Religion of peace sentences activist blogger to 600 lashes plus seven years in jail for insulting Islam

According to CNN, activist blogger Raif Badwi, in jail for 13 months already, has been sentenced to 7 years plus 600 lashes for”insulting Islam through his website and in television comments”.

Badawi’s legal troubles started shortly after he started the Free Saudi Liberals website in 2008. He was detained for one day and questioned about the site. Some clerics even branded him an unbeliever and apostate.

Last summer, Human Rights Watch released a statement urging Saudi authorities to free Badawi.

“Saudi authorities should drop charges and release the editor of the Free Saudi Liberals website for violating his right to freedom of expression on matters of religion and religious figures,” a statement from the group said at the time.

. . . Amnesty International called that trial “just one of a troubling string of court cases aimed at silencing the kingdom’s human-rights activists.”

And there are repercussions for his family, as there always are in Islamic society:

Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, said she’s devastated by the news.

“I don’t know what to do,” Haidar said Wednesday. “Raif did nothing wrong.”

Haidar and the couple’s three children now live in Lebanon.

Estranged from her family, Haidar said it would be impossible to take her children back to Saudi Arabia. The stigma is too strong there.

“You feel like everybody’s accusing you,” she said, close to tears, in an April interview. “Like everybody’s against you, at war with you.”

Nobody does “being offended” better than the Saudis.  The guy is only about 31 years old, has three kids, and those lashes hurt. What’s below is from a Slate report on an Egyptian doctor sentenced to 1,500 lashes in Saudi Arabia for prescribing drugs to a Saudi princess that supposedly “drove her to addiction”:

It’s very unlikely that the doctor will die from his sentence if it is administered in the usual Saudi Arabian way—i.e., broken up into weekly bouts of 50 lashings each. (Women are given 20 to 30 at a time.) But a string of regular punishments administered over a span of seven months could still be dangerous. After just one round of lashings, he could suffer lacerated or bruised skin. More serious problems are likely to arise after repeated, weekly abuse—including nerve damage and infection.

Saudi Arabia does have some safeguards to protect the health of the person being lashed. For example, doctors inspect the medical condition of a prisoner ahead of time to determine whether he or she is fit to be lashed. (There tends not to be a post-lashing inspection.) And according to Islamic law, a flogger is supposed to hold a copy of the Quran under his arm to curb his range of motion and ensure that the strokes are not too powerful. Usually, the lashes are applied to the back, but they can also land on the legs and buttocks, according to firsthand reports. (The more varied the blows, the less likely they are to cause serious damage; hitting the same spot over and over increases the likelihood of breaking skin and causing infection.)

. . .Saudi Arabia metes out by far the strictest lashing sentences in the Muslim world. Both Sudan and Iran employ the practice but usually stick to the more moderate 40 to 80 strokes prescribed in the Quran. The most severe lashing assigned by a modern Saudi Arabian judge took place in 2007, when two men received 7,000 strokes each as punishment for sodomy.

Saudi Arabia, of course, is a U.S. ally.  And no apologist can pretend that this crime has nothing to do with religion. Badwi was convicted of insulting Islam, not of political malfeasance. Of course, since Islam and politics are one in many countries, I suppose one could make the case that this is about politics, not religion. But one would then be a liar.

Raif Badwi (from Amnesty International):

Raif Badawi

 

h/t: Chris

54 Comments

  1. Cliff Melick
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Maybe it should be called “the religion of pieces”, since many of its victims seem to wind up that way.

    • gluonspring
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      🙂

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    You can imagine the social climate there – if anyone annoys you, claim he insulted Islam.

    • madscientist
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      You’d have to make sure you’ve got the more influential friends though or else you’ll get worse than what your intended victim would get. That technique seems to work well in parts of Pakistan though.

  3. Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Larry Moran, if you’re reading this, the First Amendment that you are arguing so vociferously that the US should dump is our first and last line of defense against these sorts of things here.

    (The Fifth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments would also come into play, of course.)

    b&

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      The Fifth Amendment protects against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. You may be thinking of the eighth amendment.

      • Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Yes, of course…that’s what happens when you try to type with a cat sleeping on one arm….

        b&

        • JBlilie
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          🙂

        • Benjamin
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

          Coincidentally there’s a story about Muhammad cutting off the sleeve of his robe, rather than disturb a cat that was sleeping on it.

          Just imagine what the world would be like if the adherents of ‘The Religion of Peace’ always acted with such compassion towards their fellow humans, as well as animals.

          • Posted July 31, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

            I imagine detachable sleeves would be fashionable in certain circles, and velcro may well have been invented much earlier in history.

            b&

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          Maybe we should let Ben administer the punishment with a cat tucked under one arm… 😉

          • Diane G.
            Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

            In which case Ben would become the punishee.

            • Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

              And why would I whip a cat? I’m confused….

              b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 2, 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink

                I was just drawing a rather trivial parallel between the flogger holding a Koran under his arm and you trying to type with a cat sitting on one arm. I think Diane’s comment was wittier, though.

      • JBlilie
        Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Amendment 5
        No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any
        criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

        Amendment 8
        Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

  4. Taz
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I’m sure Glen Greenwald will explain that this is the fault of US foreign policy.

    • matt
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      or scott atran will claim that this is just initiation into one’s favored soccer club.

  5. jesperbothpedersen1
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    sub

  6. Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    This is unbelievable! To sentence a person to such harsh punishment for insulting beings whose existence is not proven is beyond crazy!

    • gluonspring
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. It’s not like they were insulting Dumbledore.

  7. Mary Canada
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Unbelievable.

  8. John
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Government sanctioned torture for talking?? And knowing money I pay to the US government in taxes ends up in the hands of these people, in the form of technology and defense support, makes me nauseous.

    • Posted July 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Bradley manning was tortured, and all he did was talk….

      b&

      • Gary W
        Posted July 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        If solitary confinement is torture, then the U.S. is torturing tens of thousands of people every day in prisons all over the country. Yet the anti-torture absolutists seem strangely indifferent to this mass on-going “torture.”

        • Dominic
          Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:13 am | Permalink

          For me it would be torture to have to endure incarceration with other idiots when I would be happier being an idiot alone.

  9. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    /very sad

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      But I also wonder when Saudi Arabia will leave the Middle Ages.

      • Scote
        Posted July 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        In Soviet Arabia, Middle Ages leave you!

        (I know, I know… It’s weak, bit I like it anyway… 🙂 )

      • gluonspring
        Posted July 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Probably not at least until they run out of oil.

        • Benjamin
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          This is one of the reasons I really wish the world would hurry up in its move to renewable energy.

          Leaving aside all of the other benefits – when each country is self-sufficient in energy, the oil money that props up these corrupt governments, dictatorships, and theocracies will vanish.

          • Gary W
            Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

            ….and they will bloom into Jeffersonian democracies, with liberty and justice for all.

            NOT.

            • Suri
              Posted July 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

              😀

        • Mike Lee
          Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

          According to Wikipedia, at current production figures that would in excess of 70 years….
          I’m afraid this has more to do with the politics of the Middle East – Sunni vs Shia and whose in control where. I would imagine that the US and it’s allies are more concerned about the ability of Shia dominated Islamic states ( i.e. Iran) with regards to a potential nuclear threat.

          • Dominic
            Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:16 am | Permalink

            Water is more valuable & with their huge population increases, it will have run out long before then.

          • Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

            According to Wikipedia, at current production figures that would in excess of 70 years.

            Those figures are simultaneously true and exceedingly misleading.

            It assumes that current production rates can continue unabated at the same rate until the last drop of oil is extracted, and it assumes that consumption rates remain accordingly flat.

            In reality, oil is rapidly getting harder and harder to extract while demand is continuing to grow at historical figures.

            The nave calculation, assuming a continued 2% annual growth rate in extraction, actually works out to complete exhaustion of all global oil reserves in about a decade from now.

            But it’s not going to play out like that.

            Rather, we’ve seen production rates flatten over the past several years, and the Great Recession has served to curb demand and thus keep prices in check. But the economy is theoretically starting to warm up again…and yet oil production rates remain flat. Increasing demand will cause prices to rise which will lead to a spike in production — we already see that in US production rates over the past few years, which has also helped keep global prices in check.

            But we’ve exhausted all the cheap, easy to extract and easy to refine reserves. They’re all gone. We’re left with lots and lots and lots of oil — about half of what was still in the ground in 1900, in fact. The problem is that it’s the bad half, the dregs, hard to get to and not very good quality. (Duh! Of course we went after the good, easy stuff first!)

            So prices will rise and demand will fall, and before long the Great Recession will be a fond memory as 70s-style price spikes and inflation kicks in.

            We’re past the time when it was prudent to use our oil reserves to bootstrap our civilization to a different energy source — and nothing beats solar. Existing American rooftops have enough surface area to power the entire planet. Already, labor is the most expensive part of new installations; that’s about as cheap as things get. Solar already beats nuclear at the utility scale, and it would mop the floor with coal if the price of cleanup (both extraction and air pollution) was fully reflected in the price of coal.

            Anyway, that’s a bit long and off-topic, so I’ll leave it at that….

            b&

  10. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    He was (is, so far) lucky. Unless I have misunderstood the situation quite badly, then he’s liable for the crime of apostasy, which carries the death penalty (mandatory) for Muslims in Saudi Arabia.
    It is one of the reasons that I always declare my religion (when asked) as “Atheist” on entry to such countries ; I might be refused entry (hasn’t happened, yet), but it leaves a paper trail where I could defend myself against the capital crime of apostasy.
    No joke. People can die for getting this wrong.

