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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi wins EU’s Sakharov rights prize

BRUSSELS (Reuters)  Saudi blogger Slingshot-art_Badawi-Blogger_020415Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for insulting Islam and for cyber crime, was awarded the European Union’s prize for human rights and freedom of thought on Thursday (Oct. 29).

Badawi received the first of his 50 lashes in January, prompting strong criticism in Western countries of the kingdom’s human rights record, including its restrictive laws on political and religious expression and the status of Saudi women.

This month in London, he was given the International Writer of Courage award and was co-recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in London on Monday (Oct. 26) threatened “potentially serious repercussions” for its ties with Britain unless a more respectful discourse developed.

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British lawmaker Syed Kamall, a member of the European assembly who nominated Badawi for the EU prize, said, “Saudi Arabia can lock up the man and they can lash him, but they will only strengthen amongst his countrymen the yearning for free speech and debate that he stands for.”

A Jeddah court handed Badawi his sentence in 2012 after he criticized the Saudi clergy in a blog and called for changes in the way religion is practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, which follows the strict Wahhabi form of Islam, does not permit the public worship of other faiths or allow them to maintain places of worship inside the country. In a new law last year, it included atheism as a terrorist offense.

Named in honor of Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, Badawi’s latest prize has been awarded by the European Parliament annually since 1988. The first recipients were Nelson Mandela and Russian author and dissident Anatoly Marchenko.

( Reporting by Robin Emmott and Julia Fioretti.)


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  • As my fellow RNS commenter and social justice ally George Nixon Shuler has written, “Despite their numerous shortcomings, the Saudis possess a sense of honor the religious right never has.”

    Raif Badawi committed a crime by punching down against the marginalized and othered faith of Islam, and now he is paying the consequences for that crime. Do the crime, do the time. That is the honorable way of the Saudis. He does not deserve an award, but leave it to the West to reward Islamophobia.

  • Ayesha, I am pretty sure you are a Poe Troll. So I won’t bother dignifying your responses except to say you are grossly misquoting and mischaracterizing poster George Nixon Shuler. I feel compelled to speak up on his behalf.

    The Sakharov Prize is one of those awards whose recipients actively avoid the conditions which make one eligible for it. 🙂

    Take note American Christian Fundamentalists, this is what real religious persecution looks like.

  • Are you saying that atheists and secularists should try to have people flogged or that they should submit to flogging? You are very unclear here.

    On an aside, when people attack secularism, what they are declaring is “I support sectarian discrimination by government as long as its in favor of my religion”. People who attack atheists are declaring that all people must believe as they do, otherwise they are somehow evil.

    Now you weren’t trying to do any of those, right? 🙂

  • As opposed to having the government secular LIKE THE UNITED STATES.

    Secularism done right is the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state. Ideas enshrined in our 1st Amendment. Something you have obvious contempt for.

    Secularism is not atheism. In fact it was conceived by religious folk who were tired of being the subject of official sectarian discrimination by those who entangled religion and state. Your ignorance on the subject is duly noted.

    You are so far removed from reality that you equate atheism with people who created religious-like personality cults. Akin to saying all religious believers are like Hitler and ISIS. Communist dictators are secular as theocratic ones, not at all. It is an often used argument which merely displays the dishonesty and ignorance of those using it.