A Saudi court has ordered the editor of a Saudi Arabian website to be tried for apostasy, and possibly executed, due to his criticism of the role of religion in the Saudi Kingdom. Raif Badawi, the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June and originally charged with insulting Islam. The court has now upgraded the charge to apostasy.
Apostasy is a charge based in the Sharia law governing the Kingdom, which executes anyone who changes their religious affiliation. He is also charged with writing about Valentine’s Day — a holiday that is banned in the Kingdom. His greatest offense in reality may be his criticism Saudi Arabia’s Commission on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the feared religious police.
He concluded an article with the mocking observation: “Congratulations to us for the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue for teaching us virtue and for its eagerness to ensure that all members of the Saudi public are among the people of paradise”.
Despite that fact that Saudi Arabia continues to execute people for changing religious or denouncing religion (as well as banning non-Muslim public expression of faith or non-Muslim houses of worship), we continue to treat the Kingdom as one of our closest allies. It is difficult to claim a higher moral ground when we are actively supporting a regime that denies the most basic rights of free speech, free press, free exercise of religion, and women’s rights.
Amnesty International has called attention to the case.