#JeSuisCharlie became one of the most popular hashtags in Twitter's short history, according to The Telegraph.
In the past days, photographs were released of the murder scene at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
|Charlie Hebdo offices murder scene. Image Source: Mirror.|
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - 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.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi's spouse, was devastated after learning the flogging had gone ahead, a person close to the family told The Canadian Press.
Haidar was so distraught she couldn't send her kids to school in Quebec, where she is currently living with them, the person said in an email exchange.
She fled to Egypt in April 2012 with their two daughters, Najwa and Miryam, and son, Tirad, according to Amnesty International Canada spokeswoman Anne Sainte-Marie. The family moved to Quebec in November 2013.
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 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.
These acts of censorship are broadly theatrical (as are others). They seek to enforce surreal new boundaries of a community using brute force and fear. These were town-style enforcement performances, projected on a global scale. Like the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the murder of Theo van Gogh, and the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack particularly presented the world with a grim future plan for society. And, MI5 states, more attacks are to follow.
Before the murders, the last Charlie Hebdo cover featured French novelist Michel Houellebecq. Houellebecq's latest book predicts a future arch-Islamic France and was released on 7 January 2015.
The most recent Charlie Hebdo cartoon before terrorists murdered the newspaper's main staff - poked fun at a novel about a future radically Islamic France, written by novelist Michel Houellebecq: In 2015 I lose my teeth. In 2022, I celebrate Ramadan. Image Source: Gulf News.
Caption for the above image from Reason.com: "On the day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the magazine's cover featured a caricature of controversial French author and provocateur Michel Houellebecq sporting a wizard's hat. 'Predictions of the seer Houellebecq,' reads the cover copy. The Houellebecq cartoon offers a pair of predictions: 'In 2015, I'll lose my teeth,' and, 'In 2022, I'll observe Ramadan.'
What's going on? Houellebecq's new novel, Soumission (Submission) is set in a near-future France ruled by a Muslim political party. Scheduled to be published in France on Wednesday [7 January 2015], it had already inspired some highly charged controversy over whether its message—and its author—was Islamophobic. According to Laurent Joffrin, the editor in chief of the leftist paper Liberation, the book's publication 'will mark the date in history when the ideas of the far-right made a grand return to serious French literature.' (Joffrin refers to Houellebecq as 'serious' because he is the winner of several French literary awards.)" [See the Guardian's review of Soumission here. It is available on Amazon here.]
When it comes to tyranny, you don't need to fear jihadists to fear the future. Globalization, combined with communications innovations, created vast new potentials for authoritarian power and profit. The Internet could become the skeleton of a totalitarian superstate or superstates. It is not a question of fearing only jihadists. It is a question of fearing the potential for tyranny everywhere, whether it comes from extreme traditionalists, from radical progressives, or from the middle of the road.
The Web could still remain a seat of freedom. But from the point of view of future authoritarians, initial freedoms on the Internet gave anyone online enough rope with which to hang themselves. Everything you write on the Internet, reacting in the now, can be dredged up and used to judge you later.