The Charlie Hebdo massacre (as distinct from the subsequent slaughter at the Jewish supermarket) turned the spotlight on Muslim proclivities for righteous rage. Instantly the West’s elected headliners fell over themselves to declare that Islam is a peace-loving religion whose meek adherents only aspire to win a modicum of respect.
As part of our urgent re-education and re-immersion in the cult of multiculturalism, the mantra that the bloodshed “has nothing to do with Islam” was drilled into us nonstop. This, it was repeatedly chanted, is the correct way for us to think. Deviations from the prescribed diktat would be sternly denounced in the name of freedom.
Perhaps that’s why the dismal fate of Saudi citizen Raif Badawi didn’t much move the agenda-setters who so warily safeguard our inalienable right not to veer from their infallible guidelines.
Badawi, 31, fell victim to precisely the same Muslim muzzling as did the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, but he is geographically distant and, therefore perhaps, his pain is less in the enlightened faces of opinion-molders.
But the fact still remains that he suffers appallingly only because he dared take an independent stand.
That’s his one and only crime.
Moreover, his torment isn’t at the hands of wild-eyed Islamic irregulars but at the hands of an orderly Islamic regime to which the international community’s movers and shakers – foremost Barack Obama, the Commander in Chief of the self-acclaimed Free World – all avidly suck up.
Badawi’s original sin dates back to 2006 when he inaugurated his blog, Free Saudi Liberals, in which he promoted freedom of expression and freedom of faith – two purportedly cardinal cornerstones of Western democracy and its much-vaunted pluralist ethos.
But liberality proved an unwelcome trespasser in the land that spawned Islam and to which its holiest shrines draw multitudes of believers annually.
Thus, eventually Badawi’s cyber-activity was deemed apostasy. This constitutes a capital offense in the Muslim setting – the very one that we are indoctrinated to respect and high-mindedly dissociate from atrocities committed in the name of Islam.
A campaign of judicial hounding was unleashed against Badawi. He was finally tossed into Jeddah prison on June 17, 2012 and his “illegal website” was shut down by the same Saudi authorities that no Western government would conceivably castigate. On July 29, 2013 Badawi was sentenced to six years and 600 lashes in public. He appealed and the case was referred to retrial.
However, the new verdict of May 7, 2014 increased his sentence to ten years, 1000 lashings, a fine of a million Saudi Riyal ($266,000) and a ten-year travel ban effective from the end of his sentence.
The very fact that anyone in a powerful and prominent state can at all be tried and punished for “insulting Islam and religious authorities” somehow didn’t convince the West’s high priests of postmodernism that there might be any flaw in Islam – even as it manifests itself in present-day civil society.
Political style-gurus continue to portray Muslims as a proverbial bunch of pacifist Quakers whose harmless legacy is tarnished, for no fault of their own, by a few unconnected extremists rampaging impulsively worldwide (the sort that supposedly could – but doesn’t – crop up among adherents of other creeds).
Badawi appealed once again but, despite all the opportunities the Saudis had to back down, the Jeddah Court of Appeals chose to uphold the sentence on September 1, 2014. The Ministry of the Interior of the monarchy which Obama repeatedly flatters did nonetheless evince lenience – it decreed solicitously that Badawi’s 1,000 floggings were to be parceled into 20 weekly sessions of no more than 50 lashes each (in public outside Jeddah’s al-Jafali Mosque).
The first 50 were administered on January 9, on the very day that Jewish shoppers were shot dead in a Paris kosher grocery and hot on the heels of the assassination of the Charlie Hebdo infidels. No talking heads made the connection between the French and Saudi incidents.
Nothing was allowed to interfere with the accepted wisdom that violent intolerance “has nothing to do with Islam.”
Even if the case could be made – and it’s quite a stretch – that the Paris butchers and their co-religionists at every major terrorist outrage around the globe have nothing to do with Islam, can the same be said of the official fanaticism of the most pivotal Islamic regime? Perhaps in an idyllic existence overseen by sugarplum fairies, all assorted unpleasant associations with Islam might simply evaporate – if only we wish hard enough.
In our admittedly imperfect existence, though, key players try their darndest to sugarcoat all that superfluous unpleasantness. First among them is America’s First Citizen.
At the G20 summit in London on April 7, 2009, Obama met with Saudi King Abdullah (whose death last week occasioned a sycophantic pilgrimage to Riyadh of the international Who’s Who). For the first time ever the US president didn’t make do with a polite handshake.
