By S. Mubashir Noor –
Contrary to popular belief, religious repression is not exclusive to Muslim states. France’s ban on the hijab is no less a violation of their much-touted free speech
Raif Badawi is the latest cause célèbre for Western self-righteousness. The 31-year old secularist Saudi writer and blogger was recently sentenced to 1000 lashes for flouting the Kingdom’s laws. Predictably, the enlightened Occident is framing this as yet another example of Islam’s ‘draconian’ tendencies towards free speech.
His official charge-sheet reads insulting Islam and disobeying his father, both criminal offenses in Saudi Arabia. This man is not a victim of misplaced Muslim verve, as the West would have us believe. He is the citizen of a sovereign nation with a body of laws to enforce.
Mr. Badawi broke the law, however archaic or comical it may seem to others, and faces the consequences. When NATO can rationalize waging a distant war in the name of homeland security, why demonize a Saudi government simply trying to keep its writ intact?
Appeasing Western opinion is futile anyways. That goalpost keeps changing places on agenda whims. Their concept of free-speech is a mutual admiration society. It is multi-lingual for so long as you nod your head to their ideas.
The moment doubt creeps in, accusatory finger wagging ensues. At that point its open season on typecasting. The culprits are then exiled to the economic badlands. French-Arab marginalization followed a similar trajectory.
Mr. Badawi is the latest member of the hit-and-run martyrs club. As in hit a raw nerve, then run screaming bloody murder. A perfect recipe for instant fame, as club dignitaries Salman Rushdie and Tehmina Nasreen can attest.
A born and bred Saudi national, he should’ve known how this episode would play out. The Kingdom is ruthless on dissidents, rigorously conservative, and with enough petrodollar clout to wave away unwelcome foreign interference. The UN Charter Article 2 (1) gives them this right to sovereign equality.
Assuming the country got under his skin, Mr. Badawi was free to leave. He is not on any exit control lists, and the West champions Muslim contrarians. Political asylum would have guaranteed him a bullhorn without censorship, and an audience of eager Islamophobes. His wife has done just that, fleeing to Canada with their children fearing persecution.
Contrary to popular belief, religious repression is not exclusive to Muslim states. France’s ban on the hijab is no less a violation of their much-touted free speech. The premise of the veil being an affront to the country’s secular values highlight the outsider status borne by its 5 million strong Muslim minority. Their cultural footprint insignificantly brushed aside.
Jerry Coyne, writing about the Charlie Hebdo killings in the New Republic, argues “The religious motivation directly contradicts the many apologists who blame Islamic terrorism on the West as a reaction by the oppressed to colonialism”. He in unable to make two connections.
Firstly, the volatility of Muslim emotions about anything Islam are the result of a siege mentality. Colonial looting and plundering scarred the land, enslavement of their way of life scarred the soul. A bullet wounds quickly but takes forever to heal.
Beaten down and unable to fight back, the Muslim psyche dove deeper into religious introspection to avoid a complete meltdown. Naturally this long-serving defense mechanism, when challenged, elicits a disproportionate response. Sometimes of the militant kind.
Secondly, emotional intelligence is a higher brain function. It is carefully curated over time and experiences. Fight or flight is a ‘reaction’, part of the primitive human brain. Labeling Muslim indignation at disparaging Islam a knee-jerk reaction is lazy. Behind this seemingly blind adherence to faith is a thought pathway formed out of necessity and self-preservation.
The Saudi King, under international pressure, has now intervened to delay the second round of Badawi’s punishment on health grounds. His case has been referred to the Supreme Court, with the likelihood of concessions.
Western observers and commentators, including Amnesty International, had another field day condemning Islamic barbarism. While flogging is inhuman, Abu Ghraib and water-boarding, among other torturous means, are kosher in the name of national security.
The recurrent theme is the Muslim world can do no right, and vice versa. This subliminal caste system in the wake of the New World Order is making Muslims antsy everywhere. If not managed, a holy war may very well become real.