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SilencedHow Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide$
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Paul Marshall and Nina Shea

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812264

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812264.001.0001

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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

(p.21) 2 Saudi Arabia

Paul Marshall

Nina Shea

Oxford University Press

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

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