Saudi Arabia declares atheists ‘terrorists’

New laws criticised

Saudi Arabia has designated atheists as ‘terrorists’ in new legislation

As part of a range of new decrees in the Middle Eastern kingdom passed with the royal assent of King Abdullah, non-belief has been included alongside support or membership of the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda as terrorism.

The new legislation has been enacted in a clear attempt by the kingdom to offset the impact of upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world, and was reportedly drawn up in response to the large number of Saudi citizens travelling to Syria to fight in the conflict there.

The international rights group Human Rights Watch has criticised the draconian nature of the new laws, pointing out that they can easily be used to stamp out any form of popular dissent within Saudi Arabia, as the necessary component of violence outside Saudi borders for a definition of terrorism is not required for activities with the kingdom’s borders.

“Provisions of [the] new terrorism regulations that deny any ability to exercise basic rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression greatly exceed any notion of justifiable restrictions,” the group stated.