Raif Badawi now faced with a death sentence – #FreeRaif – Prisoner of Conscience


Raif BadawiRaif Badawi, the Saudi blogger jailed and sentenced to 1000 lashes for simply running a website that called for the peaceful discussion of religion and religious issue, now faces a potential death sentence.

The UK’s Independent reports

Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, told The Independent in a series of messages that judges in Saudi Arabia’s criminal court want him to undergo a re-trial for apostasy. If found guilty, he would face a death sentence.

She said the “dangerous information” had come from “official sources” inside the conservative kingdom, where Mr Badawi has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – administered at a rate of 50 per week – for criticising the country’s clerics through his liberal blog

What did he write about?

If you are curious for an insight into his courageous writing style, then the Guardian has some extracts that you might be interested in, because there you will find that Ian Black has analysed extracts from his key published Arabic writings. Reading you will discover that Raif is a man who risked his freedom to question some of the basic tenets of life in Saudi Arabia – especially the central role of religion.

Here are some samples …

Badawi argued on 28 September 2010 in favour of “secularism [as] the most important refuge for citizens of a country.” Urged by clerics not to attend “heretical” celebrations marking Saudi national day, he underlined the importance of separating religion from the state. Strikingly he does not attack the Saudi monarchy and even praises the liberal governor of Mecca, the intellectual and poet Khaled al-Faisal Al Saud.

Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone … Secularism … is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.

The only article of Badawi’s hitherto translated from Arabic into English denounces the demand of Muslims in New York that a mosque and community centre be built on the site of the World Trade Centre, where 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida. It goes against the official Saudi position by linking the terrorist group to the kingdom – and accuses Muslims of intolerance.

What hurts me most as a citizen of the area which exported those terrorists … is the audacity of Muslims in New York that reaches the limits of insolence, not taking any regard of the thousands of victims who perished on that fateful day or their families. What increases my pain is this [Islamist] chauvinist arrogance which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan “Allahu Akbar”, means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to … spawn new terrorists … Suppose we put ourselves in the place of American citizens. Would we accept that a Christian or Jew assaults us in our own house and then build a church or synagogue in the same area of the attack? I doubt it. We reject the building of churches in Saudi Arabia, not having been assaulted by anyone. Then what would you think if those who wanted to build a church are the same people who stormed the sanctity of our land? Finally, we should not hide that fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but also charge them with infidelity to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel, and, within their own narrow definitions, they consider non-Hanbali [the Saudi school of Islam] Muslims as apostates. How can we be such people and build … normal relations with six billion humans, four and a half billion of whom do not believe in Islam.

In May 2012, shortly before his arrest, Badawi addressed the nature of liberalism.

For me, liberalism simply means, live and let live. This is a splendid slogan. However, the nature of liberalism – particularly the Saudi version – needs to be clarified. It is even more important to sketch the features and parameters of liberalism, to which the other faction, controlling and claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth, is so hostile that they are driven to discredit it without discussion or fully understanding what the word actually means. They have succeeded in planting hostility to liberalism in the minds of the public and turning people against it, lest the carpet be pulled out from under their feet. But their hold over people’s minds and society shall vanish like dust carried off in the wind.

Behold a Lone voice in the wilderness

Once again we find that the instrument that causes the Islamic fascists to tremble in fear turns out not to be the sword, no indeed, something far more potent and truly terrifying to those that deploy medieval superstitions to bind both the hearts and minds of so many … the pen.

No longer can such voices be silenced and gagged, nor are they destined to walk alone and in isolation, because we can all now stand and shout in unison “Je Suis Raif”,and be resolute in our determination to never be silenced nor beaten into a false submission.

In their efforts to suppress the light of reason, the darkness of Islamic fascism has reached out, grasped Raif, and tossed him into a very dire place. Beaten and humbled, yet also still truly liberated from the darkness they wanted so desperately to instil into the recesses of his mind, his voice now spreads to millions all around the planet, and they who have now been woken up to this affront to basic human decency now turn and in unison proclaim, “We stand with your brother” for truly  “Je Suis Raif” is no empty slogan, but carries with it a determination to never again tolerate the endemic and pervasive religious fascist intolerance, that wears a mask of peace, but hides a wolf that seeks to destroy all that we cherish and hold close.

“Je Suis Raif”

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