David Cameron said this week that “we have made clear to those who think they can muzzle freedom of speech and expression with violence that our voices will only grow louder.”
Yet here he is with the King of Saudi Arabia (pictured above) – one of the most autocratic and repressive states in the world.
Last week the Saudi regime gave 50 lashes to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi for apostasy and ‘insulting Islam’. Yesterday Badawi was supposed to have received 50 more lashes, out of a total of 1,000 lashes, but the doctors ruled that his body had not recovered from the last batch.
Saudi Arabia had sent officials to Paris last week during the Charlie Hebdo march, highlighting the contradictions in our Westerns governments rhetoric about the values of freedom of expression, whilst siding with a [Saudi] regime on a par with those it claims to abhor.
Uprooted Palestinian’s Blog reports:
There many examples of these contradictions, but one of the most glaring must surely be Saudi Arabia, which also sent officials to last week’s Charlie Hebdo march. It’s one of the strange quirks of modern history that one of the most autocratic and repressive states in the world, a state that ruthlessly enforces and exports a reactionary and extremist version of Islam that differs very little from the one that ISIS is currently imposing on Iraq and Syria, has been sitting on the world’s oil spigot ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt sailed on the cruiser Quincy to the Suez Canal in 1945.
The West’s Saudi friend is behaving in much the same way. In 2012 Badawi was arrested for his blogging. Last year, in addition to the 1,000 lashes, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined 1million riyals (£175,000). His lawyer has also been sentenced to 15 years in jail for setting up a Human Rights organization that is ‘unlicensed’ and ‘breaks allegiance with the ruler.’
If Western governments took free speech seriously, they would be clamoring to stop this punishment. But Saudi oil and the Saudi market for weapons easily trump their commitment to ‘our’ values, for Britain and France especially, and their criticisms have been generally polite, muted or non-existent.
Fortunately an international campaign is developing which is beginning to put pressure on the Saudis to back down, and we need to support it. When Miguel Servetus was burned alive the theologian Sebastian Castellio wrote a pamphlet condemning the execution of heretics, in which he argued ‘ to burn a man does not defend a doctrine, but slays a man.’
What the Saudis are doing to Badawi does not defend a doctrine, but flogs a man. Such actions are the actions of tyrants, and I urge you to support the campaign to stop this brutal punishment and allow Badawi to leave the country to be with his wife and children.