Only this past Friday, there came the announcement that the remainder of Raif Badawi’s flogging for insulting Islam would be postponed. Only 50 lashes into his 1,000 lash sentence, the blogger had not yet healed from the first administration, and therefore the next round of flogging would wait. Now, a professor at Princeton University, along with six colleagues, says he’s offering to share in Badawi’s flogging if the punishment can’t simply be stopped altogether.
According to the LA Times, Badawi was initially jailed in 2012, charged with apostasy. The charges were reduced to insulting Islam and violation of information technology laws. He was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison, and 1,000 lashes. This was all for Badawi’s blog, in which he discussed whether Islam and liberalism could co-exist, and spoke about Saudi government as well as allowing critical posts by others.
The flogging was to be carried out over the course of 20 weeks, 50 lashes per session. It began as planned, on Friday January 9. However, the next installment of Badawi’s flogging was postponed when a doctor stated that the injuries from the first flogging were not yet healed.
Throughout this, advocates have spoken out; U.S. Senators, Amnesty International, and various religious, secular, and human rights groups have spoken out.
Now, however, a group is actually offering to take Raif Badawi’s flogging for him — or at least a portion of it.
Professor Robert P. George is the vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and according to the Christian Post, he has contacted the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., speaking in Badawi’s defense.
He’s asking for the Saudi Government to simply cancel the punishment, which he says is further exposed as a brutal and inhumane act by the fact of medical need for postponement. But if they refuse, he says, he and seven of his colleagues are offering to each take 100 lashes of Badawi’s flogging, to reduce the load on Badawi himself, and to express compassion and solidarity.
Compassion, a virtue honored in Islam as well as in Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, is defined as ‘suffering with another.’ We are persons of different faiths, yet we are united in a sense of obligation to condemn and resist injustice and to suffer with its victims, if need be. We therefore make the following request. If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him. We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured. If your government does not see fit to stop this from happening, we are prepared to present ourselves to receive our share of Mr. Badawi’s unjust punishment.
He noted that the group making the stand are of diverse political stances and religious backgrounds: “The seven of us include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews, and a Muslim.”
The Christian Post names the others who are offering to stand for Badawi:
Mary Ann Glendon, member of the Board, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Daniel Mark assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Villanova University; Hannah Rosenthal, CEO, Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Eric Schwartz, dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and Katrina Lantos Swett, president of Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice.
All seven say they are willing to make a stand for religious freedom, and the freedom to question religion, and are calling on the Saudi government to put a stop to Raif Badawi’s flogging — not a pause, not a week off, not a little more time to heal, but a stop altogether. If that isn’t an option, they say they’re each willing to stand by Raif, and take a share of the lashes.