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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

Freedom of Speech: Je Suis Charlie

In our country, in the West, open discussion is a part of life. Your point of view may be ignorant, or repugnant to me, but I will defend to the death your right to express your opinion. One of the great weapons of freedom of speech is humor. It’s hard to maintain a dignified moral high-ground when one of the cartoonists piques with a cartoon showing the emperor has no clothes. Or at least the emperor has flaws, as do we all.

 

Pensacola is blessed with such an editorial cartoonist, Andy Marlette. Andy Marlette is controversial, and in a state with lax gun laws and pistol-packin-mamas, he risks his life daily, skewering the pomposity of us all. Occasionally, he is outrageous. Occasionally, he is offensive. That’s OK. If an editorial cartoonist isn’t skewering someone, or all of us at once, he isn’t doing his job. His job is to elicit discussion.

 

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I have lived for so long in Moslem world that I take a risk now, offending my Moslem friends, by printing the cartoon of Mohammed weeping. It’s the cartoon that touched me to the bone. I have listened and learned in the Moslem world, and I have never met with hatred. The Mohammed I have read about in the Qu’ran and in hadith, and heard about in legend and stories from my Moslem friends portrayed a prophet who, like Jesus, was all about loving and serving the one true God. He would weep at what has been done in his name, as Jesus weeps for us, when we kill others in his service.

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January 8, 2015 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Humor, Interconnected, Kuwait, Language, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | , , , | 2 Comments

Pensacola Tough @ Grafitti Bridge

00GrafittiBridge

 

On my way home from a great Algerian pastry treat at SoGourmet, I passed Grafitti Bridge. Grafitti Bridge is one of Pensacola’s quirks. Every month – sometimes every week, even sometimes daily – the bridge is repainted. Sometimes it is that BubbleGum pink of Breast Cancer Awareness, with names of the fallen and names of survivors, sometimes it is Gay Pride, sometimes it is who loves who, or who is a first class jerk, sometimes it is Class of TwoThousandWhatever – it can be whatever someone feels passionate enough about to buy the paint and make it happen. No one gets too bent out of shape about it. Occasionally profanity will show up, but very shortly someone else will spray paint out the offensive word, or, which I love, alter it to have an entirely new meaning.

 

As I drove past today, I saw a lightning storm, well done, I couldn’t imagine how they had captured what it was like seeing so many strikes at once, and then I saw “Pensacola Tough.” By that time, I was through the bridge, so I had to circle and go back. I had to park, and take a closer look. And then I had to photograph it, and post it here.

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Pensacola Tough. Pensacola got an award as the Toughest City in the USA, based on a criteria that measured percentage of felons in the population (it’s OK, it keeps us humble), sports heros, the number of military personnel, violent crime statistics, etc. It isn’t an award cities run for.

And yet, as the raging water abates, tales of heroism and helpfulness abound. While there have been bands of looters at an apartment complex housing the low-income workers in Pensacola, there have also been bands of volunteers scouring the county, helping clean out houses, pull out sodden carpeting, moving soaked furniture to the curbs for pickup, pulling out drywall and ceilings to prevent black mold. In today’s Pensacola News Journal, there is a story of a man who worked just above where the Escambia County Jail exploded and fell through the floor, breaking legs, ribs and assorted bones. He was paralyzed. His co-worker, also hurt, saw him with his head under water and pulled his head out, and held his head out for over an hour while waiting for help to arrive. She got tired, but the alternative was letting him die. She didn’t let go.

Pensacola Tough.

 

“When Things Get Rough . . . We’re Pensacola Tough.

You gotta love this place

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Values, Weather | Leave a comment

Hilarious Pensacola Blog: Dicksblog

Note to my Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabian readers – YES. This is legal. This is what free speech looks like. This anonymous blogger can poke fun – and does – at everyone. He probably will want to remain anonymous because he does not discriminate in who he pokes and won’t have any friends if people figure out who he is, but yes. Yes. YES. This is legal, this is freedom of speech. He won’t go to jail.

