“Freedom of speech is the air that any thinker breathes; it’s the fuel that ignites the fire of an intellectual’s thoughts.”
The title of his book 1000 Lashes and its subtitle Because I Say What I Think is all you need to know about the case of Raif Badawi, and the urgency for something to be done about it.
Arrested for insulting Islam on the website Free Saudi Liberals and tried on several charges including apostasy, violating Islamic values and propagating liberal thought, he was convicted to ten years in prison, a thousand lashes and a fine of more than a quarter million dollars. He has yet only received the first fifty lashes. The following flogging sessions have been cancelled due to his weak health –he is a diabetic, has hypertension and is of a slim build.
Footage of the flogging can be seen here. To the untrained eye it looks rather mild –nothing like the long whips flogging a prisoner tied up on a wooden pole one might see in a movie. In reality, this particular kind of flogging, especially in repeated sessions, does quite a lot of damage –and a permanent one at that. Make no mistake; this is torture. Amnesty International illustrates and explains what happens to the body after the infliction of such a punishment.
It seems –and should be– redundant to condemn this barbaric practice. Who in their right mind would not, but for those who prefer to take moral guidance from the divine and care more for supporting archaic traditions rather than the well-being of their fellow man? Plenty of people, sadly. And if Raif had escaped in time from his theocratic country to take shelter in the West, like so many others have from all around the globe, he would be deemed an “islamophobe” and a bigot if not a fascist neo-Nazi; for nothing other than what led him in prison in the first place –the criticism of Islam.
Raif’s book, a collection of some of his now unavailable online articles, offers a glimpse in a wonderful mind. He does not mince words when he criticizes his country’s backwardness. “Look at all the countries that are based on a religious ideology”, he writes, “look at their people and the generations born into it: What do they have to offer human civilization?” Those who thirstily gathered on the square to witness his flogging, triumphantly shouting ‘allahu akbar’, make his point perfectly -if it needs be made.
“Any religion-based state has a mission to limit the minds of its people, to fight the developments of history and logic, and to dumb down its citizens”, he writes. He himself is the proof of what he claims here; reading 1000 lashes one can only lament on the human value squashed by theocracy and religious fervor.
The solution is evident to Raif. Only secularism and liberalism can bring the Arab countries out of their cul-de-sac; lifting them “out of the third world and into the first world”. Not the persecution of religion, but the founding of a state, not according to the needs of only one ideology or group while excluding everyone else, but accommodating every individual. For him, “liberalism means simply to live and let live”. He dares to (successfully) restate a famous quote defining liberalism: “your freedom ends on the outskirts of the freedom of others.”
“the society needs to open its collective mind to all ideas and ideologies. It needs to give its people the chance to listen to the opinions of others, and then examine them critically instead of rejecting them prematurely. Such a creative dialogue based on positive critical thinking can enhance and develop ideas.”
The articles in this short book bring shame to those in the West who have long forgotten what it means to be unfree and have lost the will to stand up for the enemies of liberty. And what a shame it is for people like Ayan Hirshi Ali and others who are true liberals and truly feminists but dare to speak out against the one religion that is currently leading worldwide in the impingement of such values only to be called names and threatened by such cowardly individuals.
If anyone deserves the term “classical liberal”, Raif certainly does. If you want to help him, visit this site and buy his book (which includes a foreword by physicist Lawrence Krauss). You will not regret it.