By Andrew Brown
It was the fifth anniversary yesterday of the arrest of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, whose supposed crime was to argue for secularism, democracy and human rights. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – a punishment that amounts to death by torture – although only 50 lashes were inflicted on him in the one session. Medical opinion was that he would not survive the remainder of that part of his sentence.
His cause has been taken up by humanist organisations, as well as by Amnesty International. He has been honoured with the EU’s Sakharov prize. Even Prince Charles raised his case on a visit to Saudi Arabia. We may be sure that neither Theresa May nor Donald Trump would do so. It is one thing to coat huge arms deals in the rhetoric of defending western freedoms, but quite another to risk any of the profits for the sake of a Saudi man who wished to enjoy those same freedoms.
The Badawi case is illuminating about the nature of the Saudi regime and the ideas that it understands as an existential threat. These include Badawi’s brisk dismissal of the role of Islam in public life: “No religion at all has any connection to mankind’s civic progress … the codes governing the administration of the state can hardly be derived from religion.” Such ideas are obviously incompatible with the practice of theocracy. And perhaps they are so strange to the Saudi authorities that they can’t be taken seriously – after all, those convicted of “sorcery” in the kingdom are beheaded, whereas Badawi may survive his sentence, given enough attention and support from the outside world.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.