Poking fun at appearance-over-substance Mayor Ashton Hayward, who made national news this week as he prayed, and rethought his ban on homeless people using blankets in Pensacola: Dicksblog goes viral:

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February 18, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Marketing, Pensacola, Political Issues, Transparency | Leave a comment

Headlight Flashing to Warn of Police is Free Speech

This is big news for people in my area, because they often flash lights to warn of speed traps ahead.


Warning Drivers Of Speed Traps With Flashing Headlights Is Free Speech
A federal judge in St. Louis has set the benchmark

A federal judge in St. Louis ruled Monday that a driver flashing their lights to warn other drivers of an impending speed trap is protected free speech.

On November 22, 2012 Michael Elli received a ticket for flashing his lights to warn fellow drivers of a speed trap, according to Fox 2. The American Civil Liberties Union helped Elli fight the $1,000 ticket all the way to federal court.

Judge Henry Autrey of St. Louis ruled a driver has the right to flash their lights under the First Amendment. Autrey issued an injunction to stop Ellisville Police from enforcing the policy.

“If you’re at the gas station on the corner and someone says ‘Hey be careful over there, there’s a speed trap,’ that’s protected speech. You can’t be ticketed for that. This is no different,” Tony Rothert, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told Fox 2.

A lawyer for the police in Ellisville said the department isn’t affected by the ruling, as this kind of ticket has only been issued five or so times in the last decade. Across the country, however, the ruling will be considered the benchmark for such cases.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Communication, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Free Speech, Law and Order, Safety, Social Issues | | Leave a comment

Wooo HOOO the New Q8 Books!

Brava! Brava, Fajer! What a great gift to the children and the community, to make Q8Books more accessible and family friendly. Woooo HOOOOO!

Reading and literacy are key to civilization. Brava!

 

From the Kuwait Times:

Kuwait’s community bookshop gets new life

Spooky Books storytime

Finding quality English books in Kuwait is a challenge as any book lover here knows. Local lawyer Fajer Ahmed, 26, recently took up the challenge when she acquired the small but well-loved bookshop, Q8 Books. She moved Q8 Books from downtown Kuwait City into a renovated space in Bayt Lothan, the non-profit arts and culture center located next to Marina Mall in Salmiya. Home to more than 15,000 titles of all genres including literature, general fiction, history, romance, thrillers and mysteries, westerns, classics, cook books, true crime, self help and motivation, family and lifestyle, business and philosophy and arts and crafts, Q8 Books has something to suit every reader’s taste.

By adding sofas, tables, chairs and beanbags, Q8 Books created a cozy, relaxed atmosphere along with free WiFi that invites customers to come and hang out. “We want to encourage reading, writing and communication in Kuwait, “Fajer explained. “As one example, we provide local writers with a place to display and sell their books free of charge, we also do all the administrative work for them.”

A community bookshop
Q8 Books also holds a free weekly story time for children, offers 50% store credit for trade ins, encourages book clubs and other responsible community groups free space to hold meetings and has an outreach project to support a library in Gambia. “We thank Bayt Lothan for giving Q8 Books a home,” Fajer said. “Without them none of this would have been possible.” Q8 Books’ erudite former owner, Jacob, started the bookshop almost a decade ago with only a handful of books. During his travels, he would browse used bookstores and markets to find quality titles that would be appreciated by the book-loving community in Kuwait. Jacob continues to help out at Q8 Books along with a group of dedicated volunteers and support from the Kuwait Writing Club.

Fajer also organizes regular events in order to build Q8 Books as a community space. On the first of November, Q8 Books hosted a Spooky Book night for kids, which included a story telling by local street artist Monstariam dressed in a bunny costume, a crafts and arts table, coloring and glitter, a costume contest and a chance for parents to browse and chat.

