With Friends Like These

Ophelia Benson

The new year got off to a shatteringly horrible start with the massacre at Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, January 7. Only two days later, after Friday prayers, the liberal blogger Raif Badawi was given fifty blows with a stick on his naked back in front of the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The two events are not radically different. Both were violent and brutal; both were in revenge for perceived outrages against religion; both were aimed at dissident intellectuals; both were done in the name of Allah. The flogging in Jeddah had a veneer of legality, but only according to theocratic laws that violate several clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The flogging in Jeddah didn’t kill its target outright, but it could have.

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