For sheer brutality, it pales in comparison to the massacre of journalists and cartoonists Wednesday at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, but Saudi Arabia's flogging of a liberal blogger Friday further shows how rooted the concept of violence is in response to any insult of Islam.
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes – he received the first 50 in a public square in Jeddah Friday – along with 10 years in prison and a fine equal to $266,666, Reuters reports. His crime? Creating a website called "Free Saudi Liberals," which advocated greater religious freedom. Saudi Arabia found this "insulting to Islam."
In a statement, the International Humanist and Ethical Union called Badawi's punishment "savage, and an absolute violation of human rights and dignity" intended to cow other potential free thinkers into silence.
"Only yesterday it was reported that Saudi Arabia condemned the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and yet the authorities choose this week to brutalize a young man because he had the audacity to stand up and say that his countrymen should have greater liberty," Union spokesman Bob Churchill said. "The Saudi state's condemnation of terror in Paris is hypocrisy of the highest order."
Amnesty International also condemned Badawi's treatment as "a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law" showing Saudi Arabia's "abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
The Paris jihadists acted on their own belief that Charlie Hebdo's cartoons were a crime against Islam warranting mass slaughter in response. Badawi was flogged at the demand of a national government, one which was invited to join the United Nations Security Council just two years ago and turned it down.This has been a horrible week for violence waged in defense of Islam. It's not a great week for those who insist this violence is rooted in anything but theology.