Maajid Nawaaz talks about the flogged Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his jailed lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair (video)

Maajid Nawaaz talks about the flogged Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his jailed lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair.

IHEU: “call it what it is — Saudi Arabia’s flogging of Raif Badawi is barbarity and torture, plain and simple”

From the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU):

It is reported that officials have carried out the first 50 lashes of a 1000-lashes sentence against Saudi liberal, Raif Badawi. The charges related to his running of a Liberal Saudi website, focused on advocating greater religious freedom, which was deemed “insulting to Islam” and a threat to the state.

The order papers indicated that the lashings should be “severe”. Witnesses said that despite the severity of the beating today, Raif Badawi “did not flinch; he held the victory symbol and [a] guard had to hold his hand down“.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has consistently protested the prosecution and detention of Raif Badawi, and today unreservedly condemns the punishment. (See also our recent call to action page.)

Director of Communications at IHEU, Bob Churchill, said:

“We bitterly regret and weep for the violence against Raif Badawi.

“Only yesterday it was reported that Saudi Arabia condemned the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and yet the authorities choose this week to brutalize a young man because he had the audacity to stand up and say that his countrymen should have greater liberty. The Saudi state’s condemnation of terror in Paris is hypocrisy of the highest order.

“Around the world for many months, human rights groups have been calling for reprieve, for justice. Saudi’s Western allies have largely held their tongues, calling widely for a pardon only at the eleventh hour. They failed him. We must, all together, call it what is is —Saudi Arabia’s flogging of Raif Badawi is barbarity and torture, plain and simple.

“Raif Badawi was whipped in front of a mosque in public after Friday prayers. Not only is the sentence savage, and an absolute violation of human rights and dignity, but its execution is designed for maximum humiliation, for vengeance. It is a naked attempt to intimidate all those who question authority into silence.

“King Abdullah has branded liberal values and atheist thought as acts of ‘terror’. The reality is abundantly clear today: Through corporal and capital punishment against all those branded “dissidents”, it is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself that acts as a terrorist. To all those who call for freedom of thought and expression, the state of Saudi Arabia is terrorist, no less than the murderers of journalists in Paris.

“Our thoughts and deeds today are focused on Raif, on his family and young children, and on his lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair who is likewise jailed merely for his defence of human rights.”

Saudi Arabia was criticised by IHEU and many others in the past year for new “terror” regulations, which labelled the advocacy of liberal values or of “atheist thought in any form” as acts of “terrorism” against the state. Executions have been on the rise and the judiciary appears to have been increasingly keen to recent months to harshly punish anyone branded a “dissident”.

As the attack on Charlie Hebdo has proved this week, images can be powerful…

News for October

Chris Smith writes: After the business of the AGM, SHG member Geoff Berriman presented “Torture for Humanists”.

Although Geoff agreed that torture is invariably wrong when it is used because of someone’s beliefs, or to change a person’s belief, he challenged our facile acceptance of the assertion that torture is always wrong.

He proposed that if torture is used to get information from a criminal – and then eases the suffering of a victim (and the victim’s friends and family) – it is justified.  The human rights of the victim are more important than those of the criminal.  Geoff gave provisos such as confidence in the guilt of the (so far un-convicted) villain and the example known as The Frankfurt Kidnapping was described to support this view.  In that case the threat of professionals being brought in to administer extreme pain led the person who had collected the ransom money to reveal where the kidnapped boy was held.  Sadly the boy was already dead, asphyxiated by tape over his mouth and nose.  It is not known whether the death had been intended or was incidental to an intention to keep him quiet.  The family had the small consolation of being able to have a funeral for the boy.  Unlike some of the families of the victims of “Moors Murderer” Ian Brady.

After consideration (and speaking only for myself) I recall that hard cases make bad law, think that arguing back from an outcome which may have been quite different weakens an argument, and that torture is always wrong.

Thanks to Geoff for making us think around this very difficult topic.

Our next meeting is 15 November, 0730 at the Lantern.  Steve Hurd will tell us about developments of the Uganda Humanists Schools Trust.  The committee proposes that we will make a collection for the Trust during the meeting.  I can personally confirm that it is a very appropriate and relevant charity.

That will also be the last date for booking (and menu choices) for the festive meal at lunchtime on Sunday 16 December, Riverside Inn, Cound.

SACRE representative’s report

Chris reported that the relatively new Telford and Wrekin SACRE met in September, previously it was a joint SACRE with Shropshire.  They want Humanism included in the next agreed syllabus; as soon as possible they want some “core Humanist beliefs” for a one page document summarising main religions/belief systems.  SMSC was mentioned as being important, Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural education; this seems to be the fashion rather than straight RE.

In addition the SACRE is developing a Beacon award to schools attaining certain standards for RE. They have included the Humanist logo, along with the usual religious one, on the award. Successful schools would hold the award for two years initially and would include the award on letterheads so it would have wide distribution.  In addition at June’s meeting Linda Senior, of Ludlow and Marches Humanists, attended the SACRE meeting on Chris’s behalf.  They both went to the September meeting and that seems to have been acceptable.  A more active SACRE will need more people to go into schools etc.  This is amazing progress after years of stagnation and frustration!  Both Chris and Linda will go to the BHA SACRE reps meeting in November.

Programme of meetings and socials for 2012

Meetings are on Thursdays at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG. All are welcome.

Note that Shropshire has the Darwin Festival in February and members of Shropshire Humanist Group are attending events during that time (see the News pages).

15 March

“Christian Zionism”, a talk by Hilda Reilly.

19 April

“A right to object? Conscientious objection and religious conviction”. Helen Taylor will lead a discussion  on this recent publication from the Humanist Philosophers’ Group.

17 May

Scientology, a Humanist Cult? Birmingham Humanist group chair, Adrian Bailey, on his experience of Scientology.

21 June

A talk by David Brittain, UK Armed Forces Humanist Association Chaplain.

July

A weekend walk and pub lunch.

20 September

Simon Nightingale will tell us why he is happy.

18 October

AGM followed by a led discussion “Torture for Humanists”.

15 November

Steve Hurd, chair of the Uganda Humanist Schools’ Trust, will give us the latest news from Uganda.

December

A festive meal.

If you have any suggestions for next year’s programme Chris Smith will be very pleased to receive them.
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