Outside the mosque they flogged Raif Badawi 50 times. They counted, carefully ensuring that each stroke was noted so that the number would be reached but not exceeded. It was the same mercy that also saw the next set day of flogging stopped for fear the wounds would reopen, that his body would not survive the ordeal again in its present condition. He must stay alive to know the pain of 1000 lashes, when 100 over two successive Fridays might have killed him.
This is what mercy means in Saudi Arabia. Yet here everyone is scrambling to defend the pope that there are limits to what people can tolerate as insults and blasphemy to their faith. Blogging is seen as a game, that it attempts to communicate far and wide ideas that offend certain people and their cherished beliefs. Push them and do not be surprised how far they go. The victim is the offended, the blogger is the provocateur that is a fool for daring to share their own disbelief. They will get what is coming to them. Which in Raif Badawi’s case is to say treated as a criminal deserving to be taken to the brink of death but not beyond.
For shame those that say we must bow down to mad mullahs, theocratic fascists and disillusioned youngsters wanting a purpose and the world to notice them for one brief murderous moment as they open fire. The double standard that sees the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo as inviting their deaths, as attacking muslims so what they did was self defence – while ignoring how a kosher store became a target on this terrorist rampage. The singling out of Jews to kill because they are Jews. Anti-Semitism needs no particular grievance to be committed by the person killed – they just have to be Jewish.
For Raif Badawi he just had to be a religious dissident that advocated liberal principles. Theocrats try to deter such things. As he said:
As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.
Do read The Guardian article that published extracts from his blog. Badawi pointed out the distortion from the koran that the Saudi government uses to promote illiberalism and authoritarian government. He did not just challenge the theocratic system from the outside, but at the heart of it’s thinking on the inside. He got under the skin of the theocrats, and they in turn were prepared to whip the skin off his back, and imprison him for ten years.
Wether diplomatic and public pressure might yet end the ordeal Raif and his family are going through remains to be seen. Yet it is not just silence to the treatment of Raif Badawi that should concern us. The very complicity in suggesting our speech drives people to do this, so we should be silent, needs shouting down.
For when you apologise for the violence done to silence the critics of religion, you also strangle the voice of those calling for freedom. You stand with the crowd watching the flogging thinking this man must have deserved it.
There is no middle ground here, no grey area where both sides are wrong. You either stand for the bloggers or the floggers. Chose carefully because regard for your immortal soul should not allow you to side with those that desecrate the body of freethinking mortal ones.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog