• Sheikh Ahmed Bin Baz is the son of the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and he has been saying some interesting things for someone with a famous lastname. Saudi Gazette profiles the young upstart scholar.
  • A Saudi embraces Islam. Seriously. He says his American mom, whom he has been living with for the past 23 years, did not mind because he is an adult and can do whatever he wants. Now imagine if it was the other way around. Would his Saudi father accept his son’s decision to become Christian? Hmmm… UPDATE: here’s the story in English from Saudi Gazette.
  • The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice detained two males and three females on charges of “khulwa.” How come?! They are five people! How in hell they were in “khulwa”? Somebody stops these morons before people start shooting them.

Excuse You?

The cartoon in my previous post from al-Riyadh daily has apparently caused some controversy and attracted many angry comments from their readers who thought the cartoonist has crossed a red line. Today the newspaper published an apology, and said the cartoon did not attempt to mock the religious police. “We would like to stress that the point of the cartoon are those who invade people’s privacy and question their behavior without a justification in a conservative society,” the paper added.

Invade people’s privacy and question their behavior without a justification in a conservative society? I’m sorry, but isn’t that what the religious police exactly do? Hmmm…

Rights Bodies Appeal for Two Saudis

Human Rights Watch has urged courts in Jeddah to dismiss a case against Rai’f Badawi, founder of Saudi Liberals forums. On May 5, the prosecutor charged Badawi with “setting up an electronic site that insults Islam,” and referred the case to court, asking for a five-year prison sentence and a 3 million riyal fine.

Badawi no longer owns or controls the website. After unknown hackers, who probably think they were doing some sort of electronic jihad, attacked the website several times and threatened him and his family, he sold the website and fled the country two weeks ago. A new owner announced a while ago that he took over the website, which has been offline for more than a week now.

It is understood that Badawi will be tried according to the E-Crimes Act that has been issued in March 2007. The act, which can be found here (Arabic PDF), contains some laws that seem to target free speech such as Article 6 which incriminates “producing content which violates general order, religious values, public morals or sanctity of private life, or preparing it, or sending it, or storing it via the network or a computer.”

The questions is: who defines and specifies what are those religious values and what are those public morals? I don’t know if this act has been approved by the Shoura Council or not, because I think it is unacceptable for the Council to approve such act that contains these vague laws and articles which contradicts international conventions and accords on which Saudi Arabia is a signatory.

amnesty_logo On a related note, Amnesty International are appealing for Muhammad Ali Abu Raziza, a psychology professor at the University of Um al-Qura, who has been sentenced to 150 lashes and eight months’ imprisonment for meeting a woman in a coffee shop. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this case and the reports on it in the local press has been full of contradictions. Therefor, I can’t make up my mind on who is at fault here.

However, I think the Commission should seriously reconsider how to define and deal with this whole “khulwa” thing. When a man and a woman meet in a public place like a cafe, a restaurant, or in the street where they are surrounded by people and others can see them, does it constitute a khulwa? I doubt that they will ever think this through but I guess it’s worth asking anyway.