According to news reports, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five social activists. These individuals include Isra al-Ghomgham who could become the first Saudi female executed for political activism if things go the regime’s way in court. According to Human Rights Watch the charges against them include “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame public opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media,” and “providing moral support to rioters.”
In other words, the Saudi regime wishes to murder five individuals who engaged in anti-Government activism which was entirely peaceful. The only crime being committed here was opposing the House of Al Saud.
While Al Saud has relentlessly crushed all opposition since its conquest of Hejaz in 1925, mainstream media attention has only recently focused on its atrocities against its own people. This is largely due to the regime leveraging international media with its immense petrodollar wealth and Western leadership glad-handing Al Saud for its participation in proxy warfare and oil-price manipulation.
The recent focus on Al Saud atrocities occurred after the Saudi government expelled the Canadian Ambassador, froze diplomatic ties with Canada and cancelled all flights to and from Toronto. This was followed by the suspension of scholarships for all 16,000 Saudi students studying in Canada and their being asked to seek admission elsewhere. These radical steps were in response to the following tweet from Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland:
Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.
The first thing to be noted here is the nauseating gall of the Saudi regime which has called Canada’s call for imprisoned activists to be released “a blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs”. The House of Al Saud-which is committing crimes against humanity in Yemen, propagating anti-Shia hatred globally and recently bullied its Gulf neighbors-considers a verbal protest against its human rights violations an attack on its sovereignty.
Raif Badawi, the individual at the center of the controversy was initially arrested in Jeddah on June 17, 2012 for charges that still remain unclear but that include “insulting Islam by electronic means” and “apostasy”. Aside from the moral repugnance of such draconian charges, to date there has been no evidence that any of these charges are even true. Badawi’s primary emphasis appears to have been on encouraging debate on religion and making the difference between “popular” and “politicized” religion. The trial thus far has been a shamelessly farcical circus typical of the judicial delinquency of Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime. During the trial the presiding judge repeatedly urged him to “confess” his crimes and to “repent” his sins. His first lawyer was arrested-and remains incarcerated-for charges of running an “unlicensed firm.”
Apart from the fact that Western intervention has invariably metastasized violence in the Muslim world, this is not a problem the leaders of the West will attempt to fix. This is simply because Al Saud’s barbarities are perfectly resonant with Western geopolitical interest, especially in the current Iran-centric jingoistic frenzy.
Muslim leadership is too preoccupied with accepting Saudi handouts and the clergy far too feverishly engaged in As-Sheikh/Al-Saud idolatry to focus on their religious obligations to the dead children of Yemen. For Muslim social media activists the children of Yemen don’t seem to elicit the same outrage and heartbreak as those of Palestine, Syria and elsewhere. A pox on such selective outrage and hypocrisy.
It is from within Muslim communities that an answer must arise. Al Saud benefits above all from its exalted status as the guardians of the “Harmayn”- Mecca and Medina. Their ideological influence extends throughout the Muslim world and includes the patronage of thousands of mosques and Madrasahs particularly in three countries-Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan-where half the world’s Muslims live.
The ideological choke-hold of the Saudi regime on Sunni majority nations has resulted in the metastasizing of sectarianism and minority persecution. It has facilitated the growing injection of religious populism into politics by governments from Islamabad to Kuala Lumpur. It is not just the future of Raif Badawi and Isra al-Ghomgham that is at stake here: it is the future of freedom of speech for Muslims. It is determining whether Muslim youth will be allowed to shape their destinies and their nations or whether they will be sacrificed at the altar of hypocrisy that demagogery has fashioned. The dragnet of demagoguery that has its epicenter in the House of Al Saud.
Muslim activists are fighting hard for individual rights and in many cases sacrificing their lives to the cause. This is the one cause that could determine the outcome of all others.