Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saudis Consider New Laws To Combat Insulting Islam

I was under the impression that Saudi Arabia already had serious blasphemy laws. After all, the Kingdom is ruled by Sharia, and blasphemy in Islam is considered apostasy, and the sentence for apostasy is death. But according to a recent Reuters article, Saudis are only now considering criminalizing insulting Islam. I assume they just want to bring social media (like Twitter and Facebook) into the mix, possibly in response to the blaspheming 23-year-old journalist/blogger Hamza Kashgari's posts on Twitter in February of this year.
Kashgari wrote on Twitter:

"I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you." [then added] "I will not pray for you."

There were calls for his head by top Islamic clerics (and others), and he was eventually tracked down by Interpol (yes, Interpol!) in Malaysia and sent back to Saudi Arabia.  In some countries, repenting (which Kashgari did) can save your hide, but he was still extradited, and is awaiting trial.

But with these new regulations  it won't just be criticism of Mohammed that could get you in to major trouble,  it will also include other Muslim notables and clerics from way back when, and punishment could be very "severe."

"Within the next two months the Shura Council will reveal the outcome of study on the regulations to combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia."

"The (regulations) are important at the present time because violations over social networks on the Internet have been observed in the past months,"

Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi-style Islam is one of the stricter versions of Islam and the sentence for blasphemy is death.

Although Saudi Arabia every once in while takes a tiny, positive step towards reform, it then takes  giant steps backwards. The youth in that country (and apparently there are many) will need to take things into their own hands before the Kingdom turns into another Iran.

Analyst Jamal Khashoggi says it best:

"I would rather have this law discussed by the public first. It should not only be debated by the Shura, it should be debated in newspapers first because it can be misused."

"I don't want anything to affect my freedom and we don't want Saudi Arabia to be another Iran."

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