Saudi Arabia’s most revered religious organization declares homosexuality to be ‘one the most horrendous crimes’, and gays ‘a shame in this world as well as the next.

  • Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al Sheikh issued a statement Wednesday
  • It followed Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi expressing reservations over text within a UN General Assembly draft on democracy
  • The Grand Mufti said the kingdom categorically rejects homosexuality 
  • Saudi Arabia is widely considered to have one of the worst LGBT+ records.

Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority has declared homosexuality “one of the most horrible crimes” and gay people “a disgrace in the world and the next”.

In a statement of Wednesday, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said the kingdom, which hosts Islam’s two holiest sites, categorically rejects homosexuality, even as Riyadh seeks to transform its ultraconservative image amid a modernisation drive. 

After Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the UN ambassador to Saudi Arabia, expressed concern about text in a UN General Assembly Draft on Democracy that contained terms such as’sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’

Saudi Arabia has a reputation for being one of the most hostile countries to LGBT+ rights. They frequently penalize homosexuals.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh during an allegiance pledging ceremony in Mecca, Saudi Arabia June 21, 2017. The Grand Mufti said on Wednesday that the kingdom categorically rejects homosexuality

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands (right) with Saudi Arabia’s Grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al Sheikh. This was during an almegiance-pledging ceremony that took place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on June 21, 2017. The Grand Mufti said on Wednesday that the kingdom categorically rejects homosexuality

According to the statement made by the Saudi Press Agency (OSPA), the mufti declared that homosexuality is one the most terrible crimes.

He declared that homosexuals were an ‘evil and shameful thing in this world, the hereafter’ and said: “Human Rights… are first and foremost in God’s Law and not in the perverse desires that sow corruption on Earth.”

On Friday, local media reported that Mouallimi stated that this terminology is contrary to Arab-Islamic identity. It also violates the laws of several member states.

According to the comments of the grand mufti, Saudi Arabia’s defacto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has attempted to present a more business-friendly image than his strict kingdom in an effort to attract investment and diversify its economy.

The conservative Gulf state saw a shift. It lifted a ban against women driving and allowed mixed-gender events. They also cut the power of once-feared religious police.

Saudi Arabia also has invested large in sports, tourism, and entertainment over the past few years, while still maintaining a strong crackdown against dissent.

Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi (pictured at the UN in 2016) expressed reservations over text within a UN General Assembly draft on democracy that included the terms 'sexual orientation and gender identity'

Abdallah al-Mouallimi from Saudi Arabia was pictured in the UN in 2016. He expressed concerns about text contained within the UN General Assembly’s draft democracy. It included terms such as’sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.

The grand mufti's comments come as Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to project a moderate, business-friendly image of his austere kingdom

As Saudi Arabia’s defacto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tried to portray a more business-friendly image, the grand mufti made these comments.

However, despite attempts by Saudi Arabia to project a reformist image of itself, homosexuality and atheism are still illegal.

While punishments for same-sex relationships are not outlined under the law in Saudi Arabia, they are strictly prohibited under Sharia law, from which the country draws its legal framework.

Saudi Arabian-backed group bought Newcastle United, an English Premier League football team. This brought attention to LGBTQ+ rights in Saudi Arabia.

Many spoke out against the purchase, citing Saudi Arabia’s human rights record – such as the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the country’s Istanbul embassy and the rights of LGBTQ+ people – as a reason to block the deal. 

Saudi Arabian court sentences Man 38 to 15 Years in Prison for Atheism

A Yemeni man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for Apostasy – or being an atheist.

Human Rights Watch says the sentence is based upon comments made by him on two anonymous accounts on Twitter.

The court ruled that the tweets were ‘apostasy, unbelief, and atheism’, something that is illegal in the country.

Ali Abu Luhum, 38, was arrested by Saudi authorities on August 23, and is currently being held in Najran prison in southern Saudi Arabia.

The country’s highest court must approve the final judgment.

“Saudi authorities spare no effort to present the country as reforming and tolerant, but contradicting state doctrine on religion still results into a decade-and a half prison sentence,” said Michael Page (Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch). 

“Performers who are involved in Saudi-sponsored events should reflect on whether or not they’re helping the Saudi government to cover up its abuses.”

Atheism may be punishable with death by strict Islamic law in certain cases.

Page explained that Saudi Arabia’s modernization must begin with the end of policing individual beliefs. 

“As Saudi Arabia seeks to modernize its criminal justice system it should prioritize decriminalizing peaceful speech. This would start with decriminalisation blasphemy.”