Saudi Arabia has tried to order Quebec to back off in its criticism of Saudi’s appalling human rights record. Quebec has said Nope.
Quebec’s premier is not backing down in his opposition to the imprisonment and torture of blogger Raif Badawi, despite the Saudi ambassador’s written caution to Quebec politicians to mind their own business.
“We have made our opinion known. It’s normal that we did so,” Philippe Couillard told reporters as he made his way to a cabinet meeting in Quebec City Wednesday.
Naif Bin Bandir Al-Sudairy, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Canada, sent a letter to Quebec’s National Assembly in March telling them not to meddle in the case of the jailed blogger or criticize the country’s human rights record.
“Torture” – note that the CBC calls it torture, which it is. Most mainstream media refuse to be that blunt about it. After all, Saudia Arabia is a sovereign blah blah blah blah blah.
In a letter obtained by CBC News and addressed to the speaker, the ambassador writes Saudi Arabia “does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs.”
“The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights, especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees human rights (sic),” the letter, dated March 10, reads.
Nice (sic) too.
Islamic law does the very opposite of guaranteeing human rights. That’s why there is such a thing as the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam: it’s in order to rule out any human rights that are not “compatible with sharia,” as so many important ones are not.
And we can see the truth of this when we consider what Saudi Arabia actually does, such as for instance sentencing Raif Badawi to 1000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and a fine of one million riyals, for writing his opinions about religion on a website. That’s not a situation in which human rights have been guaranteed.
Couillard and other Quebec politicians of all stripes have strongly denounced the kingdom’s treatment of Badawi.
On Wednesday, Kathleen Weil, Quebec’s immigration minister, said the government’s position has not wavered.
“It’s mostly important for us to reiterate our firm opposition to his imprisonment and our defence of human rights,” she said.
In February, the National Assembly unanimously passed a motion condemning the whipping of Badawi, and expressing support for his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children, who are refugees living in Sherbrooke, Que.
Bien fait, Québec.
And the speaker’s office sent a copy of the motion to the Saudi ambassador in Ottawa.
Badawi’s supporters believe the ambassador’s letter to Quebec politicians shows the Saudi government is feeling the public pressure over the case.
“We are happy they responded because it seems that they find the need to respond because the pressure is so great, but of course the content of what they say is not true,” said Mireille Elchacar, a friend of the Badawi family who works for Amnesty International.
It’s not only not true, it’s the reverse of what is true. It’s not divergent from the truth but the opposite of the truth.
“Quebec has shown a unified, political stance against this and I think that has somewhat shocked Saudi Arabia,” said Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University.
“It’s embarrassed them and they feel they have to do something to set the record straight or at least try to be seen as arguing their position from a moral and legal perspective, but it’s really hard to take that seriously,” he said.
And in fact it left itself open to even more scorn and contempt. I wrote my most recent Free Inquiry column on this subject. I enjoyed writing it, I have to say.