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Reason #6572 To Love the First Amendment

Saudi Arabia has sentenced an Australian man — a Muslim himself — to 500 lashes for blasphemy for supposedly insulting the companions of Muhammad while on a hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. If you can’t even escape the blasphemy laws being a devout Muslim on a hajj, non-Muslims don’t have a chance in hell.

Comments

  1. anandine says

    And he didnt’ even insult Mohammed. It was Mohammed’s companions. I wonder how close the relationship to Mohammed has to be to make insults blasphemous. Can you insult his child bride’s uncle’s shoemaker’s cousin?

  2. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    If you can’t even escape the blasphemy laws being a devout Muslim on a hajj, non-Muslims don’t have a chance in hell.

    Maybe this is the Saudi Islamic version of tough love.

    It’d be interesting to understand the mortality rate after being dealt 500 lashes. It seems to me there’d be nothing left between the skin on one’s back and his internal organs and therefore this sentence is effectively a particularly torturous death penalty.

    It’d be awesome if we didn’t know what the mortality rate was because no humans were so evil as to ever inflict one lash against any living being; but that reality is not our own.

  3. jameshanley says

    @Michael,

    I’m no expert but I have read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, wherein the subject of flogging is dealt with repeatedly (and O’Brian was a stickler for historical accuracy). So for whatever that’s worth,here goes. A lot depends on the force with which the flogging occurs; it’s easy to lay it on more ferociously or relatively more gently. That’s an “of course,” of course, and we’re probably all assuming it will be a serious flogging, not a make-believe one. If that’s the case, 500 lashes was, in the British Royal Navy, considered to effectively be a death sentence. An exceptionally strong person might live through it, if the lash was not laid on too heavily, but you wouldn’t want to wager on that outcome.

  4. Didaktylos says

    It depends on whether the lashes are administered all at once or in instalments. I believe that the main difference between Army and Navy floggings in British service was that more lashes would be awarded in the Army, but never so many delivered at one time as to leave the man unfit for duty.

  5. slc1 says

    Re James Hanley @ #3

    If the lashes were imposed with a cat of nine tails, the recipient would have been dead long before 500 lashes were applied.

  6. says

    Flogging, lashing, stoning, dismemberment. Really gives me motivation to keep up the efforts against our local fundies trying to impose theocracy. It wasn’t that long ago that fundie Christians were that brutal.

    …I take that back. Someone would probably very quickly remind me of a third world country or even an insular American fundie group who are being that brutal right now. If fundie Christians are executing children for the imaginary crime of witchcraft right now, they’ve got to be going pre-medieval on the people accused of other crimes, real or imagined.

  7. redgreeninblue says

    amandine,

    And he didnt’ even insult Mohammed. It was Mohammed’s companions. I wonder how close the relationship to Mohammed has to be to make insults blasphemous. Can you insult his child bride’s uncle’s shoemaker’s cousin?

    Good point.

    But even that assumes that he really did commit the alleged offence. This poor guy chose to spend maybe £1000 on plane tickets and travel 15,000 km to go on pilgrimage. Does anyone seriously think he committed any crime worse than being misinterpreted by some zealot nearby?

  8. says

    Does anyone seriously think he committed any crime worse than being misinterpreted by some zealot nearby?

    Kind of hard for me to focus on his likely innocence when they’re handing out insane punishments for what should be a non-crime.

    But it is a point worth bringing up, largely because thin-skinned people are exactly the sorts of people who can abuse anti-speech laws, even if such laws allegedly serve a good purpose.

  9. raven says

    I don’t know much about “flogging”. The Dark Ages have been over with for a while where I live.

    It doesn’t sound like anyone could survive 500 lashes. They might as well just cut off his head with a sword, the other capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.

    Remind me to never visit that place.

  10. frrolfe says

    i’m really upset that a blog i admire has missed one really important fact: the poor unfortunate guy is shia. Saudi Arabia is sunni. you all need to get your heads out of your navels. fundies are fundies. the main issue here is that SA is a mirror image of USA

  11. d cwilson says

    @Bronze Dog:

    I don’t know what the purpose of bringing up his alleged “guilt” would be. Even if he had said, “Muhammod fucks goats”, it should be a crime and certainly not deserving of 500 lashes (effectively death by torture). When the law itself is unjust, guilt or innocence doesn’t matter.

