politics

By Madawi al-Rasheed, London School of Economics and Political Science

Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger and the founder of an online liberal debating forum has become the most recent victim of the unjust Saudi justice system and the contradictions, one might say hypocrisy, of the Saudi monarchy.

In May 2014 Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes to be administered 50 at a time. The first 50 were administered on January 9. Just 24 hours later a Saudi delegation joined the march in the Place de la Republique in Paris in support of freedom of speech following the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Badawi’s was sentenced for allegedly insulting religion on his censored liberal forum, which Saudi commentators, both anonymous and identified used as a forum for discussion, short commentaries – and mostly rants – about the strict religious controls over their personal freedoms, the assault on their human rights and restrictions on freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi’s blog hosted campaigns to support introducing a legal age for marriage (especially for girls) and campaigns in favour of allowing women to drive, while there was also much discussion of sexual harassment cases and abuse in public spaces were often discussed. It was anything but one-sided: both advocates and opponents of Islam and Islamic law frequently voiced opposing opinions.

On more than one occasion, the blog has been used as a satirical platform to ridicule strange fatwas and religious opinions from famous Saudi scholars – for example the opinion that driving is detrimental to women’s ovaries.



A Saudi delegation joined world leaders marching against terrorism in Paris.
Philippe Wojazer/EPA

Religious police

One of the main concern of the site’s users has been the so-called “religious police” – the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. These government-appointed moral vigilantes parade the streets in luxurious white four-wheel drives in search of immorality, enforcing gender separation laws, making sure that all shops are closed during prayer times and that men and women dress modestly at all times (not to mention tracking down illicit brewing or consumption of alcohol and, of course, prostitution).

There seems to be no end to the number of ways one can fall foul of the religious police – the number and range of offences is constantly expanding, and now includes tweeting “subversive” and politically challenging statements, communicating with foreign media and making un-authorised visits to embassies in Riyadh among many other “offences”.

Personal freedoms

Although Badawi’s blog carries the name “liberal”, one must not jump to conclusions. This is not liberalism as it is historically understood in the West – you won’t find any calls for revolutionary political change in favour of representative government or elections. He has been mainly concerned with the denial of personal freedoms and the excess of religious interventions by government and Saudi Arabia’s over-privileged clergy.

For example Badawi once praised a member of the royal family – who was governor of Mecca at the time – as enlightened because of his calls for restricting the power of the religious police and in favour of allowing women to drive. Of course, it didn’t stop his arrest and imprisonment.



In Saudi Arabia, a secular society is too much to ask for.
Paiko9, CC BY-SA

In the eyes of the Saudi judiciary, Badawi’s main crime is to call for the separation of religion and state, a kind of secularism that he admires in other countries and believes to be the only solution to protect freedoms in Saudi Arabia.

But Badawi’s quest for secularism got him in trouble with the Wahhabi conservative constituency in Saudi Arabia, which controls the judiciary. As preachers and judges, they have a monopoly over interpreting Islam and passing arbitrary sentences. The sharia (Islamic law) has yet to be codified in Saudi Arabia and its application is subject to the opinion of judges who do not accept the pluralism of Islamic jurisprudence or a diversity of legal interpretations.

A worrying precedent

It must be said that the 1,000 lashes included along with Badawi’s ten-year jail sentence are so unusual and have no precedence in the Islamic tradition – previously the number of lashes has never exceeded 100. So it must a vindictive judge who settled on this excessive number.

Given that Saudi judges are appointed by the Ministry of Interior – which is also responsible for security and anti-terrorism efforts, they have become the arm of this ministry that wants to silence dissent, stifle human right activists and criminalise any activity that challenges the absolute monarchy.

The regime appeases those important judges by allowing them a free hand when dealing with cases of religious dissent. They surely do not want to see Badawi’s dream of secularism come true – this would mean they would lose their privileges and control over society.

Unfortunately, Badawi’s case may have set a precedent for the handing down of harsh sentences for prisoners of conscience. The Saudi regime remains immune from international pressure, as its allies – mainly Western governments – are afraid to rock the boat with their loyal friends in Riyadh.



Bosom buddies.
Alastair Grant/EPA

This is, of course, simply realpolitik on the part of the West; Saudi Arabia still controls huge quantities of oil and is a good business partner. There is never any concern about unpleasantness or corruption scandals erupting. In the past, investigations of corruption, for example the infamous al-Yamama arms deal between Saudi Arabia and BAE were halted by Tony Blair when the UK’s Serious Fraud Office was about to expose dodgy bribes paid to Saudi princes to secure the deal.

Human rights in Saudi Arabia is truly not on the foreign policy agenda of most Western governments.

Divine law?



Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is recovering in hospital.
Ali Haider/EPA

Raif’s ordeal can only be stopped by royal decree. But with the ageing king still in hospital recovering from pneumonia, the Saudi royal family busily trying to sort out, in secret, the vexed issue of the succession – and terrorism raging to the north and south of the country in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the blogger is unfortunately left without support or hope.

