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Millennium Post

Throwback to the medieval excesses

Saudi Arabia has outdone almost all other theocratic states in the world by declaring atheists as terrorists. In a decree that smacks of corrosive and utterly regressive pre-modern practices, the House of Saud has introduced a slew of legislations to ostensibly ‘deal with terrorism’, but in effect to curb political dissidents and protesters. Riyadh’s latest salvo against liberal intelligentsia, a very thin societal layer indeed, as well as political opponents of monarchy, is geared towards wiping out the peaceful protestations that have been gaining ground in Saudi Arabia, following unrest in wider West Asia. The flames of democratic fire has begun spreading to the closed and insular quarters in and around Riyadh, and despite their petrodollars, King Abdullah-led Saudi authorities are now beginning to feel the heat. Issuing of Royal Degree 44, which criminalises ‘participating in hostilities outside the kingdom’ with grossly unfair prison sentences to that effect, the Saudi government is attempting a major clampdown on the liberal and tolerant forces that are bubbling under the moneyed stratosphere of political elites and aristocrats. In fact, Saudi interior ministry, following the hard line taken up by Egypt’s military junta under General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, has outlawed a number of active political outfits, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in a bid to quash growing popular rebellion that is taking cue from larger Middle Eastern contingencies. The chain of regulations, under the garb of maintaining social order and peace, is targeting thinkers, social workers, human and civil rights activists as well as political dissidents, randomly incarcerating vocal public figures, bloggers and writers for criticizing Saudi authorities.

Evidently, the House of Saud wants freedom from any opposition, whether in terms of policy or politics, and has, therefore, resorted to draconian laws to penalise and silence them. Atheism is but one of the many religious and political lines of thought that have been officially attacked, with top activists losing appeals against unbelievably harsh prison sentences for voicing outrage against the official position. Charges of terrorism look at language, content and political opinion of the so-called dissidents, which are often taken out of context and deliberately misconstrued to create a counter-revolution. This step back to the times of extreme regression and religious fanaticism is indicative of a fomenting rot that intentionally conflates ideological issues with personal religious beliefs, thereby creating a deadly cocktail to authoritarianism and state terror. Given that religious fundamentalism is behind most of the terrorist activities worldwide, conflating it with atheism to score brownie points amounts to violation of universal human rights. The official logic behind bringing in the law, to stop growing number of Saudis travelling to take part in Syrian civil war, is as ostentatious as false, given that its broad swath is essentially targeting domestic critics of monarchy. The climate of political intolerance has reached a new high and allowing House of Saud to go unchallenged in this regard in the international high tables of diplomacy would be tantamount to a travesty of justice and basic freedom of expression.               

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