Kid and family friendly
“We really enjoyed Spooky Books night,” said Umm Sara, a mother of three children who attended the event all wearing ‘scary’ costumes. “The kids loved the story telling and we got several books. Much better than going to a mall and they got to draw and color and dress up.” The Kuwait Writing Club also took part, judging over 80 submissions for the writing competition. The winning submission will be published in Kuwait Times. “We also had a cover design competition for children to draw covers for the age appropriate horror story, Goosebumps, and every kid that took park received a free book of their choice,” Fajer explained.

Q8 Books will offer monthly events for children and parents with the goal of encouraging reading. “When kids come in playing games on electronic devices, we try to find books with the same characters and get them interested in reading,” Fajer noted. “Welovekuwait.com Children’s Bookshop has also donated coloring and reading books to give for free for every child that walks in.” Q8 Books encourages Kuwait’s community of readers to share their love of reading. They accept donations and offer store credit for traded in books. They also invite anyone to email ask@q8bookstore.com if they are interested in volunteering, donating or just want to talk to someone about suggestions for what to read.

Q8 Books is located in Bayt Lothan, next to Marina Mall. Store Hours: Weekdays 9am- 1pm and 5pm-9pm. Weekends 11am-9pm. Follow them on Instagram @q8bookstore

By Jamie Etheridge

 

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Books, Character, Civility, Community, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Taliban Says Malala ‘Has Done Nothing To Earn Prize’

Mr. Taliban, did you see Jon Stewarts interview with Malala? (See below) All she wants is an education. She wants an education for herself, but also for all children in Pakistan. Your children, too! She wants them to have that opportunity, that’s all. And she has paid the price for her courage speaking out, and she bravely continues to state the obvious – there is nothing in Islam against educating women.

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban Thursday said teenage activist Malala Yousafzai had done “nothing” to deserve a prestigious EU rights award and vowed to try again to kill her.

The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to the 16-year-old, who has become a global ambassador for the right of all children to go to school since surviving a Taliban murder attempt.

Malala survived being shot in the head by a TTP gumnan on October 9 last year and is seen as a leading contender for the Nobel Peace prize, to be announced on Friday.

“She has done nothing. The enemies of Islam are awarding her because she has left Islam and has became secular,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“She is getting awards because she is working against Islam. Her struggle against Islam is the main reason of getting these awards.”

He repeated the TTP’s threat – made numerous times in recent months -try again to kill Malala, “even in America or the UK”.

Malala and moved to Britain in the wake of the shooting for treatment and to continue her education in safety.

Feted by world leaders and celebrities for her courage, Malala has addressed the UN, this week published an autobiography, and could become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate on Friday.

Her autobiography “I am Malala”, written with journalist Christina Lamb, has gone on sale in Pakistan and Shahid warned the Taliban would target bookshops stocking it.

“Malala is the enemy of Islam and Taliban and she wrote this book against Islam and Taliban,” he said. (AFP)

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pakistan, Poetry/Literature, Social Issues, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabian Court Refuses to Charge Saudi Blogger

Raif Badawi: Court refuses to charge Saudi blogger
By Sebastian Usher
Arab affairs editor, BBC News

It is unclear what Mr Badawi’s fate will be now the court has refused to charge him

A court in Saudi Arabia has found that a liberal blogger accused of apostasy has no case to answer.

The court had the power to sentence Raif Badawi to death had it found him guilty.

But it refused to charge him, referring his case back to a lower court.

Mr Badawi, the young co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, was arrested last year and accused of insulting Islam and showing disobedience.

His lawyer, Waleed Abu Alkhair, says he became a target for Saudi authorities after declaring 7 May last year a “day for Saudi liberals” – in order to have more open discussion about social and religious issues.

The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the ‘Like’ button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians”

His wife, Ensaf, has stood by him but told the BBC of the personal cost of the case, with friends and family distancing themselves or even turning against them.

