The Slatest

Major U.S. Ally in War Against Islamic Extremism Sentences Poet to Death for Insulting Islam

One sentiment that’s been in the air in the United States since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris is that the urgency of defeating an enemy as dangerous as ISIS might justify alliances with countries that we would otherwise not want to cooperate with, like Russia. On Friday, a Guardian story out of the Middle East underlines the absurd contradictions that can arise from such geopolitically expedient partnerships: Saudi Arabia, the U.S.’s ostensible ally against violent Islamic extremists, has sentenced a poet to death for allegedly insulting Islam:

A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Fayadh, 35, a key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014.

But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried last month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.

Fayadh is accused of promoting atheism and blasphemy through his poems; he has said he is a faithful Muslim and that his writing is not blasphemous. A British artist told the Guardian that Fayadh is “not an atheist,” and the paper says that some believe he is being retaliated against by authorities because he once posted a video of religious police whipping a man.