  12. yoav says

    And he didnt’ even insult Mohammed. It was Mohammed’s companions.

    Since the victim is Shiate my guess will be that the companion he insulted would be Abu Baker, whose appointment as Mo’s successor is over Ali is the reason for the Sunni/Shia schism. Saudis are very much on the Abu Baker camp but still they need to chill up a little, 500 lashes for being impolite to some dude who been dead for over a 1000 years, talk about an overreaction.

  13. gingerbaker says

    “But it is a point worth bringing up, largely because thin-skinned people are exactly the sorts of people who can abuse anti-speech laws, even if such laws allegedly serve a good purpose.”

    Right, because a case involving, say, a public speech extolling the virtues of Naziism as tried in Germany is similar enough to a blasphemy case tried in Saudi Arabia to warrant comparison. Okey dokey.

  14. says

    @Bronze Dog:

    I don’t know what the purpose of bringing up his alleged “guilt” would be. Even if he had said, “Muhammod fucks goats”, it should be a crime and certainly not deserving of 500 lashes (effectively death by torture). When the law itself is unjust, guilt or innocence doesn’t matter.

    Pretty much the reason why I find it hard to focus on guilt or innocence, since we’re talking about a torturous death for speech that does no harm.

    But I’ll reiterate a point I intended to make alongside the commentary on barbaric, unjust punishments: There are some anti-speech laws that are allegedly for society’s benefit. Even if someone could support a law of that sort, it’s naive to think that overly sensitive people won’t find a way to abuse and corrupt such laws to promote unjust censorship. I prefer broad free speech rights and countering bad speech with good speech.

  15. raven says

    Saudi Arabia executes woman convicted of ‘sorcery’

    Something else to brighten up your morning. For real, at least we don’t live in SA.

    Someone once called the Arabs, tribes with flags. These days it looks more like barbarians with oil money and Mercedes.

  16. says

    Right, because a case involving, say, a public speech extolling the virtues of Naziism as tried in Germany is similar enough to a blasphemy case tried in Saudi Arabia to warrant comparison. Okey dokey.

    That’s more or less the opposite of what I was trying to communicate. How would you feel if, for example, a law censoring Nazi symbols was being used to censor negative references to Nazis, like a video game that featured Nazis as the villains?

  17. The Christian Cynic says

    frrolfe:

    i’m really upset that a blog i admire has missed one really important fact: the poor unfortunate guy is shia. Saudi Arabia is sunni.

    Which shouldn’t matter at all when it comes to protection of speech. If, as someone above suggested, the reason for the punishment is that the victim said something that could be considered insulting to Sunni Islam, then that just means that a theological dispute is playing out in the nation’s law. That’s still a reason to be grateful for free speech protection.

    you all need to get your heads out of your navels. fundies are fundies. the main issue here is that SA is a mirror image of USA

    That’s an interesting equivalence, but without evidence, I fear it’s a false one. There may be plenty of Christian fundies here, but they tend not to get this sort of power because of protections we have built in.

  18. says

    There may be plenty of Christian fundies here, but they tend not to get this sort of power because of protections we have built in.

    And, of course, we recognize that we have to be vigilant to keep those protections in place, since our fundies are working to tear them down and are using every crack they can find.

    We aren’t Saudia Arabia… yet.

  19. says

    Apparently the Saudi cops are on edge because of things like the Arab Spring movements. Back in October they arrested and roughed up a Canadian imam, Usama Al-atar, who was on a pilgramage to Medina. Fortunately he was released after 36 hours due to pressure from Canada and elsewhere, and not charged with any crime.

  20. keithharwood says

    In the play `Our County’s Good’ one character says, “Between 250 and 500 lashes you are condemning a man to death” and another answers, “With the disadvantage that the death is slow and unobserved and cannot serve as a sharp example.” Which is why for death penalty a public hanging was prefered.

    Incidentally, one stroke with the cat o’ nine tails counted as nine lashes.

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