Feminism, Homosexuality and Atheism Classified as Extremist Elements in Saudi Arabia

Feminism, Homosexuality and Atheism Classified as Extremist Elements in Saudi Arabia

A promotional video published by Saudi Arabia’s state security agency categorizes feminism, homosexuality and atheism as extremist ideas, despite the Kingdom’s ongoing drive to reform and relax its ultraconservative laws.

The animated clip posted on Twitter at the weekend by a verified account of the State Security Presidency said “all forms of extremism and perversion are unacceptable”.

It listed those concepts alongside takfir – the Islamist militant practice of labeling followers of other schools of Islam unbelievers.

“Don’t forget that excess of anything at the expense of the homeland is considered extremism,” said the promo’s voiceover.

The security agency’s post seemed at odds with the kingdom’s recent efforts to attract investment. As part of plans to open up society and attract foreign investment to transform Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pushed for a more moderate form of Islam and promoted nationalist sentiment, loosening social restrictions and launching  tourist visa, while Riyadh has chipped away at its guardianship system, in which women are assigned a male relative to accompany them and approve their decisions.

The Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman

Most recently, Saudi Arabia launched a visa programme allowing holidaymakers from 49 countries to visit one of the world’s most closed-off countries. For years, the only foreigners allowed into the country were mainly Muslim pilgrims and business people. It also eased its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

Prior to that, Saudi Arabia hosted K-pop superstars BTS, who were the first non-Arab artists to perform at a stadium concert in the kingdom, though the move was slammed by rights organisations which dubbed the performance as an attempt to “whitewash” the Kingdom’s rights abuses.

“Mohammed bin Salman has created an entertainment sector and allowed women to travel and drive, but Saudi authorities have also locked away many of the country’s leading reformist thinkers and activists on his watch, some of whom called for these very changes,” Michael Page, a deputy Middle East division director at HRW said. “It’s not real reform in Saudi Arabia if it takes place in a dystopia where rights activists are imprisoned and freedom of expression exists just for those who malign the dissidents.”

The authorities have always cracked down on dissent, arresting scores of critics including clerics, intellectuals and activists. Nearly a dozen women’s right advocates were detained weeks before a ban on women driving – which they had campaigned against – was lifted last year. Activists and diplomats speculated that may have been a message that reform would happen only at the government’s initiative. The public prosecutor has said the women were arrested on suspicion of harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad. Some of the charges relate to their rights work. Under Saudi law, supporting groups classified as extremist organizations can lead to imprisonment.

Homosexuality and atheism have long been illegal and punishable by death in the absolute monarchy, where public protests and political parties are banned and the media is tightly controlled.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, called the state security agency’s video “outrageous.”

“The Saudi state security agency’s announcement which labels feminism, atheism and homosexuality as extremist ideas punishable by jail and flogging is outrageous – clearly contracting the Kingdom’s bogus reformist image which Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman continues to flaunt internationally,” he said.

The animated clip, which was posted on Twitter at the weekend, has since been removed. And in a statement published by state television, the security agency said the video contained a number of mistakes in defining extremism, and that the individuals who made the video did not do their job properly.

In a separate statement, the state-affiliated Saudi Human Rights Commission said feminism was not a crime and that the kingdom “accords the utmost importance to women’s rights.”

Neither statement referenced homosexuality and atheism.

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4 Comments

  1. Mandy
    November 13, 09:33 Reply

    I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be an atheist, feminist lesbian living in Saudi Arabia.

    • Black Dynasty
      November 13, 17:19 Reply

      Add being black to the list and it would equal a life worse than death.

  2. Mitch
    November 13, 10:01 Reply

    Yet their murdering arses are the healthy part of society, right?
    Arrant nonsense!

  3. Duc
    November 13, 12:11 Reply

    I’d sooner be fisted by Edward Scissor-Hands than ever even visit this backwoods hellzone. Meanwhile all the Arabs I’ve encountered enjoy scat-play..ewww

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