In Saudia Arabia, a man originally sentenced to death in 2015 for atheism, apostasy, and blasphemy has lost an Appeals Court case this week. The Saudi Arabian Supreme Court ruled against him, confirming that he will be executed.
Local reports have identified the man as Ahmad Al Shamri, a man in his 20’s. He was first arrested in 2014 after allegedly uploading videos of men and women dancing together. He was charged with atheism and blasphemy. He was then convicted and sentenced to death in February of 2015. The Supreme Court's decision earlier this week upholds the earlier ruling from 2015.
Saudi Arabia is among the countries that govern with a strict interpretation of Islam (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and others do the same). The legal system of Islam, Sharia, uses apostasy to cover everything from conversion to another religion, insulting the Quran or the prophet Muhammad, or complete abandonment of faith. In 2014, then-King Abdullah issued royal decrees that specifically defined atheists as terrorists.
Shamri has been a trending Twitter topic in Arabic speaking countries the last few days, and many of those discussing him are celebrating the decision in an extremely disturbing display of religious fervor. One person said that they “wish there could be live streaming when you cut his head off.” Another person said, “Once you talk in public & criticize God or religion, then you should be punished.”
Saudi Arabia has a human rights record that has been consistently condemned by many international human rights groups. And when Saudi Arabia was elected to the UN’s women’s rights commission earlier this month, many individuals and groups around the world spoke out against the decision. On the decision to elect Saudi Arabia to the council, UN Watch Director Hillel Neuer said, “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief. It’s absurd.”
It is tragic and appalling that there are still so many places in the world today like Saudi Arabia where it is life-threatening just to vocalize your lack of belief in a deity. While religious people threaten or inflict violence on atheists all over the world, it is in places like Saudi Arabia, where the government supports, or in this case commits, that violence that it can be exceptionally disturbing. While some of us desperately try to grow and evolve with the times, and make a better future for ourselves and our descendants, there are too many people who want to drag humanity back into the dark ages. They want to return us to an age when religious theocracy was the rule of the day, where you either fall in line and accept their interpretation of the word of God, or you die.