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Saudi Blogger Flogged 50 Times For Criticizing Muttawa

This man, a father of three, had the nerve to criticize the arbitrary morality police in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t criticizing Islam; he was criticizing the ignorance and irregular actions of the muttawa. When flogged, he did not make a peep. Another blow to freedom of speech.

From AP, via AOL News:

Witness: Convicted Saudi blogger flogged in public 50 times
AYA BATRAWYJan 9th 2015 2:08PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.

The witness said Raif Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.

Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals or about $266,600.

Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticize the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.

London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. Saudi Arabia’s close ally, the United States, had called on authorities to cancel the punishment.

Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque. His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.

The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.

Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. He used the blog to criticize the kingdom’s influential clerics who follow a strict and ultraconservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.

He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.

Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.

According to Amnesty, the charges against Badawi mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website. He was also accused in court of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s morality police.

In a statement after the flogging, Amnesty called the flogging a “vicious act of cruelty” and said that Badawi’s “only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has called the punishment an “inhumane” response to someone exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion.
In New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters on Friday that the U.N. human rights office was “very concerned about the flogging” and that it has previously raised concerns about harsh sentences in Saudi Arabia for human rights defenders.
___
Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations.

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January 9, 2015 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

Hummus Opens in Pensacola

One of the reasons we loved moving to Pensacola way back was the Mediterranean restaurant at the corner of Cervantes and Perry – long gone, and now the new addition to AK Suter Elementary School – and the we were delighted when we found it again over at the corner of 9th and Creighton, as Mediterranean Plus. The food was so good, so authentic, and every time our old Middle East hands would come into town, it’s where we would go for a nostalgic evening. We were desolate when Mediterranean Plus disappeared.

In December, as we drove down 9th from Cordova Mall toward Pensacola, we saw a sign saying “Hummus” and we checked it out. They were still renovating and getting ready for a grand opening. A week ago, our son called and said he had been there, it was open, and it was almost the same menu as Mediterranean Plus.

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00HummusExterior

We went there as soon as we could. In a small strip mall with a gas station, under a red awning, Hummus is open. When you walk in, it is clean and bright, there are Middle East products on several tall white shelves, and a display case full of fabulous desserts – at reasonable prices. Three kinds of baklava! Kanafi! While they have a loyal support base among the local Muslims, the head waiter was quick to tell us that the specialities are truly Mediterranean, and that a local Jewish rabbi is one of their favorite patrons, too.

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The dining room is serene in a Celadon green with framed botanical prints of palm trees, very quiet, very restrained, very welcoming.

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Before we ordered our meals, we ordered mint tea, and when it arrived, it came with honey, a full pot of very hot water, which was generously refilled:

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We started with falafel, perfectly delicious, home-made falafel.

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I ordered the Chicken Curry Soup; AdventureMan ordered the Red Lentil Soup. He has always loved that soup, and greeted it with the delight you would greet an old friend.

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I ordered my old favorite, the vegetable mezze for my main course, and AdventureMan ordered Chicken Shwarma. Total YUMMMM.

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There was so much food. We packed up about half to take home, but could not resist finishing our mint tea with two of the pistachio baklava. It was the perfect ending for a wonderful celebration, the opening of a restaurant we can bring our friends to for long nostalgic Middle Eastern dinners in Pensacola.

Look for the signs along the road:

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Hummus Restaurant (FaceBook)
3012 N 9th Ave
Pensacola, Florida

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Jordan, Living Conditions, Restaurant | , , , , , | Leave a comment