FFRF appeals for Saudi atheist’s life

1saudiatheistThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is appealing to the State Department for a Saudi nonbeliever’s life.

Ahmad Al-Shamri was arrested on charges of atheism and blasphemy after he uploaded material to social media that allegedly trivialized Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Leaving Islam, or “apostasy,” is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, where religious extremists have total control of the kingdom’s judicial system. Shockingly, Al-Shamri was sentenced to death merely for expressing his views on social media, in a trial that focused on Islamic law. His case was brought before the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court for appeal, which ruled against Al-Shamri on April 25. Typically, these monstrous executions are carried out by beheading or shooting the victim.

“Blasphemy laws shackle an entire people under the mental slavery of one religion,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to the State Department. “Their very existence is an insult to human dignity and intelligence. When a foreign government issues death sentences, jail time or imprisonment for blasphemy, the United States must do everything in its power to challenge that sentence and to champion the ideals of democracy, free speech and freedom of religion.”

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor uses a wide range of tools to protect fundamental human rights in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The bureau’s Office of International Religious Freedom states that it strives to “promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right” and to “identify and denounce regimes that are severe persecutors on the basis of religious belief.” If Saudi Arabia maintains Al-Shamri’s death sentence for atheism and blasphemy, the Office of International Religious Freedom should take a number of steps, including recommending economic sanctions on Saudi Arabia and asking Congress to move immediately with an attempt to halt Al-Shamri’s execution.

Further, opposing executions on the basis of religious belief and expression furthers at least two core functions the State Department.

First, the State Department is tasked with protecting Americans abroad. While Ahmad Al-Shamri is not an American national, failing to oppose his execution by a foreign government for his atheism would leave nonreligious Americans — almost one-fourth of the population — at risk if they were to visit or do business in Saudi Arabia.

Second, the State Department upholds the National Endowment for Democracy Act, which states, “individual rights and freedoms (including internationally recognized human rights) . . . are essential to the functioning of democratic institutions.” The same act urges “cooperation with those abroad dedicated to the cultural values, institutions, and organizations of democratic pluralism.” Allowing foreign regimes to execute its citizens based on their religious identity and speech is antithetical to these goals and must be vigorously opposed by the State Department.

Ultimately, if diplomacy does not yield results, and the United States cannot reason with Saudi Arabia, FFRF contends that the Trump administration ought to make clear it will end its special relationship with this theocratic state.

(If individuals wish to contact the State Department, they can do so here.)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization, with more than 29,000 nonreligious members, whose purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

 

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