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 and the sentencing can include prison time. “Apostasy” is punishable with a death sentence.
The penal code criminalizes blasphemy (Article 256), including insulting the “Supreme Being”. The defamation or desecration of Islam, Christianity, or Judaism is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
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.”
Article 263 further states that the circulation or production of symbols, slogans or drawings that might offend the Islamic religion will be punished with one year of prison or a fine of 1000 riyals ($275).
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, in vague terms, publication of texts provoking social discord or religious strife.
In addition, Qatar’s Law 11 of 2004 incorporates Sharia law into various offences, including apostasy. Article 1 states:
“the provisions of Islamic law for the following offenses are applied if the defendant or victim is a Muslim:
1. The hudud offenses related to theft, banditry, adultery, defamation, alcohol consumption, and apostasy.
2. The offenses of retaliation (qisas) and blood money (diyah).”
Qatar has apparently not imposed any penalty for this offense since its independence in 1971, though it remains on statute.