PHOENIX (May 9, 2014) Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, author of The Battle for the Soul of Islam: a Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save his Faith, released the following statement on behalf of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD):
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has once again proven that the singular greatest threat to its supremacist ideology of political Islam is the dissident voice calling for freedom.”
Last year, Saudi dissident Raif Badawi was sentenced to 600 lashes and 7 years in prison for “insulting Islam” by criticizing clerics in the Kingdom through his website, Free Saudi Liberals. The judge declared that Badawi had set up the website to encourage “liberalism”, and that “liberalism is akin to disbelief.” Badawi vehemently denied the charge that he had “insulted Islam,” and pursued an appeal. Now, a year later, he has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of approximately $267,000.
As AIFD has said before (see our statement on his 2013 conviction), Badawi’s efforts to encourage open dialogue dealing with the role of religion in society and to address the supremacist, misogynistic and dangerous ideology of the clerical establishment bear a similarity to our own work that cannot be ignored. As Muslims who advocate the separation of mosque and state and for freedom of conscience, we stand unequivocally in support of Raif Badawi. We are sharply aware of the fact that we express our views in the safety of the West while he faces a barbaric (and potentially fatal) lashing and imprisonment at the hands of those who call themselves the “guardians of Islam.” While we in the United States are also subject to intimidation tactics by Islamists, we are guaranteed freedom of speech and conscience by the Constitution – a privilege of which we are aware every single day.
Saudi Arabia’s treatment of Raif Badawi is nothing new. In 2008, he was detained on apostasy charges. Apostasy, or leaving Islam, carries an automatic death sentence in Saudi Arabia. He was released after questioning, but since then, Badawi has been repeatedly tormented by Saudi authorities. His lawyer has been arrested and his wife’s parents attempted to have the couple forcibly divorced. This latest sentence is a continuation of Saudi’s efforts to make an example of Badawi and silence other dissidents through fear and intimidation.
Make no mistake. As an American Muslim organization dedicated to reform and modernity, we at AIFD are Raif Badawi! The prisons of Islamist governments from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey and other nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are filled with prisoners of conscience whose voices represent the key to individual freedom across Muslim-majority societies.
AIFD calls on President Barack Obama and his administration to appeal to Saudi authorities on behalf of Raif Badawi. How can the United States maintain ties as an “ally” with a state ready to torture, imprison, and possibly kill a man for the crime of questioning clerics? American values demand that we stand in support of Raif Badawi – firmly, unequivocally, and swiftly. Badawi’s case will have repercussions for the entire Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond.
If Badawi is permitted to languish in prison, is tortured with lashes and crippled with impossibly high fines, or worse yet murdered for asking the very questions and issuing the same challenges we do – the future of Muslim dissidents worldwide looks increasingly bleak. To date, the Obama administration has not taken sides in this battle within the “house of Islam” – and with every resistance to supporting real forces of liberty, more voices are silenced through fear, intimidation, and violence.
About Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser:
Dr. Jasser is the author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith. He is also the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). A former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, Dr. Jasser is a nationally recognized expert on the contest of ideas against political Islam and American Islamist organizations. Dr. Jasser also serves as the Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. He is called upon to regularly brief and testify before the U.S. Congress on the threat of political Islam. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, CNN, CBS, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and BBC in addition to nationally syndicated radio programs. He has spoken at hundreds of national and international events including universities, places of worship, and government venues.
Gordon C. James Public Relations