America’s top self-professed progressive obsequiously bowed before the reactionary Islamic potentate.
It became an iconic moment. Later, in Strasbourg, Obama provided his caption for the indelible image: “We have to change our behavior in showing the Muslim world greater respect.”
His gesture of obeisance became a symbolic protocol violation. Not only is he not a Saudi subject, but he didn’t likewise bow to any other royals.
When Obama bent over to express his deference to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, he diminished the tradition of American exceptionalism and his servile genuflection also diminished universal democratic traditions. Having done that, the American president effectively freed himself from the bothersome burden of defending Western liberality.
Hence the cruel and unusual punishment meted to a blogger for “insulting Islam” didn’t spark the same indignation in Obama as does, for instance, the closure of a balcony in a Jerusalem apartment house in a Jewish neighborhood where Obama dictates that no Jews should be allowed to live. Perchance Jewish presence in the cradle of Judaism “insults Islam” and that’s what Obama above all aims to forbid.
From this stems his policy of not doing too conspicuously much to combat radical Islamic terror. It’s no wonder that in his recent State of the Union address Obama praised his less-than-halfhearted response to the dangers inflicted in every nook and cranny of this planet by a vehement variety of imams and ayatollahs.
He congratulated himself for “a smarter kind of American leadership.”
Straight-faced he claimed that “in Iraq and Syria American leadership… is stopping ISIL’s advance.”His “broad strategy,” Obama informed us all commandingly, is leading to “a safer more prosperous world.”
Admitting the truth about the menace whose identity he dare not specify could embarrass Islam’s apologist.
This may partially account for why Obama didn’t join other world leaders for their Paris anti-terror march, why he dithers on Syria and Iraq, why he dismissed ISIL (a.k.a IS or ISIS) as “junior varsity,” why he is so intent on lifting sanctions from near-nuclear Iran, why he is so maddeningly soft on Mahmoud Abbas’s incitement to mass-murder and why he so viscerally abhors Binyamin Netanyahu (way before the current congressional speech kerfuffle).
These are all facets of the same “smarter kind of American leadership.”
It inordinately misrepresents barbarities “that have nothing to do with Islam” – despite their incontrovertible Islamic context. Obama is uber-cautious about pressing repressive Riyadh regarding such Islamic idiosyncrasies as the spine-chilling spike in executions by beheading during 2014 alone (except for the holy month of Ramadan), arrests of women for violating the ban on female drivers and steep prison sentences for many bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook-posters who expressed nonconformist views.
The Saudi escalated crackdown on free speech, women activists and religious reformers goes largely ignored by the Western media as well.
Few are aware that Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abul- Khair, has now himself been imprisoned – ironically under new counterterrorism legislation, ostensibly enacted to curtail the Islamic excesses of outfits like IS. Abul-Khair was convicted of “undermining regime officials, insulting the judiciary and inciting public opinion.”
He was initially sentenced to 15 years with the possibility of parole after ten. Now, however, an appeals court has withdrawn the parole option because the lawyer disputed the court’s legitimacy to try peaceful dissidents.
The only good news coming out of Saudi Arabia is that Badawi’s flogging was postponed for two weeks running – after the first flogging was administered before throngs that whistled jeeringly, applauded approvingly and hoarsely hollered “Alahu akhbar” (Allah is great) every time the bound prisoner’s flesh was struck.
Eight doctors examining Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah assessed that wounds he sustained in the first flog-fest had not yet sufficiently healed to allow for 50 more whacks to gash his skin again. How mercifully Muslim of them! The very notion of physicians collaborating in so flagrant a travesty of justice – and waiting for medical improvement in order to inflict further injuries – should have sent up howls of protests the world over.
Yet the world’s leaders comfort themselves with the reduced odds for more unfavorable video-ops from their chief Islamic ally – at least for a smidge longer.
The omniscient ones never fail to remind us that, like terror, corporeal punishment and state-sanctioned savagery have nothing to do with Islam. Presumably, such medievalism is quite compatible with the respect which we all reverently owe the Prophet’s disciples, according to Obama – and no less according to Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, David Cameron and the rest of the EU’s arbiters of Islam-exonerating bon ton.
But who can blame them? All they want is to avoid trouble in their own back yards for now – the future and the big picture be damned.
To them all we can apply a remark variously attributed to two former British prime ministers – David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Both are widely quoted as having said of appeaser Neville Chamberlain that he “viewed everything through the wrong end of a municipal drain-pipe.”
www.sarahhonig.com ‘Debunking the Bull,’ Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.