Islam is the state religion of Qatar, and its legislation draws from a mix of Sharia and secular laws. Amid a deeply concerning human rights situation, the “blasphemy” laws are discriminatory in their scope, the sentencing can include prison time, and if taken as evidence of “apostasy” then a blasphemy accusation could result in a capital sentence.
Defamation, desecration, or committing blasphemy against Islam, Christianity, or Judaism is punishable by up to seven years in prison in Qatar. The production or circulation of material containing slogans, images, or symbols defaming any of the three Abrahamic religions is punishable by a fine of QR 1,000 ($275) or a one-year prison term.
Article 256 of the penal code states:
“It is punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, anyone who commits the following acts:
1. Insulting or challenging the Supreme Being verbally or in writing, or with drawing or gesturing, or any other means.
2. Abusing, distorting, or desecrating the Holy Koran.
3. Offending the Islamic religion or one of its rituals.
4. Insulting any of the divine religions protected by Islamic law.
5. Insolence towards any of the Prophets verbally, or in writing, drawing, gesture, or any other means.
6. Sabotaging, breaking, damaging, or desecrating buildings, or their contents, if they are used for celebrating the rituals of any of the divine religions protected by Islamic law.”
Internet censorship of peaceful expression of religious views has been reported in the country with the state blocking sites that contain content perceived as anti-Islamic. The law also prohibits publication of texts provoking social discord or religious strife.
Converting to another religion from Islam is considered “apostasy” and, although not recently used, apostasy remains a capital offense in Qatar. As in many Middle Eastern states, in principle a blasphemy accusation could be taken as evidence of apostasy.