On the one hand there are the censors in the University of Manchester Student Union, and on the other hand there are seven scholars of religion who have offered to take 100 lashes apiece in Raif’s place.
[T]hat is the proposal which seven members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom have made to the government of Saudi Arabia, in the hope that Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who has already endured 50 strokes, will be spared further suffering.
The signatories wrote in their personal capacities to the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC, about a case which has focused attention on the uniquely harsh way in which the kingdom deals with religious and philosophical dissent. In a letter dated January 20th, they noted that Saudi Arabia had participated in a vast gathering of world leaders and ordinary people in Paris, who had come together to defend free speech and protest against the terrorist attacks of the preceding days. The signatories asked how that could be reconciled with the cruel way that Mr Badawi, the founder of a liberal web forum, is being treated.
Seriously. I said that at the time. What were they even doing there, since they don’t believe in free speech as commonly understood. It was insulting. There they were, the floggers of Raif Badawi, there to soak up some of the cred of people who object to theocratic censorship – insulting. Raif did not “insult Islam” but Saudi Arabia insulted Charlie Hebdo and the people at all those protests.
To drive home their concern, they told the ambassador that each of them would be prepared to endure 100 lashes with a Saudi cane if it could bring leniency for the blogger.
The signatories are religiously diverse. They include Katrina Lantos Swett (pictured), who is chairman of the USCIRF, and also runs the Lantos Foundation, a human-rights NGO which commemorates her father Congressman Tom Lantos, who was a Holocaust survivor. There are also two prominent Catholic intellectuals, Robert George and Mary Ann Glendon, respectively associated with Princeton and Harvard; Zuhdi Jasser, who heads a groupof conservative (in the American sense) Muslims; Hannah Rosenthal, head of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; and Eric Schwartz and Daniel Mark, both professors who are active in Jewish affairs. Although Ms Lantos Swett’s parents were Jewish, she converted to the Mormon faith.
Ms Lantos Swett said all the signatories had agreed that they would not put their names to the document unless they really were willing to undergo the penalty. Signing it had given her a “deeper sense of how terrifying it can be to stand at the mercy of a despotic government.”
This isn’t going to go away, Saud family.