Palestinian blogger Waleed al-Husseini (below) was arrested in 2010 for his website and Facebook page, both of which were critical of Islam. He spent 10 months in prison for his thought crimes. Now, in a piece at The Daily Beast, he tells his story and makes a plea to the international community:
I was beaten by prison guards who demanded to know who had made me write against Islam. In their minds, I could only say these things as the result of some plot, some conspiracy. The idea that I might simply want to express my independent thoughts was alien to them.
I still do not feel safe. If I cannot stay here, and if I am not protected, then there’s a chance the Palestinian Authority will arrest me again. That is my fear. I want to be active, but safety is my priority.
My hope is that the international community cares for those like me who are persecuted simply for speaking their minds, to stand against the laws in any country which limits basic freedoms of thought and expression. We are human, and freedom means living our lives without hurting others. Sadly, laws throughout the Middle East — from North Africa to the Gulf — limit the rights of religious minorities and non-believers.
I wish there was something more tangible we could do for him, but for now, just sharing his story — and those of people like him — will make a big difference. al-Husseini currently lives in Paris, where he can write about religion without direct fear of being labeled a criminal for it, but he hasn’t been granted asylum yet. That means his safety is still in flux.