Jihad Against Free Speech
31 July 2013
For Islamic supremacists, suicide bombings, crashing planes into buildings, and various other forms of violence are not the only methods of jihad, just the most spectacular. The old nursery rhyme, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," definitely does not ring true for Muslims. On the contrary, they are so hypersensitive that criticism of Islam is considered insulting and blasphemous, resulting in a death sentence in some parts of the world. Such was the case in Pakistan, where, among numerous others, government leaders Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer were both gunned down in 2011 for speaking out against such outrageous blasphemy laws.

Just this morning, when I was reading the online news, I came across an article about Saudi blogger Raif Badawi facing jail and 600 lashes for insulting Islam. A Google search on this topic will result in many, many Web sites publishing this story.

Back in 2008, Raif Badawi established the Web site "Free Saudi Liberals" (now taken off the Web by Saudi authorities) which hosted discussions on religion. According to a Human Rights Watch article,
In March 2008, authorities arrested Badawi and questioned him about his website, but released him a day later. In May 2008, Badawi was formally charged with "setting up an electronic site that insults Islam" and he left the country. He returned when prosecutors apparently decided to drop the charges, he told Human Rights Watch. In 2009, the authorities barred Badawi from traveling abroad and froze his business interests, depriving him of a source of income, he told Human Rights Watch.

On March 18, 2012, the well-known cleric Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Barrak issued a religious ruling declaring Badawi an "unbeliever... and apostate who must be tried and sentenced according to what his words require." Al-Barrak claimed that Badawi had said "that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists are all equal," and that even if these were not Badawi's own opinions but "an account of the words of others, this is not allowed unless accompanied by a repudiation" of such words.
Imagine the outrageous blasphemy of saying that Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists are all equal! That is SO insulting to Islam — off with his head!!!

But Mr. Badawi's troubles were only beginning. The family of Badawi's wife subsequently filed a court action to forcibly divorce the couple on grounds of Badawi's alleged apostasy, even though his wife did not agree to this forced divorce. She fled to Lebanon with her three young children in 2012. CNN featured a report on them a few months ago: Family pleads for jailed Saudi blogger (includes a three-minute video of the family and Raif's situation).

After already spending a year in prison for his online activities, Mr. Badawi has now been sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes. In accordance with a strict interpretation of Islamic law, Saudi courts implement a series of corporal punishments, of which flogging is considered the most lenient. Human Rights Watch continues in their report,
Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, said that the judge sentenced Badawi to five years in prison for insulting Islam and violating provisions of Saudi Arabia's 2007 anti-cybercrime law through his liberal website, affirming that liberalism is akin to unbelief. The judge ordered the closure of the website and added two years to Badawi's sentence for insulting both Islam and Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or religious police, in comments during television interviews. Abu al-Khair also said the judge added three months to the sentence for 'Uquq, or "parental disobedience," [see "Several Types of 'Uquq," part 1 and part 2] apparently because of Badawi's numerous public confrontations with his father over the years.

During a hearing on Badawi's case at the Jeddah Criminal Court on December 17, 2012, Judge Muhammad al-Marsoom prevented Badawi's lawyer from representing his client, the lawyer told Human Rights Watch. Judge al-Marsoom informed Badawi that he could face the death penalty if he did not "repent to God" and renounce his liberal beliefs. The judge dropped the apostasy charge after Badawi affirmed to the court that he is a Muslim and recited the shahada, or Muslim declaration of faith, the lawyer said.
Wow, isn't that cool! An extra two years for insulting the religious police! Even though Mr. Badawi has received a very hard sentence, he has been able to save his skin by affirming that he is indeed a Muslim. The judge asked Raif, "Are you a Muslim?" and he said "Yes, and I don't accept anyone to cast doubt on my belief."

A number of organizations have spoken out on Mr. Badawi's behalf:
US State Department
We believe that when public speech is deemed offensive, be it via social media or any other means, the issue is best addressed through open-dialogue and honest debate.
Human Rights Watch
The charges against him, based solely to Badawi's involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression.This incredibly harsh sentence for a peaceful blogger makes a mockery of Saudi Arabia's claims that it supports reform and religious dialogue.
Amnesty International
Even in Saudi Arabia where state repression is rife, it is beyond the pale to seek the death penalty for an activist whose only "crime" was to enable social debate online. Raif Badawi's trial for "apostasy" is a clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives. He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally. Articles on Badawi's website included references to individuals or institutions that some people might have found offensive, but charging him with criminal offences punishable by imprisonment or execution cannot be justified on any level. The Saudi Arabian authorities must end their intolerance of people peacefully exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression.
What these and most other organizations in the West fail to realize is that under Islam there is absolutely no such things as "human rights" and a "legitimate right to freedom of expression." As I quoted in a previous article,
In 1985, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations declared: "The very concept of human rights was 'a Judeo-Christian invention' and inadmissible in Islam ... According to Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the shah's 'most despicable sins' was the fact that Iran was one of the original group of nations that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Lest you think this kind of persecution of those who express their opinions about Islam on the Internet is something that happens only in repressive, fanatical Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, in my next article I will explore how it is also starting to happen in "Judeo-Christian" Western countries as well. Your Islamic future is getting closer than you think!