In an attempt to silence dissidents and activists, Saudi Arabia has passed laws that define all atheists as ‘terrorists.’ The new laws are being criticised widely, and are considered direct violations of freedom of speech and expression. They define a terrorist as:
- Anyone who calls for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based;
- Anyone who disregards their loyalty to the country's rulers;
- Anyone who aids [terrorist] organisations, groups, currents [of thought], associations, or parties, or demonstrates affiliation with them, or sympathy with them, or promotes them, or holds meetings under their umbrella, either inside or outside the kingdom;
- Those who seek to shake the social fabric or national cohesion, or anyone who harms the unity or stability of the kingdom by any means;
- Attends conferences, seminars, or meetings inside or outside [the kingdom] targeting the security of society, or sowing discord in society;
- Incites or make countries, committees, or international organisations antagonistic to the kingdom.
A 2012 WIN/Gallup poll reported that at least a quarter of Saudi Arabians interviewed described themselves as “not-religious”, and of those, 5 % described themselves as atheists. These figures, if extrapolated, suggest that more than a million atheists live in the country.
These new laws, introduced as a set of royal decrees, are believed to have been passed to rein in the citizens who are leaving to fight in the Syrian civil war, and prevent dissemination of ‘democratic’ and ‘libertarian’ ideas.
Saudi Arabia is a signatory of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, Article 32 of which guarantees freedom of speech and opinion, and Article 28, the rights to peaceful assembly and association.
Photo Credits: Ali Mansuri
UPDATE: Atheist Alliance International started a petition to Rescind Saudi Laws Designating Atheists as "Terrorists". You may sign the petition by clicking here.
Atheists do not use terror to promote our ideas. No atheist is threatening to harm or abuse anyone AT ALL. We only want to be heard. We want equal ground and the freedom to dissent to that which threatens not only us, but all of humanity. We won't resort to using the same tactics we fight against to win this struggle. We understand something that these people seem to not understand at all - It isn't just about winning, it matters how you do it. The tactics being used here only insure their ultimate defeat because they've shown that they cannot stand against criticism and make a rational case in appeal of their position. Just because you bury your head in the sand, it doesn't mean we can't see you any more. You can't silence the whole world.
In a way, this is an evolution from the term "infidel" that has most often been used to describe atheists/nonbelievers in the past. Now the Kingdom is saying a nonbeliever is not simply someone who has betrayed the faith, but someone with intentions to terrorize and destroy. These restrictive laws (even for Saudi Arabia) are a bold move to intimidate free-thinking young people to watch what they say, or think.
"...We only want to be heard...." That is the threat, if we are heard that makes people think and thinking, especially critical thinking is dangerous to religious belief - thus those who use an individuals religious belief as a basis for power are threatened by the atheism, and for some threats equate with terrorism.