Raif Badawi is a 34-year old Saudi activist, blogger and creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. His writings called for greater religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia which is dominated by Wahhabi Islamic fundamentalists. (See CLBR Backgrounder: Saudi Arabia.) They include:
Is Liberalism Against Religion?Liberalism provides all that is necessary for individual freedoms, as well as freedom of religion, without imposing upon the society the tutelage of a certain sect or tyrant.Religions, according to the concept of liberalism, are personal and special choices. A liberal country has no religion, which doesn’t mean it’s godless. It means it protects the rights of all the religions and nurtures all of them without distinction or upholding one over the others. It doesn’t apple-polish the majority’s religion over the minorities’.
No to Building a Mosque in New York CityFinally, it’s clear to observers that our Muslims in Saudi Arabia disrespect the beliefs of others. We consider them apostates. Those who are Muslims but are not believers in the Hanbali school are seen, in a very limiting way, as aliens. Having this mentality in our society is destructive: How will we be able to build a human civilization with positive relations with the 7 billion people around the world when 5.5 billion of them don’t even believe in Islam?
Badawi’s saga, however, demonstrates that the Saudi regime has no tolerance for religious tolerance.
2008: Badawi was detained on apostasy charges. He was released prevented from leaving Saudi Arabia.2009: Badawi and his wife’s bank accounts were frozen.2012: Badawi was arrested on a charge of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and cited for apostasy which carries an automatic death sentence.2013: Badawi was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum that “violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought” and his website shut down.2014: Badawi’s sentence was increased to 1000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and a fine of 1 million riyals (equal to about $267,000), for “insulting Islam”.2015: Badawi received 50 lashes before hundreds of spectators in front of a mosque in Jeddah, the first in a total of 1,000 lashes to be administered over twenty weeks. Further flogging was suspended due to Badawi’s health and an international backlash.