Muslims: 100 % (85-90% Sunni, 10-15% Shia)
Saudi Arabia is considered to be the “cradle of Islam” (Kaaba in Mecca and Prophet’s Mosque in Medina) and the official state religion of the absolutist-ruled kingdom is Islam in its form of Wahhabism – a fundamentalist, religious-conservative and “medieval” variant of Islam which assumes a literal interpretation of the Koran.
The constitution is based solely on the Koran and the Sunnah (“prophetic tradition”, that is, traditions and practices based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad). The legal system is based on Sharia as interpreted in the Hanbali school of Sunni jurisprudence.
Freedom of religion is not provided for by law and no religion other than Islam may be publicly practiced. Victims of discrimination include Shiite Muslims, including the execution of the well-known Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in January 2016.
The government censors content in the media, including social media and the Internet. Although arrests were banned from the CPPPV (Religious Police) from April 2016, the social behavior of all citizens continues to be controlled to enforce laws and regulations protecting “public morality”.
Already in the spring of 2014, Saudi Arabia had stated that from a criminal point of view, atheism is as bad as religiously motivated terrorism. By law, “the promotion of atheistic ideologies in any form”, “any attempt to challenge the foundations of Islam” and publications that “contradict Islamic law” are criminalized. The government arrested individuals for apostasy, blasphemy, violation of Islamic values and moral standards, insulting Islam, black magic, and sorcery.
To name just one example: Since 2012, the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been imprisoned. He founded in 2008 the online forum “The Saudi Liberal”. 1,000 lashes, ten years imprisonment and a fine of 1,000,000 Saudi Rials (the equivalent of around 194,000 euros) was the punishment he received on 8 May 2014 for “insulting Islam”. Badawi had stated on the internet that “Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists are equal”. The prosecution initially demanded his execution for “apostasy”. If he can not pay the fine, the detention is expected to be extended.
Although the first marginal reforms were ordered in 2017 (among others, women are now allowed to drive a car), the moral authority of the Saudi royal family is based on the support of conservative Sunni clerics, who are essentially not ready for reform.
Two books were published in January 2018 about the conditions in Saudi Arabia.
Rana Ahmad: “Women are not allowed to dream here” as well as Kholoud Bariedah: “No tears for Allah,” who was imprisoned and received fifty lashes every two weeks.