In an earlier post, I suggested Canada’s new Liberal PM was walking the diplomatic tightrope, with pressures from Badawi’s supporters on one side and the need to appease Canada’s Saudi allies on the other. My question to Justin Trudeau: where do you stand on the right to peaceful dissent and at what point does the fate of Raif Badawi become a matter of principle for you and your government?
In his Dec. 28 La Presse column Raif Badawi and us, Patrick Lagacé writes about his visit to the Sherbrooke apartment Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar and their three kids Najwa, 12, Doudi, 11 and eight-year-old Miryam call home. Lagacé’s visit followed Haidar’s acceptance of the Sakharov Prize, the annual award created in honour of the dissident Soviet physician and Nobel Peace Prizewinner whose writings heralded the collapse of the USSR. Sakharov was freed in 1986, the year the USSR collapsed and Lagacé draws a parallel with Badawi, whose blogs during the Arab Spring were seen as a direct challenge to the authority of the most authoritarian of the Gulf petro-dictatorships.
Sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes in 50-blow instalments, Badawi is on a hunger strike in a Saudi prison. Although the lashings have been suspended after the first 50 nearly killed him, he is said to be in failing health. The Swiss claim they have been told he’ll be pardoned and released, but none of this has been confirmed. (The Canadian mission in the Saudi capital isn’t known for its agressivity in advocating for Canadians who have run afoul of Saudi law.)
Saudi Arabia is a black hole, I can’t understand why we treat these people with respect, ‘we’ being the Western world. Here is a violent dictatorship which tolerates almost no political dissent, which condemns to death the softest critics of Islam. – La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé
Look in vain for harsh criticism of Saudi Arabia from Canadian, French, American and British leaders, Lagacé continues, because Sunni Saudi Arabia is a trusted ally against Shiite Iran — even if they are a violent dictatorship.
Lagacé quotes Algerian writer Kamel Daoud, who published a damning Nov. 20 think piece in the New York Times. In it, Daoud describes Saudi Arabia as an Islamic State which has succeeded, a nation which exports the wahhabist brand of radical Islam which fuels God’s fools from Syria to the streets of Paris. The West supports Saudi Arabia at its peril, Daoud continues, because it’s a trap. The Saudis export fundamentalist Islam and its tenets — subjugation of women, hatred of infidels and savage justice — via a vast state-supported propaganda industry throughout the Muslim world. Daoud wonders which is more schizophrenic — the Saudis for their condolences at the Charlie Hebdo massacres or the Western world for believing them.
Lagacé concludes: Raif Badawi is important because his fate helps us understand the true face of this false Saudi friend, the great exporter of of the radical islamic sickness. No matter that the Saudi dissident isn’t a Quebecker or a Canadian; he’s the icon in the struggle for human solidarity in the face of evil.