  11. sambricky2013
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Words cannot describe the repulsion I have for this as a Humanist. I feel so helpless.

  12. Diane G.
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    sub

  13. Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Just found this article. Thought you, and your many readers might enjoy, I certainly enjoyed the shit out of it (it’s related to the post):

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/islam-and-the-misuses-of-ecstasy

  14. tony bryant
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Incresed oil production in the USA should mean dependence on Saudi Arabia should end. The gutless UK and US governments who brown-nose this egregious country should allow it to wallow in the 4th century.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:40 am | Permalink

      …should allow it to wallow in the 4th century.

      Right. Because wallowing in the 4th century is so good for people.

    • Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      That’s a nice fantasy, but US oil production peaked about 1970, plateaued a bit below that through the mid-80s, and has been in steady decline ever since. There’s been a recent uptick in the past few years, but not only do we not have the reserves to sustain this sprint for very long, it only puts us at where we were in the 50s. By the end of the decade, I expect our production to have crashed to Depression-era levels in the 2MBD range.

      Remember, the days are looooooong gone when you had to be careful with your pickaxe in Texas lest you set off a gusher. Today, offshore rigs like the Deepwater Horizon are profitable, where the wellhead is a mile beneath the waves and the deposits themselves several miles below solid bedrock.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Gary W
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        That’s a nice fantasy, but US oil production peaked about 1970, plateaued a bit below that through the mid-80s, and has been in steady decline ever since.

        But it hasn’t been in steady decline ever since. It was declining until 2008 but has been increasing since then. A new report from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, using data from the EIA, projects that total U.S. oil production from conventional deposits, shale, LNG and biofuels combined may reach 16 million barrels per day by 2017. This exceeds the peak oil production in the 1970s.

        Thanks to technological advances, we’re also much more efficient at using oil than we were 40 years ago. For example, average automobile fuel economy has doubled since the early 1970s.

  15. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    “Saudi Arabia metes out by far the strictest lashing sentences in the Muslim world. Both Sudan and Iran employ the practice but usually stick to the more moderate 40 to 80 strokes prescribed in the Quran. ”

    I always find it rather bizarre that Iran is singled out as the bogeyman of the middle east when Saudi Arabia is arguably a far more oppressive religious dictatorship.

    • madscientist
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      The religious oppression in Saudi Arabia is not imposed by the Sauds but by the numerous preachers and their morals squads and enough of the population buys into the nonsense that even the rulers must be careful how they react to things. For example the rulers recently pardoned a Norwegian journalist who had been raped but they also had to pardon the rapist because they couldn’t be seen to let the temptress escape justice while her victim was punished for her crimes. Needless to say the rape victim received a longer prison sentence than the rapist.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        To the extent that the Wahabis exercise such clout, it is essentially a religious dictatorship, despite what the Sauds themselves do or don’t do.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:50 am | Permalink

          So you’re saying the Saudi rulers would be more moderate but significant sections of their population are extreme? (I’m not doubting that, just unfamiliar with it).
          If so, that seems to be almost the inverse of Iran, which so far as I can tell has a moderate population in the grip of religious rulers.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      “I always find it rather bizarre that Iran is singled out as the bogeyman of the middle east when Saudi Arabia is arguably a far more oppressive religious dictatorship.”

      Yes, but they’re our oppressive religious dictatorship. (Just as Iran, of course, used to be our oppressive secular dictatorship. And Egypt. And Libya. And…Anyway, it all makes perfect sense.)

    • Gary W
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 1:10 am | Permalink

      I always find it rather bizarre that Iran is singled out as the bogeyman of the middle east when Saudi Arabia is arguably a far more oppressive religious dictatorship.

      Saudi Arabia is an important military ally and trading partner of the United States and Europe. Iran is a hostile nation that has repeatedly issued explicit or thinly-veiled threats against the U.S. and its allies. It has an active nuclear program and is widely believed to be trying to develop nuclear weapons. For these reasons, Iran is subject to sanctions under United Nations Security Council resolutions, and separately by the United States, the European Union, and many other nations.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 1, 2013 at 2:47 am | Permalink

        Well yes, I guess that explains it.

  16. Posted July 31, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    To Matt: Instead of just mindlessly remouthing what Sam Harris says I think about religion, punishment, cruelty, etc., why not actually read some of the thousands of pages I’ve written on it.

  17. Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    The only way this religion survives, by fear and cruelty. Just where Christianity was 500 years ago.

  18. Sean
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Is there anything we can do to help this guy? Contribute to a defense fund etc?


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