While waiting for news from France I wrote an email to the ambassador of Saudi Arabia about the punishment of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
Dear Mr. Al-Shagroud,
Today I learned about the cruel flogging of Raif Badawi for creating an online forum for public debate and on accusations that he insulted the Islam. I find it incredible that this punishment takes place only two days after the massacre in France. The assailants there were angry at the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo for the same “offences”.
Saudi Arabia could be the shining light of how an Islamic country can be a forward thinking country. The establishment of the King Abdul University, with its mixed-gender campus, indicated to me that Saudi Arabia is slowly but surely changing for the better. I heard positive stories about the university and even looked for jobs there. I’m glad I didn’t find any.
Instead of being a shining light Saudi Arabia is, like the gunmen in Paris, cowardly punishing people who disagree with it. By doing this your country is doing all peaceful and well-meaning Muslims a disservice. While the actions of three gunmen can be seen as an exception and un-Islamic, this can not be said about the actions of a large and influential Islamic country. With its actions your country is fuelling the prejudice that Islam equals barbarism and intolerance.
No matter how much effort is put into making King Abdul University a success and a poster child for a more progressive Saudi Arabia, as long as it keeps punishing critics it will be seen as a backward country.
Stop flogging critics. Stop flogging Raif Badawi.
Dr Robbert Bloem
CC: president of KAUST