I’ve always thought that Richard Dawkins is more arrogant than anyone has a right to be, and some of his statements suggest that he isn’t without a streak of bigotry.Â But now, thanks to the Saudi Arabian government, I know that he is a far more sinister character than I had realisedt.
This is because Article 1 of Saudi Arabia’s new Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing explicitly includes within its definition of ‘terrorism’ the crime of ‘Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.’
Lucky for Dawkins he doesn’t live in Saudi Arabia then.Â Â But no one should complain that atheists are being discriminated against, because ‘terrorism’ in Saudi Arabia covers a fairly wide gamut.Â Â Take Article 2 of the new law, which includes ‘Anyone who throws away their loyalty to the countryâ€™s rulers, or who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current [of thought], group, or individual inside or outside [the kingdom]’
And then there is Article 8, which prohibits ‘Seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion, or calling, participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form, or anyone who harms the unity or stability of the kingdom by any means.’
With laws like that you can arrest a lot of people, and the Saudi authorities don’t need much persuading to do so.Â Earlier this year, according to Human Rights Watch, a Saudi citizenÂ got an 8 year sentence earlier this year because of ‘ his involvement in inciting [family members] of detainees in security cases to demonstrations and sit-ins through producing, storing, and sending tweets, video clips on YouTube, and social networking sites,‘ as well as – wait for it – ‘ his sarcasm toward the ruler of the kingdom and its religious authorities.’
Well God forbid that anyone should be sarcastic about their rulers.Â Â Â A few things are worth reminding ourselves of here.Â Firstly, that Saudi Arabia is a key ally of Western states who have supposedly been motivated by nothing less than a desire to promote democracy in the Middle East for more than a decade.Â Â Secondly, this is a country that has been linked again and again to acts of terrorist violence across the world, including the 9/11 attacks, whether through funding streams or active recruitment of personnel.
In 2010 the leaked Wikileaks cables included a December 2009 memo from Hilary Clinton, which declared that
More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar -Taiba – the group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks] and other terrorist groups.Â Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.
And lastly, this the same government that has just pressured the British government into investigating the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged links to terrorism and ‘extremism’ – and entrusted the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia to carry it out.
It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?