Saturday, January 10, 2015

Raif Badawi, Faith, and Liberal Thought

After writing yesterday's post reflecting on violence and faith after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I was painfully reminded of how very real the dark confluence of political power and faith remains.  Yesterday, I glimpsed a tiny blurb in the paper, less than a paragraph.  It was the story of a Saudi man by the name of Raif Badawi who was to be publicly flogged.  Fifty lashes, in front of a crowd, for the crime of "violating Islamic values and propagating liberal thought."

More specifically, Badawi created a blog called "Free Saudi Liberals," where he--as a liberal Muslim--engaged in free, peaceful, and open discussion about society and faith.

As rough as that might seem, it's just a drop in the bucket.  These are the first fifty lashes of a thousand-lash sentence, to be carried out over the course of a ten year prison sentence.  The quarter-million dollar fine, the Saudi state's forcibly divorcing him from his wife, and it's imprisonment of Badawi's lawyer for the crime of representing Badawi?  Horrid, but almost an aside given the brutality of the rest of the sentence.

Here, a man who did nothing more than I am doing right here.  He wrote about what he believed, about tolerance and a liberal approach to the integrity of other human beings.  For that crime, he will be beaten bloody in public, given one week to recover, then beaten again, twenty times.

It reminded me of the above scene, only repeated, once a week for twenty weeks.  Or twenty five weeks, as Jesus only gets forty lashes before the crucifixion.

What's remarkable, at least in my eyes, is how little play this is getting in the American media.  In Europe, it's everywhere.  In the Guardian.  In the Telegraph.  Our Canadian neighbors have noticed, and noticed the connection between Charlie Hebdo and Badawi.  

But on the front page of American CNN?  Nothing.  Nothing on FoxNews, either.

Wouldn't want to offend our dear Saudi friends and business partners, I suppose.  Especially after they've so nicely boosted our economy and punished Russia with all that cheap gas they're pumping.

Violence to silence speech is violence to silence speech, whether inflicted by terrorists or by a government.  And whenever it is used to enforce a belief, that belief is inherently illegitimate.

If a way of life cannot stand on its own integrity, without the gun or the whip to coerce it, then it is a false thing.