Last week, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy — the deliberate renouncement of Islam. Human rights advocates across the world rallied to his cause and as Aaron Sankin reported, "Fayadh's fate quickly became a cause célèbre on social media, with a litany of Twitter users gathering around the hashtag #FreeAshraf to protest his death sentence.”
Under the Wahhabi interpretation — an austere, literalist, sect of Islam associated with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the Saud royal family — such crimes as blasphemy and apostasy are punishable by death.
Fayadh’s case is not an isolated one. Liberal author Raif Badawi was publicly flogged in January 2015 and remains in prison after being convicted of blasphemy. There was, at the time, an international outcry as many decried the juxtaposition of such a penalty with international conceptions of human rights, freedom of conscience and speech, and the value of religious pluralism.
While there are grave reasons to challenge the decisions of the Saudi courts to condemn these men, there is a concomitant danger with condemning an entire religion or casting dispersion toward Muslims for such stats and scenarios. Furthermore, the numbers can be misleading. There are, I think, five points to keep in mind when considering such stories before coming to any clear conclusions: