Aug. 7, 2018
Following Saudi Arabia’s arrest of two more women’s rights activists, as part of the government’s crackdown on dissidents, Canada responded by demanding the release of the women and accusing Saudi Arabia of human rights violations. Well-known activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada were among those arrested. Samar is the sister of Raif Badawi, a humanitarian writer and dissident who was “flogged in public 50 times in January. He has 950 lashes and nearly a decade in prison left to serve – simply for blogging about free speech.”
Canada’s rebuke and demands drew the ire of the Saudis, followed by a swift, wrathful response: the Saudis expelled Canadian ambassador, Dennis Horak, froze all trade, announced the withdrawal of all Saudi-sponsored students at Canadian universities, colleges and other schools, and suspended all flights by Saudi Arabian Airlines. Yet Canada stood strong in the face of Saudi accusations. Its display of strength is admirable, as women are being thrown in jail in Saudi Arabia for standing up for their rights. Women are also forced to live under the degrading guardianship system, under which they must seek permission from a male, be it husband, father, brother, son, uncle, to make basic decisions in their lives.
But have the full implications of its actions occurred to the Liberal government of Canada: that it has in fact interfered in the internal business of an Islamic state, run under Islamic law? Could this possibly mean that the government of Canada now intends to stand unabashedly and impartially against the broad range of human rights abuses committed in the name of Islam, such as blasphemy laws, restrictions on free speech, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, black slavery and the like? Hardly, but Trudeau’s government has stuck its neck out, sending the message that it intends to hold to its commitment to defend human rights in Saudi Arabia.