In July, we discussed the horrific cases of Saudi blogger and activist, Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes for “insulting Islam”. Badawi created a popular site called Free Saudi Liberals in 2008 to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia. That was enough to declare him a criminal in the Saudi Kingdom, which denies freedom of religion and freedom of speech as well as the rights of women and political dissidents. Now, there are new concerns over a report that a Saudi judge has ordered Badawi to return to court to face a new charge of apostasy for which he could be executed.
Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar, told CNN that he is being called back for the new charge — a part of what is viewed as a national crackdown against dissents in the Kingdom. The Kingdom also jailed four members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) and sentenced 24-year-old Omar al-Saed to four years in prison and 300 lashes for calling for political reform. Yet, Saudi Arabia continues to be our greatest Arab ally as our government denounced other countries for extremism and the denial of human rights.
Apostasy and blasphemy are the two primary crimes used by authoritarian religious regimes to deny basic freedom of religion and speech to their citizens. Yet, the Saudis routinely invoke freedom of religion to demand responses to any slight to Islam while denying even the construction of a church in their own country.