Saudi Arabia has long been viewed as an ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom by the rest of the world for not only being home to the two holiest sites in Islam but also for the way its judicial system works on the Islamic law or Sharia.
However, the Gulf nation has lately been making landmark human rights decisions which seem to divert it further away from its ultra-conservative image, starting with allowing its women citizens to drive cars, and more recently ending flogging, which had traditionally been the customary punishment for various crimes committed in the kingdom.
It even put an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by minors. Now, the Islamic kingdom has ordered the arrest of a citizen who insulted a non-Muslim Asian man and urging him to embrace Islam.
Saudi orders arrest of citizen who urged Asian man to embrace Islam
According to a Saudi Press Agency (SPA) report, the Public Prosecution in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, May 5, has ordered the arrest of a Saudi citizen for verbally abusing a non-Muslim Asian expatriate on the pretext of inviting him to embrace Islam.
The order was given after a video, which went viral on social media, showed an Arabic-speaking local, who is barely visible in the clip, using verbally abusive language to an Asian man, who appears to have very little knowledge of the Arabic language, for not embracing Islam and for not fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
The video clip was examined by a monitoring centre affiliated with the public prosecution, and the content "shows the citizen's use of abusive words against the Asian resident on the pretext of inviting him to Islam," an official source at the Public Prosecution was quoted as saying.
"The public prosecution closely follows up whatever infringes rights of citizens and residents including harm to their dignity and legal rights regardless of pretexts of such infringement. It has ordered the arrest of the abusive citizen," the source added. Meanwhile, the public prosecution has referred the case to relevant legal authorities for further investigation.
Is Saudi Arabia changing?
Insulting Islam or Allah (God) and the Prophet Muhammad is a punishable crime in Saudi Arabia and most of the Muslim countries in the world, including all the Gulf nations, and even Pakistan and Malaysia. But, this is the first time that a Muslim man has been ordered to be arrested for urging a non-Muslim to embrace Islam, albeit with the use of abusive language.
Turning Saudi into a friendly tourism destination
Many analysts and experts suspect that Saudi Arabia is doing all this – ending flogging, allowing women to drive etc., - under the guidance of its de facto ruler and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who they say is on a mission to change Saudi Arabia's image from that of a conservative Islamic nation with an allegedly poor human rights record to a friendly tourism destination like neighbouring UAE, especially in the light of the kingdom's plunging oil revenues.
The Saudi Crown Prince has even bid to buy a majority stake in Newcastle United English Premier League football club, something that cynics again say is an act of "sportswashing" by the prince to improve his country's reputation and bad human rights record.