The Saudis at the UN Human Rights Council
"My husband has been languishing in a Saudi prison since June 17th, 2012. Our children live with me in the city of Sherbrooke, Québec in Canada. They have not seen their father for five years now... On January 9, 2015, Raif received the first 50 lashes... Will members of the United Nations Human Rights Council join the European Parliament and ask for Raif's release?"Unfortunately, the UN members did not respond to this appeal by Ensaf Haidar, the fearless wife of the most famous blogger of the Arab world, the gentle Raif Badawi, imprisoned and flogged by the Saudis for his secular ideas. A few days after Ensaf's appeal, the United Nations welcomed Badawi's executioners, the Saudis, at the UN Human Rights Council. The Saudi representative, Abdulaziz Alwasil, will be decisive on three major issues at the UN Palace of Nations in Geneva: women, religious freedom and the system of justice.
What a great achievement for Saudi Arabia: The country flogs poets and bloggers, and its sheikhs have no other concern than filling their sumptuous palaces with wives and concubines, and then stoning them to death if they become "adulterous". Saudi Arabia is where a Shiite cleric was publicly beheaded and where a Christian cannot wear a tunic or a cross.
The British government supported the Saudi bid to be re-elected at the Human Rights Council (British Prime Minister Theresa May was urged in vain to oppose the Saudi election to the Geneva body). The Obama Administration did the same: Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador at the UN, called the Saudi bid at the UN a "procedural position".
Hillel Neuer, the director of UN Watch, captured the difference between realpolitik and the betrayal of Western values when he said: "Making an alliance with Stalin to stop Hitler is one thing; it's quite another to say Stalin is a champion of human rights".
A few days after the Saudi bid at the UN Human Rights Council, the Kingdom and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights held a two-day workshop in the Saudi capital to discuss the "evolution of the concept of human rights in the framework of international and regional human rights systems". Evolution of the concept human rights? Ask Raif Badawi, he knows better than the UN bureaucrats.
The Saudis use these international seats to advance their oppressive agenda, and to press the Western democracies to punish criticism of Islam. The Saudis, in fact, considered curbing trade with the Netherlands over Geert Wilders, who has just been found guilty in a court in The Hague for "inciting discrimination and insulting a minority group". By asking at a public rally if people wanted "fewer Moroccans" in the Netherlands, Wilders was publicly declaring his alarm over the exploding crime rate by Moroccan Muslims in the country.
Through this shameful trial, the Dutch authorities sent a message of surrender to the Saudis and other rogue Islamic regimes which punish dissent. Did the Dutch prosecute Wilders on behalf of the Saudis, who threatened to impose sanctions on the Netherlands? It was reported that the Council of Saudi Chambers received a letter from higher Saudi authorities urging it not to involve Dutch companies in local projects either directly or indirectly.
The Saudis, through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), have been pivotal in advancing the non-binding U.N. Resolution 62/154, "Combating defamation of religions", which extends protection to opinions and to ideas, and grants people immunity from being "offended".
This is exactly what happened with Wilders: he was on trial for stating his opinion, that there should be "fewer Moroccans" in the Netherlands. Some people said they were offended by that. Oddly, however, no one appears to have been offended by much worse remarks, said by politicians from the "Left":
While the medieval Saudi system of justice was flogging the gentle blogger Raif Badawi 50 out of 1000 lashes, a delegation of UN bureaucrats landed in Jeddah to promote an international conference on religious freedom. No, it is not a joke. Joachim Rücker, President of the UN Human Rights Council, was photographed smiling side by side with the Wahhabi Islamic guardians. The Obama Administration sent two envoys to the Saudi conference, the ambassador for religious freedom, David Saperstein, and Arsalan Suleman, an envoy at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Also attending was Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special envoy for religious freedom, a noted scholar of Immanuel Kant (how did the Enlightenment collapse so far, so fast?).
Women, Christians, secular bloggers, Western "blasphemers", brave Dutch MPs: be warned! The muttawayyin, the Saudi religious police patrolling the Kingdom's streets to ensure respect for the Koran, are already in Europe's streets. Just ask France's satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
A few days after 12 people were butchered at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, as well as four Jews at a grocery store, Saudi officials were allowed to march in Paris along with the terrorists' victims and world leaders. And the Saudis had just flogged a blogger for "blasphemy". Will Geert Wilders be next? Sharia courts are already fully operating in the Netherlands. They know something about "human rights": stoning, flogging and chopping off heads.
But who will rescue our right to speak?
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.