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Supporters of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist political group, give Nazi salutes while taking part in a swastika burning at an undisclosed location in Georgia, US on April 21, 2018.(Photo by: GO NAKAMURA/REUTERS)
We grew up from childhood hating, cursing Jews
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Ensaf Haidar. I am the wife of Raif Badawi, a prisoner of conscience who is now serving his seventh year behind dark, cold prison walls in Saudi Arabia.
We were taught in the Arab world that the Holocaust was just a big lie. It was only when we grew up and opened ourselves to the world of ideas and humanity that we discovered Jews are in fact human beings, and good people, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Ensaf Haidar. I am the wife of Raif Badawi, a prisoner of conscience who is now serving his seventh year behind dark, cold prison walls in Saudi Arabia.

Two days after the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre, my husband was dragged from his jail cell in Jeddah, brought to a square in front of Al-Jafali Mosque, and administered the first phase – 50 lashes – of a public flogging.

His crime? His indictment says he was guilty of “insulting Islam” and “producing what would disturb public order, religious values and morals.”

His real crime, in fact, can be summarized in one sentence: He believed in his fundamental right to express his opinion.

Freedom of expression is at the heart of Raif’s case.

Also central to his case is Raif’s vision of a different future for his country and region; a future based on our shared humanity; one based on acceptance, respect and mutual understanding; one that aspires for peace in the region.

Central to this vision is an end to the discourse of hatred that we have learned in our childhood, mainstreamed by extremist religious dogmas and cynical governmental exploitation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Central to this vision is an acceptance that we are all equal in dignity and rights regardless of our religion, thoughts, gender, color or social status.

Central to this vision is the recognition that Jews are not our enemies.

Our enemy is the hate-filled discourse that strips us of our ability to see the humanity in those who differ from ourselves.

Our enemy is the tyranny of religious extremism that insists on hating Jews, and deems them our eternal enemies. Our enemies are the political systems that discriminate against their citizens or violate their human rights. These are the enemies. 

This vision requires an insistence on our shared humanity.

This vision does not require a clash of civilizations, nor a conflict between East and West. Rather it demands the protection of universal human rights, something all human-rights defenders and activists around the world agree upon.

I believe that changing the world for the better is possible. It is a common dream among many in a world torn by wars and abuses. This dream becomes a duty, our human and moral duty to support freedom and individual rights.

This moral duty should be expressed not only in our countries of origin but also in our new homelands of choice, in liberal democracies that are witnessing an alarming rise in antisemitism.

We all have a responsibility to stand firmly against antisemitism and denial of the Holocaust.

Since childhood, we grew up on hatred of Jews and taught to curse them. We have to insist on repudiating this message and work actively to eliminate them.

The writer is a Saudi-born Canadian human rights activist.

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