Oman imposes substantial restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and the freedoms of expression and association, including strong “blasphemy” laws.

It is a criminal offense to defame any faith. The law prescribes a maximum three-year sentence and fine of 500 rials (US$1,300) for anyone who “publicly blasphemes God or His prophets,” commits an affront to religious groups by spoken or written word, or breaches the peace of a lawful religious gathering. The penal code states:

“Article 209: It is punishable by imprisonment from 10 days to 3 years — or by a fine from 5 to 500 riyals — whoever:

1. Publicly blasphemes against the glory of God, or the great Prophets.

2. Targets, with public imagery or printing, divine religions and religious sanctities with contempt.”

Using the Internet in a way that “might prejudice public order or religious values” is also a crime, with a penalty of between one month and a year in prison, and fines of not less than 1,000 rials (US$2,600). The law also provides for a maximum 10 years imprisonment for inciting religious or sectarian strife.

Freedom of expression is severely limited in general, with criticism of the sultan prohibited and those who “insult” government officials liable to prosecution.