Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Saudi Arabia has condemned Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh to death, charging that, as an apostate, he has insulted Islam, the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines (the Saudi monarchy) and the Wahhabi sect. Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi tenets have been stirring fanatical religious fervor from as far away as Bangladesh, across North and central Africa, and into central Asia and the Caucasus.
In 2013 Ashraf Fayadh co-curated the internationally celebrated Venice Biennale art show to much acclaim. And since that time he has been active in the British-Saudi art organization Edge of Arabia, an enterprise that is attempting to create a Saudi national art scene. Complaints based on a book of poetry by Fayadh were lodged by a Saudi national, accusing the poet/artist of uttering blasphemous remarks during a café argument. Saudi justice then delivered a four-year prison sentence and 800 lashes on the spurious charge of apostasy. Ashraf denied the charges and appealed his conviction in the Abha court. Abha is located in the ultra-ultra conservative region of the ultraconservative kingdom.
Instead of justice, last week a new panel of judges ordered Fayadh’s execution and gave him thirty days to appeal this absurd conviction. Some of Fayadh’s friends believe that the apostasy charges are a cover for his posting a video which depicts Saudi Arabia’s wild religious-morality police publically lashing a man. The religious police have been known to lash women whose ankles might have exposed even a fraction of a centimeter of flesh not quite shrouded by the burqa.
Halaby, Raouf J. Professor Emeritus, "Time to Speak Out Against Censorship" (2015). Articles. 97.