A couple of weeks ago Saudi Arabian Raif Badawi suffered the first 50 of 1,000 lashes for the crime of starting a blogging site which called for open debate on the interpretations of the Islam. His unjust punishment has been reason for me to read bits and pieces of both religious scriptures and more skeptical literature. I have been feeling rather fortunate to have the right to read whatever I please on this topic. The basis of the more skeptical readings – which are slightly outdated but relevant – included the books of ‘The Four Horsemen” [Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennet and Harris] on “new-atheism”:
“The end of Faith”(2004), by Sam Harris
“Breaking the Spell”(2006), by Daniel C. Dennett
“The God Delusion”(2006), by Richard Dawkins
“God is not great”(2007), by Christopher Hitchens
After publishing their books they discussed the critiques (positive and negative) they had received on their books:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was supposed to attend this meeting, however she was forced to cancel last minute. Hirsi Ali is is a Somali-born American activist, writer, and politician who collaborated with Theo van Gogh on the making of a short movie; Submission (2004). Critical of Islam, it provoked controversy, and death threats were made against both. Van Gogh was assassinated later that year. The short movie was shocking, however it shocks me more to hear about death (threats) in a country like The Netherlands, where there is supposed to be freedom of expression.
Other incidents followed in Paris more recently. The Charlie Hebdo magazine became the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and in 2015, presumably in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it had published.
The Saudi Arabian authorities have claimed that they condemn the terrorist attack on freedom of expression in Paris. We should however not forget that the punishment in Saudi Arabia for an individual who chooses to renounce their Islamic faith – the “crime” of apostasy – is beheading. In Badawi’s case, he will be lashed every week for the following 20 weeks. Along with this he has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined the equivalent of $266,000 by the Saudi Arabian government.