And Raif Badawi? The more you know about Saudi Arabia, the worse it appears. Once you digest the stifling and humiliating rules governing women, and perhaps even consider them routine, you may begin to wonder how the Saudis treat men. And then you come across Raif Badawi and everything grows darker still.
He’s a young Saudi Arabian writer, the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. He was arrested in 2012 for insulting Islam through electronic channels and charged as well with apostasy, the abandonment or breach of faith (though he says he’s still a Muslim). He’s not respectful of the grand institutions of the country. He’s referred, for instance, to Al-Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University as “a den for terrorists.”
Even worse, he believes in secular government — “Secularism is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the Third World and into the First World,” he says. “Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.”
Badawi apparently lives his life by words he quotes from Albert Camus: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, then re-sentenced in 2014 to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison plus a fine. The lashes were to be carried out over 20 weeks.