#Trending: Controversy over 'Saudi army officer renouncing Islam' video

#Trending: Controversy over 'Saudi army officer renouncing Islam' video
3 min read
10 Jan, 2017
A short YouTube video purporting to show a Saudi military officer abandoning Islam has sparked controversy among the Arab twitterati.
The Saudi military officer announced he has renounced Islam in an online video [Screenshot]
Controversy and debate over apostasy and atheism erupted among Arab social media users this week after a young Saudi military officer announced he has renounced Islam and fled to Germany in an online video that quickly went viral.

Abdul Wahid Abdul Mohsen, who claims to be a non-commissioned officer in the Saudi armed forces, declared that he had "left Islam" in a 90-second YouTube video that circulated on Friday.

The young officer, who claims he was also a private secretary to a Saudi general, also announced he will disclose information on the "war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia against civilians in Yemen", but only after he arrives safely to Germany.

The video sparked outrage among Saudi social media users and the Arabic hashtag #a_Saudi_officer_renounces_Islam quickly gained traction on Twitter.

Many Saudi tweeters called for the officer's immediate dismissal from the army, for referral to authorities and punishment.

[Fight apostasy! Off with his head!]

[He's an apostate who must be arrested and beheaded.]

[What an idiot! He'll be dismissed tomorrow.] 

Others, however, questioned the authenticity of the video.

[It is clear that the video was created by the enemies of our country and our religion, but this disappointing move has failed.]

[It is obvious from his accent that he is Yemeni.]

[They didn't plan this one well…The military ID card is fake, and the name of the division is wrong. Try again!] 

A number however expressed support for the young officer, urging respect for personal freedoms and choice.

[People here are calling for his punishment! Leave him to his God! It's his choice!]

[What does that have to do with us? There should be no compulsion in religion!]

[Give people freedom of religion and security… And you will see the truth which you have feared and shunned]

In the ultra-conservative kingdom, apostacy an offence punishable by death. In 2014, rights groups warned against a series of new laws issued in Saudi Arabia that criminalised atheism and dissent.

Last year, a young Saudi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism on social media and refusing to repent.

Different schools of conservative Islamic law both in Saudi Arabia, as well as other countries in the region, also render apostasy as a capital offence, although it was historically linked to the idea of treason.

The latest video will add fuel to the still deeply disputed debate concerning the laws of apostasy and ideas of freedom of religion both in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim worlds.