JEDDAH, July 15: Saudi Arabia is studying new regulations to criminalise insulting Islam, including in social media, and the law could carry heavy penalties, a Saudi paper said on Sunday.The potential regulations come five months after a Saudi blogger and columnist Hamza Kashgari, 23, was arrested for tweeting blasphemous comments.

“Within the next two months the Shura Council will reveal the outcome of study on the regulations to combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic Sharia,” unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter told al Watan, adding that there could be “severe punishments” for violators.

Criticism penalised under the law would include that of the Prophet (peace be upon him), early Muslim figures and clerics, it said.

“The (regulations) are important at the present time because violations over social networks on the Internet have been observed in the past months,” the sources said.

A spokesman from the Shura Council, the government’s all-appointed consultative body, did not respond to calls for comment.

Tension has risen in recent years between religious conservatives and reformers over the pace of gradual political, economic and social reforms in a country with a large young population.—Reuters

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