She now lives in Lebanon, but says she has received threatening messages.

“Two or three days after Raif’s hearing, I started to receive phone calls from unknown people, saying ‘we are going to kill your husband’. But I didn’t respond to them.”

This was after a judge in a lower court recommended that Mr Badawi should be tried for apostasy – for which he could have faced the death penalty – if the higher court had backed the charges.

The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.

It is unclear what happens next, but sources close to Mr Badawi say he believes he will now be shuttled between various courts to keep him in prison without attracting the further international criticism that a guilty verdict might bring.

Mr Badawi’s case is not unique. It highlights the constant push and pull between reformist and deeply conservative forces in Saudi Arabia.

A prominent writer, Turki al-Hamad, is currently under a form of house arrest for recent tweets criticising Islamists – he, too, could be charged with apostasy.

Another writer and blogger, Hamza Kashgari, was extradited from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia almost a year ago on similar charges. He has repented in court, but remains in jail.

January 23, 2013 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Malek Jandali Freedom Qashoush Symphony مالك جندلي حرية سيمفونية القاشوش

We have spent many happy hours and days in Syria. We grieve for our Syrian friends, for those living in Homs and Hama, and all those seeking freedom from tyranny.

February 16, 2012 Posted by | Bureaucracy, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues | | Leave a comment

Colorado Student Quits Choir Over Song about Allah

Those who do not know that there is only one God often think Allah is not the same God we worship. Those who do not know the history of Islam do not understand that all our traditions stem from Abraham, and that Islam springs from Hajar, mother of Ishmael. They do not know that the prayers start with “There is no God but Allah” and I am willing to bet that linguistically, Jahweh and Allah are related, too.

The good news is, too, that this is not an official school activity, and the student has the freedom to sing – or not to sing. My bet is that the student is missing out on an interesting opportunity to sing some very different music.

A Colorado high school student says he quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric “there is no truth except Allah” made it into the repertoire.
James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing “Zikr,” a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland’s selection, Harper said, he quit.

“I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. “This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet … I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth.”

But district spokesman Jeff Kirtland defended the decision to include the song.
“Choral music is often devoted to religious themes. … This is not a case where the school is endorsing or promoting any particular religion or other non-educational agenda. The song was chosen because its rhythms and other qualities would provide an opportunity to exhibit the musical talent and skills of the group in competition, not because of its religious message or lyrics,” Kirtland told FoxNews.com in an email while noting that the choir “is a voluntary, after-school activity.”

“Students are not required to participate, and receive no academic credit for doing so,” he said.

At an upcoming concert, the choir is scheduled to sing an Irish folk song and an Christian song titled “Prayer of the Children,” in addition to the song by Rahman.
“The teacher consulted with students and asked each of them to review an online performance of the selection with their parents before making the decision to perform the piece,” Kirtland said, and members who object to the religious content of musical selections aren’t required to sing them.

Rahman, who has sold hundreds of millions of records and is well-known in his homeland, has said the song is not intended for a worship ceremony. He told FoxNews.com in a written statement that the song, composed for the move “Bose, the Forgotten Hero,” is about “self-healing and spirituality.”

“It is unfortunate that the student in Colorado misinterpreted the intention of the song,” Rahman said. “I have long celebrated the commonalities of humanity and try to share and receive things in this way. While I respect his decision for opting out, this incident is an example of why we need further cultural education through music.”
The song is written in Urdu, but one verse translates to “There is no truth except Allah” and “Allah is the only eternal and immortal.” Although the choir sang the original version, Wieland distributed translated lyrics.
Grand Junction High School Principal Jon Bilbo referred questions to Kirtland.
FoxNews.com’s Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this story.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/15/colorado-student-reportedly-quits-choir-over-islamic-song/?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl2%7Csec3_lnk1%26pLid%3D136120#ixzz1mY8TgrxP

February 16, 2012 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Education, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Values | 4 Comments