Sunday, January 25, 2015

The silence of Muslim organizations about Raif Badawi

Muslim organizations around the world were quick to condemn the Jan. 7 Islamist massacre in Paris triggered by cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad. That was fine. It was maybe not so fine that the very statements of condemnation often included also a remark how one must not offend religion, but... let's not be so demanding.

At the same time, there was another major event related to Islam and freedom of speech: imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged for "insulting Islam", though he had never published any offensive cartoon.

Though the story never made breaking news, it led to worldwide indignation, vigils in front of Saudi embassies and, among other things, a letter by no less than 18 Nobel Laureates.

While many ordinary Muslims expressed their support to Badawi and protested against his treatment, the attitude of Muslim organizations can be described only as deafening silence. I've found statements by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and by the Muslims for Progressive Values (the latter dating back from 2013) and that was all. Our Grand Mufti condemned the Paris attacks (with a remark in passing that free speech is "not for defamation of religious sacredness") but didn't take stance about the Saudi blogger.

Of course, I am likely to have omitted several voices, but others have also mentioned the trend. A commenter from Canada says, "Raif Badawi is abandoned by Muslims in Canada . His wife and three children live in Quebec, Canada. Where are the Muslim Association of Quebec and Canada to vigorously defend Raif Badawi on behalf of their alleged Islam of love and tolerance? Where are the Imams of Quebec and Canada to proclaim loudly that they reject torture, amputations and medieval practices of Saudi Arabia and the Sharia?"

I don't wish to discuss the possible reasons for this silence, but I remember that in the Cold War era, the Communist parties in Western countries also preferred to keep silence about human rights abuses in the Soviet Union and the entire Eastern bloc.

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