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Saudi Arabia U-turns on declaring feminism ‘extremism’. Homosexuality and atheism definitely still a crime, though

Patrick Kelleher November 13, 2019
Saudi Arabia U-turns on declaring feminism 'extremism'. Homosexuality and atheism still a crime, though

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty)

Government officials in Saudi Arabia have backtracked on labelling feminism “extremism.” But homosexuality and atheism are still crimes, they reiterated.

The claims were first made last weekend in a promotional video shared by Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of State Security on Twitter. Reuters reported that the video listed homosexuality, feminism and atheism as takfir – the Islamist militant practice of labelling followers of other schools of Islam unbelievers.

But state security officials have now distanced themselves from the video and have blamed it on actions of individuals, Reuters reports.

Feminism is ‘not a crime’ in Saudi Arabia – but homosexuality and atheism is.

A statement from the agency said individuals had made a number of mistakes in their efforts to define extremism. However, in a later statement, they said that feminism is “not a crime” and said Saudi Arabia “accords the utmost importance to women’s rights”.

It is unclear whether this means that homosexuality and atheism are still considered extremism. Both are illegal and punishable by death in the absolute monarchy.

Don’t forget that excess of anything at the expense of the homeland is considered extremism.

A voiceover on the video – which has since been deleted – said: “Don’t forget that excess of anything at the expense of the homeland is considered extremism,” and added that “all forms of extremism and perversion are unacceptable”.

Change could be on the horizon in the ultra-conservative country.

Saudi Arabia punishes homosexuality and cross-dressing with fines, public whippings, beatings, vigilante attacks, chemical castrations, life imprisonment, capital punishment and torture.

However, things could be starting to change in the highly conservative country. Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is starting to impose a more moderate form of Islam and even admitted that Saudi Arabia had been “not normal” over the last 30 years.

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.

“After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.”

More: atheism, criminalisation of homosexuality, feminism, mohammed bin salman, Saudi Arabia

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