By Anna Bondi
In May of 2014, Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian citizen, was arrested by the government for “insulting Islam” and violating a technology law, according to BBC. As his punishment, he will receive 1000 lashes, 10 years in prison, a 10-year travel ban, and a lifetime ban from using social media. In other words, Badawi’s life is now in danger because he wanted to make a difference in the world by making sure his, as well as other citizen’s voices were heard.
As Americans, we tend to take our freedoms for granted, when we should be using our resources to help save people such as Badawi. While Badawi is just another casualty in the ever growing struggle of humanity against repressive forces in Saudi Arabia, as citizens of a government which has allied with Saudi Arabia, it is our job to speak up.
Badawi is a well-known blogger and critic of the Saudi government. He has written about the treatment of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia and the need for a secular state. According to the Guardian, he wrote in one of his pieces: “Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone … Secularism … is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.”
Although these remarks seem innocent and simple, they resulted in Badawi’s arrest for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience.”
According to BBC, a judge even suggested that he be sentenced to death because he refused to apologize to God. The Saudi government still issues warrants for people who disagree with Islamic ideals and makes sure they cannot express their opinions to the public nor have any choice of dissent.
The United States, however, differs from Saudi Arabia in many ways. Most importantly, it was created as a place where people can be free from tyranny and be able to make their own choices and formulate their own thoughts. The values of the U.S. are based on justice for humanity. How hypocritical would it be if we were to step away from those in need and let the innocent feel unnecessary agony?
As citizens of America, it is our responsibility to urge our government to hold Saudi Arabia to the same standards we hold other countries to. It is time we made it clear that they are not exempt due to our allied status. Therefore, it would be in the United States’ interest to promote basic human rights as well as democracy around the world.
So far, there have been many organizations who have spoken out against Badawi’s punishment. His wife told BBC Newshour, “I would like the Western governments to do more. I would like them to ask the Saudi government directly for his release, not just issue statements of condemnation.”
So far, several states have spoken out about the subject but have made no immediate move to change what is being done. Prince Charles and King Salman, even recently, had a talk privately about plight of the jailed in Riyadh, The Guardian noted. However, if actions aren’t taken soon, prisoners like Badawi will have to accept the possibility that they will not be able to return to their families ever again.
As Americans, we should make the decision to raise awareness for those who risk their lives every day, simply by stating their opinions, and we should start doing so by forcing our government to take a more solid stance in cases such as Raif Badawi.