Chapter

Saudi Arabia

Paul Marshall and Nina Shea

in Silenced

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812264
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919383 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812264.003.0002
Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia has perhaps the broadest blasphemy and apostasy prohibitions. The government uses its position as custodian of Islam's two holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina, to assert that its Wahhabi interpretation of the faith is the authoritative one. Effectively, this means that Muslims of different views, whether Shias, Sufis, reformers or political dissidents, may be condemned as apostates. For example, the opening fatwa of a government educational pamphlet rebukes a European imam for his “infidelity” because he “casts doubts about the infidelity of Jews and Christians.” This is a serious charge since, according to the country's textbooks, it is permissible to kill someone for infidelity, though within the Kingdom, prison terms and flogging are more likely. Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, including Ismailis, suffer disproportionately for blasphemy offenses. Among those in the Sunni majority Sunni convicted in recent years were democracy activists, imprisoned for using “unIslamic” terminology, such as “democracy” and “human rights.” Among those given prison terms and lashes for “mocking religion” were teachers who discussed the Bible in class and made favorable comments about Jews, or who maintained that the dominance of radical Islamists over Saudi university culture had harmed the quality of programs.

Keywords: Saudi Arabia; Wahhabi; Sunni; Shia; Ismaili; textbooks; infidelity; sharia

Chapter.  6960 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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