Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (TFC) – By now you’ve probably seen the yellow and red profile pics and logos scattered across social media with the hashtag #Backlash. So what is it about? Why are people all over the world getting involved? Why should you care about some blogger in Saudi Arabia that is getting lashed?
The background behind the situation and campaign is pretty simple. It’s another case of your government propping up the Saudi Arabian government while it is censoring basic expression through violence and intimidation. If you pay taxes in the United States, United Kingdom, or Canada you should care simply because your government is funding this by proxy. You are paying them to beat someone to death because he said something mildly offensive to a dictatorial regime. The impact of western governments subsidizing this type of censorship and brutality cannot be overstated.
Raif Badawi was sentenced by the Saudi government to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison. He is likely to be retried for apostasy. He could be beheaded in Deera Square for the apostasy charge. Apostasy is basically a charge that equates to abandoning Islam but is often used against political opponents. Even without the apostasy charge, the lashes are likely to kill him.
Why is he facing such stiff punishment?
He penned a liberal blog in the country. Surely, his writing must have been filled with hateful depictions of the Prophet, calls to overthrow the government, and other seditious activities. It wasn’t. Here’s a sample of the writings that will get him beat to death:
“As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.”
The section that probably caused the most issue was a condemnation of the desire to build a mosque at the site of the World Trade Center:
“What hurts me most as a citizen of the area which exported those terrorists … is the audacity of Muslims in New York that reaches the limits of insolence, not taking any regard of the thousands of victims who perished on that fateful day or their families. What increases my pain is this [Islamist] chauvinist arrogance which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan “Allahu Akbar”, means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to … spawn new terrorists … Suppose we put ourselves in the place of American citizens. Would we accept that a Christian or Jew assaults us in our own house and then build a church or synagogue in the same area of the attack? I doubt it. We reject the building of churches in Saudi Arabia, not having been assaulted by anyone. Then what would you think if those who wanted to build a church are the same people who stormed the sanctity of our land? Finally, we should not hide that fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but also charge them with infidelity to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel, and, within their own narrow definitions, they consider non-Hanbali [the Saudi school of Islam] Muslims as apostates. How can we be such people and build … normal relations with six billion humans, four and a half billion of whom do not believe in Islam.”
He advocated a secular state:
“I’m not in support of the Israeli occupation of any Arab country, but at the same time I do not want to replace Israel by a religious state … whose main concern would be spreading the culture of death and ignorance among its people when we need modernisation and hope. States based on religious ideology … have nothing except the fear of God and an inability to face up to life. Look at what had happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human beings and (promoted) enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.”
There was no call for armed revolution. There was no renunciation of the Islamic faith. There was no request for anything other than peace and reason. Apparently that is too much to be expected in Saudi Arabia. Because of these writings Raif was arrested, tried in a kangaroo court, imprisoned, and now he will be lashed 950 mores times. The first fifty he received almost killed him and his health is deteriorating quickly.
Why should this matter to you?
If you’re reading this on any outlet that is willing to run it, you already know that corporate control of the media and the censorship that goes along with it is one of the most dangerous and rampant issues facing the world. When censorship along these lines occurs in one of these repressive countries, it impacts the global flow of information. Not just do Saudi citizens lose the ability to openly discuss peaceful topics, but the flow of information coming out of the country is cut off. The coordination of independent journalists, photojournalists, and bloggers around the world is the only thing that can undermine corporate and government censorship. This action against Raif and the thousands of others sitting in Saudi Arabian prisons cut off your access to information.
Remember that your government funnels billions in arms to the Saudi Royal family. Those weapons are more often than not used to suppress the Saudi people and maintain a regime that has one of the worst human rights record in the world. The Canadian government is currently arranging a $15 billion dollar transfer of light armored vehicles that will undoubtedly be used to terrorize the population in much the same way MRAPs are used in the United States to instill fear in the population.
So what can you do?
The easiest way is to flip your profile pic or cover photo to the provided images. With a few more moments of effort, you could grab some lipstick and place a “lash” on your back. The photo posted to your social media account will help spread word of the situation even further. Calls to the Saudi Embassy in your home country to inform (harass) the officials. Contact your country’s political leaders in your country voice your concerns about the billions of dollars in arms that flow into Saudi Arabia.