A bipartisan, multi-religious group of Americans have offered to each take 100 lashes for Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Saudi clerics. All those who volunteered are members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Their first choice, of course, is that the sentence be reversed and that flogging no longer be permitted.
Badawi, the 32-year-old father of three, is the founder and editor of the Free Saudi Liberals website. He was arrested in June 2012 and charged with crimes including apostasy and “insulting Islam” through electronic channels. In January 2013, a Saudi court chose not to pursue the apostasy charge, which carries the death penalty.
In May 2014, a Saudi appeals court sentenced Mr. Badawi to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and fined him $1 million SR ($266,000 USD) for, among other charges, insulting Islam and religious authorities. In July 2013, the court sentenced Badawi to 600 lashes and seven years in prison and his website was shut down. An appeals court overturned that verdict, and the retrial resulted in the harsher sentence.
The current sentence calls for Mr. Badawi to be lashed 50 times a week for 20 consecutive weeks.
USCIRF MEMBERS URGE SAUDIS TO RESPECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Princeton professor Robert P. George explained the decision of the USCRIF group in an email to The Christian Post.
“Together with six colleagues on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, I sent a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. calling on the Saudi government to stop the horrific torture of Raif Badawi — an advocate of religious freedom and freedom of expression in the Saudi Kingdom,” wrote George, who is a vice-chair of the commission.
“If the Saudi government refuses, we each asked to take 100 of Mr. Badawi’s lashes so that we could suffer with him. The seven of us include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews, and a Muslim,” he added.
Offering to take Badawi’s lashes along with George are six other members of the USCIRF: Mary Ann Glendon, member of the Board, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Daniel I. Mark assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Villanova University; Hannah Rosenthal, CEO, Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Eric Schwartz, dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and Katrina Lantos Swett, president of Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice.
Prof. Daniel Mark is an Orthodox Jew. Hannah Rosenthal was the U.S. Special Envoy and the head of Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism between 2009 and 2012. Katrina Lantos Swett, the chair of the USCIRF, is the daughter of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who was a Holocaust survivor. Lantos Swett is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
The letter to the Saudi government included the following statements:
Compassion, a virtue honored in Islam as well as in Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, is defined as ‘suffering with another.’ We are persons of different faiths, yet we are united in a sense of obligation to condemn and resist injustice and to suffer with its victims, if need be. We therefore make the following request. If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him. We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured. If your government does not see fit to stop this from happening, we are prepared to present ourselves to receive our share of Mr. Badawi’s unjust punishment.
TWO USCRIF MEMBERS DID NOT PARTICIPATE