From the land of Raif Badawi comes more evidence — as if we needed it — of the dangers of renouncing/denouncing religion.
An Islamic court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to death for renouncing his Muslim faith, the English-language daily Saudi Gazette reported on Tuesday. The man, in his 20s, posted an online video ripping up a copy of Islam’s holy book, the Koran, and hitting it with a shoe, the newspaper reported.
In Arab culture, the shoe is seen as dirty because it touches the ground and covers the lowest part of the body. Hitting someone or something with a shoe shows that the target is considered as low as dirt.
The Saudi Gazette did not identify the condemned man, but quoted a sheikh at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Abdullah Al-Enizi, as saying
“Cursing the Prophet and the Qur’an is a form of conversion that must be dealt with accordingly through the courts.”
Under the Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia Islamic law, apostasy demands the death penalty, as do some other religious offenses like sorcery, while blasphemy and criticism of senior Muslim clerics have incurred jail terms and corporal punishment. …
International rights groups say the Saudi justice system suffers from a lack of transparency and due process, that defendants are often denied basic rights such as legal representation and that sentencing can be arbitrary. The Saudi government has taken some steps to reform its judicial system but has also defended it as fair.
The news of the verdict comes on the same day as the announcement by the British government that it will raise the subject of Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human-rights record, including the treatment of Badawi, during a visit by deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
P.S.: Today I learned that after the Saudi executioner decapitates the convict, the severed head is sewn back onto the body for burial. (Imagine having either job.) In some cases, burial is postponed until everyone has had a good chance to gawp at the corpse. In 2011, the body of an executed Indonesian immigrant worker was reportedly hung from a Saudi helicopter for display.
P.P.S.: That convict was a maid, by the way. Foreign maids can undergo quite the ordeal in Saudi Arabia, according to Basharat Peer in the New Yorker (caution, graphic and upsetting descriptions ahead):
Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa … was a twenty-three-year-old Indonesian maid who had been hospitalized in the Saudi city of Medina in November of 2010, after her employer had cut off her lips with scissors, burnt her back with an iron, pulped her legs with beatings, and broken a finger. Mustapa, who had been working in Medina for four months when she was hospitalized, told Indonesian diplomats that her employers had been beating her from the first day of work.
Days after her ordeal, Saudi employers murdered another Indonesian maid, the thirty-six-year-old Kikim Komalasari, whose body had been dumped in a garbage bin. Muhaimin Iskandar, the Indonesian Minister of Labour, told Al Jazeera that Komalasari’s neck had been slashed and she had severe cuts to the rest of her body.
In yet another incident in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, a forty-nine-year-old Sri Lankan maid named Lahadapurage Daneris Ariyawathie had nails and metal objects hammered into her by her employers … after she complained of being overworked.
Such abuse is not an aberration, but is widespread throughout Saudi Arabia as well as other Middle Eastern countries. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report, “As If I Am Not Human,” based on extensive interviews with domestic workers in Saudi Arabia as well as in their home countries, described conditions amounting to modern-day slavery.
No death penalties were meted out to these vilest of torturers; after all, nothing they did is as bad as hitting a book with a shoe.
(Image via Shutterstock)