Today’s blog is in honour of Raif Badawi. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of him, Raif is a Saudi. He is a blogger who tried to encourage discussion about religious and political matters. He was found guilty of insulting the clerics of Islam and therefore Islam itself. His sentence: 10 years imprisonment, a fine of about AU$330, 500 (give or take a dollar) and 1,000 lashes given 50 lashes at a time, every Friday for 20 weeks. He’s been held in jail since mid 2012 and had the first bout of lashes on Friday, January 9 this year. So far he’s still waiting for the next lot because the doctors have declared him unfit. They want him strong and healthy so they can beat him again. Nice.
Thank God for Australia and western democracy. Here in the Great South Land I’m free to disagree, free to think for myself. I can say that I’m disgusted with my government’s asylum seeker policies, without fear of reprisal. I can question religious ideology, of whatever persuasion, without fear of torture or any physical harm. And, I have done so on more than one occasion. So far the worst that has happened is that a few of my Facebook friends have de-friended me. (I can live with that.)
I find it extraordinary that the King of Saudi Arabia publicly voiced his condemnation of the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo and the right of free speech in France, even marching with other world leaders to show his solidarity with them on this matter. At the same time he is quite happy for one of his own citizens to be punished while trying to exercise that same right. The justification for Raif Badawi’s sentence is the same Sharia law that the terrorists used to excuse their actions. Does anyone else think there is a degree of hypocrisy happening here, a bit of double standards, or is it just me?
When the planet finally gets its act together and switches to reliance on energy other than that derived from fossil fuels, then Saudi Arabia will find it no longer has the power to throw its weight around. Meanwhile, free thinkers like Mr Badawi will have to seriously consider emigrating. (Of course, if they want to come to a place like Australia, they’d better catch a plane. We all know what will happen to them if they try to seek asylum in a boat.)
So, today, I’m declaring: Je suis Raif Badawi. Who’s standing with me?