‘Secularism is the Solution’: My articles about Raif Badawi

This is an up-to-date list of the articles and columns I have written concerning Raif Badawi. Each one was first published here, in The Gad About Town website; several were subsequently linked to and quoted in other media outlets, including the Raif Badawi Foundation’s website itself. (I am not an impartial reporter, so it was an honor to see my work there.)

The ongoing diplomatic silence regarding Raif Badawi is perplexing in the face of the global outcry. Last November, Yves Rossier, Switzerland’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, told a Swiss newspaper, La Liberté, that Raif Badawi’s sentence has been suspended.

“A royal pardon is in the works thanks to the head of state, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” Rossier informed the world. No one has pursued an update from M. Rossier about this claim. It was soon after M. Rossier shared this that Raif Badawi was moved to his current location, however. Whether the pardon is real or will be a reality is unknown. What is known is that Raif Badawi remains a prisoner and the threat of continued lashings remains as well.

Is Raif Badawi’s future freedom a game piece in a contest between Saudi Arabia and its global reputation? Is there a perfect moment for the country to release him that I am as deaf to as the others covering the Raif Badawi story?

There are several issues that possibly rank ahead of human rights—and one man’s awful corporal punishment, a whipping, merely for writing, and his all-important freedom—on the list of concerns that complicate the relationship between Saudi Arabia and other nations. The ongoing war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia is backing the government in a fight against rebels, is notorious, leading to atrocities, and is in danger of becoming Saudi Arabia’s version of America’s involvement in Vietnam. That is one. Saudi Arabia’s use of the “fight against terrorism and ISIS” as an excuse to round up those it declares to be dissidents is another.

What is one man’s freedom worth, after all?

Raif Badawi is a symbol; for much of the world, his is the face of the Arab Spring. In his essays, he compares the Arab Spring to the French Revolution, and his comparison is not extreme. His ongoing imprisonment—and the sight of him being whipped last January 9, 2015—is the image of what certain governments want to do with the Arab Spring.

Raif wrote in his introduction to his book of seeing a graffiti in his prison’s filthy group lavatory: it surprised and delighted him. It said “Secularism is the solution!” He wrote, “The sentence stood alone among the dozens of obscenities that were written in so many Arabic dialects. This discovery could only mean one thing. There was at least one other person here who understood me, who understood the reasons I was jailed.”

“Secularism is the solution” is the guiding thesis inside each of these articles (this list corrects errors I created in earlier presentations of this list):

 April 17, 2016: Inside Raif Badawi’s Prison Cell
 April 11, 2016: A New Prize for Raif Badawi
 March 25, 2016: #ReadRaif: Now More than Ever
 January 26, 2016: Raif Badawi’s Hunger Strike
 January 9, 2016: One Year After He Was Flogged, Raif Badawi Remains a Prisoner
 December 16: Badawi’s Absence Is a Presence at Prize Ceremony
 December 11: A Cloud of Uncertainty
 October 29: Winner of the Sakharov Prize
 September 14: Award Raif Badawi the Nobel Peace Prize
August 18: Tortured
June 17: Three Years in Prison for Blogging
June 10: An Urgent Need for Action
June 7: A Sense of Injustice
June 1: Speak out for Those Who Can’t
May 7: Ignite the Light
April 3: We Want Life
March 13: Raif Badawi and Official Cruelty
March 6: Raif Badawi Remains a Prisoner
February 20: 1000 Days
February 6: #FreeRaif, Week 5
January 31: Raif Badawi, Week 3
January 22: An Update about Raif Badawi
January 12: For Raif Badawi

* * * *
A Recording
This winter, I recorded myself reading one essay from Raif Badawi’s book, “1000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think.” The mic on this laptop is not strong, and my voice … well, there I am holding a copy of the book. Get yourself a copy of the book. I have intentions to record more of his essays.

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  1. Anton Wills-Eve · May 13, 2016

    You make two really important points in the whole of this post, Mark. The first is that for all my life I can remember cases like Badawi’s, where international opinion against people imprisoned without trial for political reasons – in communist Europe, in Vietnam North & South, in several middle eastern states and throughout South America – have usually led to their eventual freedom after depriving them of years of their lives. But I cannot remember a single case in which those who imprisoned their perceived enemies ever released them with an apology. It was always to gain a diplomatic or political advantage. Maybe Mandela is the exception, but his was the apology of a nation not a regime. In all you have done to promote Badawi’s cause you have added one straw after another to the burden on that camel’s back. I hope that you gain the recognition you deserve when it finally breaks. May it be soon. The other point is the role of secularism in cases such as his. He knows there is no place for religious law taking precedence over civil law in any country in the modern world because everyone has the right to worship God as they choose or not believe at all. The tragedy is that, as with the deification of Pharaohs, worshipping Roman Emperors, Papal authority in Mediaeval Europe, and Islam’s claim to dictate every aspect of administration wherever it can etc etc this has always been done for secular reasons using religious authority as a spurious excuse for gaining or keeping power. But secularism can become just as much a religion in itself if it starts – as it often has – banning religious observance. If you think about it, what the world needs is to be run by people who care, really lovingly care, about others and especially those for whom they have civil responsibility. All administrations should help everyone under their jurisdiction and that jurisdiction should be based completely on man’s humanity to man and that alone. Thanks, mate, just saved me a blog today! 🙂 Anton

    Liked by 1 person

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