The Struggle to Free Raif Badawi

The struggle I care about is to set Raif, and all those that would dare to think and speak their mind, free.

Raif Badawi has had his ten year sentence and 1,000 lashes upheld by the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court. For the last few weeks and months we have waited every single Friday to see if the remaining 950 lashes will be administered. His physical health after the first 50 has stayed the punishment. He needs to live to receive the remainder of his sentence. This is what mercy means in Saudi Arabia.

His wife stated after the ruling: "The flogging will start again and no one cares," she added. Asked what could be done now to fight for her husband's cause, she said: "Really, I don't know."

I read with interest the former Archbishop of Canterbury's New Statesman article last week on blasphemy. There were no names of those suffering for the crime. No one was championed as someone we should all support now. Rather, believers needed to recognise how their strength could be strengthened by criticism. While secularists should take into account the profound feelings of the faithful.

The secularist needs to understand some of the internal critique that faith is always struggling with; and the believer needs to recognise that blasphemy isn't necessarily a matter for panic, let alone violence. It may even be a gateway into a larger and more durable commitment.

This will not do, as we casually state how appalling the Charlie Hebdo murders and secular bloggers killed in Bangladesh were. Flesh and blood are being tortured and incarcerated for the belief that blasphemy is a crime. People are being killed by religious fanatics, the living threatened with death. The real struggle, Archbishop Williams, is not being killed by the faithful.

The real lesson for us all on blasphemy is to speak out against such laws, speak out for those punished, threatened and massacred. It is also time we rethought whether Saudi Arabia is an ally or an enemy of humanity. World wide protestations made to the country since 2012 have been to no avail for Raif Badawi.

The struggle I care about is to set Raif, and all those that would dare to think and speak their mind, free.


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