Free speech: Saudi Arabia arrests man who filmed public beheading and Ireland’s dream
Saudi Arabia is an ally of the UK, the country whose leaders cry “Je Suis Charlie”.
Is Saudi Arabia a dangerous place? No. So long as you stop thinking, it’s fine. The Foreign Offices advises travellers:
There is a heightened threat from terrorism….
Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in patients from Saudi Arabia continue to be reported to the World Health Organization. For the latest information and advice, see the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
The British Embassy receives regular requests for help from pilgrims performing Hajj or Umrah, particularly in relation to disputes and dissatisfaction with tour operators. The Saudi Ministry of Health has advised certain groups of people to postpone undertaking the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in 2014 in light of the MERS virus cases. It has also provided advice for those that are undertaking the pilgrimage to minimise the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. See Pilgrimage and the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s Advice for pilgrims: Hajj and Umrah.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.
The big threats are from foreign agents of terror, MERS and a lack of travel insurance. And:
You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend…
So. What news of Saudi Arabia?
A Saudi Arabian policeman who secretly filmed the beheading of a woman in Mecca last week has been arrested as the kingdom made it a criminal offence to damage its reputation. The video footage of a Burmese woman being executed in the street as she screamed her innocence sparked international outrage when it was leaked online last week. The unnamed policeman has now been charged with breaching privacy and cybercrime, according to local media…
The beheading of Layla bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim added to the uproar about the public flogging of Raif Badawi, the young blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” by setting up a liberal website.
Whose doing the thinking?
Abdulaziz al-Khudairi, the culture and information minister, said yesterday that new regulations for the press and social media were being prepared to penalise anyone “giving exposure to rumours or a bad image of Saudi Arabia”.
Mr al-Khudairi added: “The media standards in the kingdom must meet with the requirements of our religion, which prohibits assaults on the rights of individuals and societies.”
And if you missed this:
The Saudi government’s obsession with the criminalization of the dark arts reached a new level in 2009, when it created and formalized a special “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” to educate the public about the evils of sorcery, investigate alleged witches, neutralize their cursed paraphernalia, and disarm their spells. Saudi citizens are also urged to use a hotline on the CPVPV website to report any magical misdeeds to local officials…
In the 2006 case of Fawza Falih, who was sentenced to death on charges of “‘witchcraft, recourse to jinn, and slaughter’ of animals,” she was provided no opportunity to question the testimonies of her witnesses, was barred from the room when “evidence” was presented, and her legal representation was not permitted to enter court. After appeals by Human Rights Watch, her execution was delayed, but she died in prison as a result of poor health.
At least the West is a big fan of free speech. Well, not unless you consider Ireland and Canada enlightened:
Blasphemy laws are harshest and most common in the Muslim world, but aren’t exclusive to it. In the wake of Pussy Riot’s church performance, Russia’s parliament passed a new law mandating jail terms for insults to religion. Nearly a quarter of the world’s countries have blasphemy laws on their books, according to Pew, and one out of 10 bans apostasy. The Charlie Hebdo killings have already prompted some Western governments, notably Ireland andCanada, to announce that they will reconsider the blasphemy laws on their books. But in much of the world, governments, not terrorists, will continue to be the biggest threat to freedom of and from religion.
So. Free speech. No buts. We’re agreed, right?