Saudi Arabia Pushes for Global Anti-Blasphemy Law to Criminalize Speech Against 'Prophets and Holy Books'

A protest on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by the Ethiopian community in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in response to the detaining of 35 Ethiopian Christians in December 2011.
A protest on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by the Ethiopian community in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in response to the detaining of 35 Ethiopian Christians in December 2011. | (Photo: The Christian Post)

Saudi Arabia is calling on every nation to implement a global blasphemy law to criminalize any act that defames religious beliefs and symbols of faith.

Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, director for external relations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs for the kingdom, claims such abuse breeds intolerance, extremism and human rights violations throughput the world.

"We have made it clear that freedom of expression without limits or restrictions would lead to violation and abuse of religious rights," Al-Omari said. "This requires every nation to intensify efforts to criminalize insulting heavenly religions, prophets, holy books, religious symbols and places of worship."

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Saudi Arabia currently has very heavy restrictions on freedom of speech, including the death penalty for blasphemy, as well as for leaving Islam, witchcraft and sorcery. The kingdom also defines atheism as terrorism.

According to Open Doors USA, a nonprofit organization that serves persecuted Christians, Saudi Arabia is currently ranked as No. 12 on its Christian persecution list. The religious police also often raid house churches, and converts to Christianity from Islam face the risk of being killed by family members.

A global blasphemy law appears unlikely to win acceptance from Western countries determined to resist restrictions on freedom of speech.

Director of media relations at the U.S. organization Voice of the Martyrs, Ted Nettleton, explains "What Christians call evangelism is often called blasphemy under such restrictive laws. Liberty-loving people everywhere and of all faiths should firmly stand against the spread of blasphemy laws, and work toward the repeal of such laws in places where they already exist."

Islamist extremists have been trying to prevent all depictions of the Muhammad, the founder of Islam, whether drawn by a Muslim or non-Muslim, through violence.

Earlier this year, 12 people were killed in the offices of France-based magazine Charlie Hebdo by terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Yemen. The murders were over the satirical magazine's depictions of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

In March, controversial free-speech activist Pamela Geller held a "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest" competition in Garland, Texas, where two Islamic State-affiliated terrorists attacked the event and were shot and killed by a lone police officer.

Many churches and already concerned about the repressive effect of blasphemy laws in Muslim countries such as Pakistan where it is used to persecute Christians.

The world's major Protestant, Orthodox and evangelical churches have already called on Pakistan to abolish its blasphemy law, which carries a possible death penalty.

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