There are thousands of prisoners of conscience in a country like Saudi Arabia who may linger in prison for decades, suffering torture such as lashing and flogging. Their cases are kept alive by international human rights organisations but are greeted with a deafening silence by the rest of the world.

The Saudis can no longer hide behind their claim that they are simply abiding by divine law and applying sharia on earth. They must be told that their interpretations of the law fall short of the aspirations of many Muslims. Someone must point out to them that religious texts may be revered and considered sacred, but religious scholars who claim to act on behalf of god are not.

Badawi is innocent as he has not committed a crime even within a narrow interpretation of Islamic law. This punishment is an abomination and the international community must do all it can to bring pressure on its Saudi ally to stop it. But don’t hold your breath.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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EDITED 13/10 – I was asked rather nicely to take these images (and the post, but that’s not happening) down by a member of the birthday party Jeff was with last night. Since I don’t feel like too much hassle I’ll run with it – but I think whoever posted the pics originally will realise that the photos are all on Twitter and Facebook anyways.
“I was apart of the group that celebrated Jeff McCloy’s birthday last night. The cake was an innocent joke and should never have been posted online. We would greatly appreciate it if you deleted the images and posts from your blog.” – Nice enough.

So, last night the Twitters were all a flutter with some pictures of Jeff McCloy with a birthday cake making light of the brown paper bags of cash he supposedly handed over to politicians and so forth, as came to light in ICAC earlier this year.

Photos removed, but I’m sure you can find them if you like.

RE-EDITED 13/10
Oh look, NBN posted them, and The Herald

Can I put them back in the post now?

Jeff McCloy and his cake

Jeff Moneybags McCloy's Cake

Of course he didn’t know about the cake before he had it in front of him, and it was just an unfortunate joke, but social media is unforgiving when a city has been burned.

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On My Mind

June 28, 2014 · 2 comments


(a soundtrack to this post…..)

In no particular order, other than the tabs open in my browser…..

  • Why do we care about Peter Greste and co’s ridiculous trial an imprisonment? Well, let’s see, if a white Aussie male can’t get justice, who can in this world? (or the Egyptian world anyway). In six months, the current regime will be the terrorists. Not saying the Muslim Brotherhood aint, I just know that in a world of suss elections and coups, the hero becomes the villain quickly. Especially when there is a silence put on freedom of press and information neither getting to the people of that country or the outside world. Peter Greste being imprisoned is not just about a few journalists being in jail, it’s about all the abhorrent things that a government or military can do when there is no-one there to report on it.
  • 152 people are on a boat in distress nearing Christmas Island. Maritime code would say if anyone is nearby, you suck up the day or so out of your schedule and you pick these poor people up and feed them til you hit the next port. But that isn’t how it works once Australia is involved, hey Tampa crew? No, we figure that since they made it all the way from their persecution in Sri Lanka or India to “our” waters, clearly we can push back that boat. You know, because a 50/50 chance of torture is still good odds once they make it back.
    Fifty percent chance of torture.
  • I used to have issues when the cops were called to assist with “behaviour management” at a special high school I visited….. no wonder these children were terrified enough to run away after their classmates go taken to immigration detention. These kids watch the news, they know the next step is offshore processing or self-immolation. I’d hide too.
  • Franz Ferdinand married for love. So cool. Here’s a lemon that looks like a hand from one of their palaces in Vienna….
    Freaky Citrus!!!
  • Six months without income is insane.
  • There better not be a wine shortage in Newcastle after this truck fire on the M1 today!

What’s on your mind today?

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Where IS the problem?

June 4, 2014

I know I’ve managed to keep this place politics-free for a little while.

But this budget just keeps grinding away at me.

Where is the ENCOURAGEMENT to be a better person, a better nation? To support one-another (students, those fresh out of uni, the shot- and longer-term unemployed, people with disabilities, families, the older people who’ve give so damn much to society) to better ourselves individually? Where’s the carrot? It’s all stick.

How does a grown adult whose managed to complete Uni, but finds themselves in the THIRTY percent of graduates who can’t get a full time job in 4 months of finishing uni support themselves when their benefits get cut off the second they walk off campus?

How does a woman ever pay off her “HECS” once it starts accruing interest if she’s lucky enough to have a baby or two?
(sokay, it might be fine once she dies and those kids have to pay it [yeah out of date, but I wouldn’t put it past them!!])

How does someone who lives off casual wage – enough to pay rent and so on, enough to not consistently qualify for benefits or a concession card, but never enough for the unexpected, pay the $7 GP fee, plus the extra for prescriptions, as well as take time off from work because they’re sick? I’ve been a casual worker, and not just in hospitality, in a professional role as a speech pathologist, and weighing up whether to go in sick or not is an added stress I really don’t like dealing with.

Oh yeah, those of you who had a Costelllo baby. You know, one fore dad, one for mum, one for the country, and liked that Costello and Howard flicked you some money to help you out? Yeah, not this decade. Sorry guys, you get to pay the way for those over 6ers yourself. You know, if mum can find a 9:30 to 2:30 job somewhere so all the money she earns doesn’t go on daycare.

