Saudi Arabia’s Rulers Have Cautiously Opened the Door to Liberalization. They Should Keep Pushing

Over the past two years, the Saudi government has curbed the power of the clerical police and eased some religious restrictions, most notably by extending to women the right to drive cars. Ensaf Haidar—whose husband Raif has been imprisoned and publicly lashed for propagating liberal ideas on his blog—hopes that such reforms will be followed by a more liberal attitude toward dissent:

Manal al-Sharif and Loujain al-Hathloul, two renowned activists, became the public face of a campaign [to legalize driving for women]. Sharif spent nine days in detention for posting a video of herself driving; Hathloul spent 73 days in prison after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates in 2014. . . .

[D]emanding greater social and political rights has often exacted a severe cost on Saudi activists and intellectuals. I know this from experience. My husband, Raif Badawi, a blogger and activist, was a harsh critic of Saudi Arabia’s clerical establishment. . . .

On June 17, 2012, Raif was detained on charges that included apostasy, cybercrime, and disobeying his father. . . . In May 2014, Raif was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, and fined a million Saudi Arabian riyal for creating an online forum for public debate and “insulting” Islam. On January 9, 2015, Raif was struck with 50 lashes in a public square in Jeddah, but the lashing was stopped on medical advice. He remains in prison. Only a pardon from King Salman can get him released.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, [the force behind recent reforms], has the opportunity to rewrite Saudi history and bring freedom and openness to our country. He could start a process of national reconciliation by reconsidering the cases and imprisonment of prisoners of conscience like my husband. By securing their freedom, Prince Mohammed would give us hope and make our country a place exiles would prefer to return to and participate in building our collective future.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Arab democracy, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University