A Saudi blogger has just received the first 50 of 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” He’s got 950 lashes and ten years of prison to go.
That’s the sentence the Saudis imposed on Raif Badawi last May for criticizing clerics. His blog is shuttered and — because 10,000 lashes and ten years behind bars just isn’t enough — Badawi (pictured with his children) must also pay a cleric-criticizing fee of a million riyals ($266,600). He was spared execution.
The motive for the sadism? Critics of the royal family say that if you do anything to possibly undermine the country’s religious establishment, you’re also threatening Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, of which recently deceased King Abdullah (ruler since 2005) was one member. And the government is ruthless about protecting its turf.
For controversial reasons, our own government thinks it’s important to maintain a strong alliance with Saudi Arabia’s. Even if that dubious proposition were correct, to cooperate on specific questions of foreign policy and to especially sanction the shapers of such a regime are two very different things. Yet with flabbergasting obtuseness, the U.S. military has just announced its sponsorship of an essay competition “in honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz” (who was alive in May). (Yes, seriously.)
The contest is a fitting tribute to the now-defunct monarch, according to General Martin Dempsey; it’s an “important opportunity to honor” his memory while also encouraging scholarly research, all at the same time.
Think it through, General.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.