Or maybe you were relying on the NDIS to have continued funding so your job that your preciously state-funded job might still exist into the future? (add to that Gonksi, or secular “chaplains”)

What else?

Oh there’s a billion things, like cutting legal aid for vulnerable kids, women, indigenous people and refugees…. or deregulation of universities, or the constant reassessment if people on disability support

I could go on.

But I’m tired.

And really, where IS the problem?

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If anyone was to kick off the republican debate, it was surely to be because of a move from Tony Abbott…. in this case, bringing back knighthoods!

While I know it is a step back in time, sometimes we need them. To make people think. To make people realise what an outdated institution the British monarchy is, and our part of it being even more backwards!

So, bring back the titles I say.

They will help rouse the awareness of the country…

To how backward we really are.

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LNP miniters

*sigh*

Instead I’ll listen to new music from a talented Kiwi.

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Abbott doing a Bradbury

I can’t say I particularly like any politicians. And given both the Liberals and Labor are content being boring and not actually having policies aside from “the other people suck”, I’m sure that come September 14, I’ll be there deciding who to put last on my ballot paper, ahead of the Christian Democrats or whatever party Pauline Hanson has conjured up this year.

That being said, I can’t vote for Tony Abbott. Seriously, who can? My best case scenario for this election, since I don’t see Labor getting it together by then :/, will be Abbott losing his seat, and someone else, like Turnbull or Hockey (for amusement value at least) being out next prime minister. Until the coalition then crumbles under similar circumstances to Labor.

In the meantime, The Australian Sex Party and the Greens will be getting my senate votes and first preferences at the local level.

At least Katter isn’t in NSW?
(or maybe he should be, then he wouldn’t be elected)

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Yes, we have policies. If you wanna know more, hit me up for a temporary tattoo (yes, WHEREVER you want) between 9:30 and 12:30 at the Newtown Festival today.

See you there?

xx

1352457874491

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Anyone BUT Abbott

October 6, 2012 · 1 comment

I NEED this tshirt.

It started in 2010. The bickering, the snide comments, the sniping, the petty tit for tat. It is the kindergarten of Australia’s federal parliament, it is a pathetic excuse for informed debate, and it is our sad political reality. With broken promises and a haphazard approach to policy development, Labor has lost the confidence of the Australian public and they will almost certainly lose the next federal election. Attention shifts to the government that we are likely to get: the Liberal National Coalition.

Many are happy to give them another shot at leadership. On current polling they attract almost half of Australia’s primary vote, and they lead by over 10% on two party preferred. But despite these strong numbers, the current leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, is the leader of choice of around only one in four people. The Coalition appears to be popular in spite of Abbott rather than because of him.

There is good leadership potential in the Coalition. And then there is Tony Abbott.

Abbott is good at whipping up anti-Labor sentiment, getting the shock jocks on side. But when we look beyond his time- wasting censure motions and his opposition to any and all policies put up before the parliament, there is no vision, no strong policy of his own.

Tony Abbott is great at opposition. However, there is a big difference between adopting a small target, campaign of constant negativity and having the policies and strength of character to effectively unify and deliver prosperity to a nation after a period of prolonged divisiveness.

We want to end the negativity, the divisiveness, the unstatesmanlike behaviour, the cynicism. Rather than accepting Prime Minister Abbott come 2013, we suggest an alternative option: a Coalition government, minus Tony Abbott. The best way of achieving our goal is to ensure that Tony Abbott does not win his seat in the 2013 Federal Election.This responsibility rests solely with the people of Warringah.

The Anyone But Abbott campaign seeks to elect a strong, independent candidate into the local area. Someone who will put the needs of the electorate above the needs of a party. Someone who will finally take a proactive, policy-centric approach to the issues that are important to the local area: public transport, health services, over-development, education, roads and security.

This will enable to the Liberal Party to choose a less polarising leader and put this sad chapter in Australian politics behind us.

This goal is achievable. The success of our campaign ultimately comes down to the voters in the seat of Warringah on polling day. We will create the momentum, pressure and support. We will put up a quality candidate who will convince 25,000 locals to change their vote. If Maxine McKew could unseat Prime Minister John Howard in 2007, we can unseat Opposition naysayer Tony Abbott in 2013.

But first, we need a hero. A Warringah local with vision, intellect, integrity and strength of character. Someone who will put Warringah first, to finally ensure it gets the attention it deserves. It is time to shake up the system, to send the message that Warringah is not just a blue ribbon seat the Coalition can neglect.

It is a critical time for the nation. Between the global economic turmoil, erosion of traditional industry strongholds and badly ageing infrastructure, Australia is at a social and economic crossroads. Warringah needs the best leader we can find. Warringah and Australia needs an alternative to Abbott.

www.anyonebutabbott.com.au
#AnyonebutAbbott
#wecandobetter

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Phone Skin :)

September 8, 2012 · 1 comment

Just put this gorgeous goth girl on my Galaxy Note (which now had icecream sandwich!)

Beats thinking about Tony Abbott :/

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