Saudi human rights activist Ensaf Haidar wrote in a Sept. 13 Jerusalem Post column that she was raised to hate Jews, but now she hopes to expunge anti-Semitism from the world.
Haidar stated in her column, “We were taught in the Arab world that the Holocaust was just a big lie. It was only when we grew up and opened ourselves to the world of ideas and humanity that we discovered Jews are in fact human beings, and good people, too.”
She then explained that the Saudi government arrested her husband, Raif Badawi, in 2012 after he was critical of the regime, sentencing him the following year to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
“His indictment says he was guilty of ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘producing what would disturb public order, religious values and morals,’” Haidar wrote. “His real crime, in fact, can be summarized in one sentence: He believed in his fundamental right to express his opinion.”
She added that Badawi believes that Saudi Arabia and the Middle East as a whole should embrace a society “based on acceptance, respect and mutual understanding,” putting him at odds with the Saudi monarchy.
“Central to this vision is the recognition that Jews are not our enemies,” Haidar wrote, adding that “our enemy is the tyranny of religious extremism that insists on hating Jews, and deems them our eternal enemies. Our enemies are the political systems that discriminate against their citizens or violate their human rights.”
Haidar concluded her column with optimism that the world can be changed so long as human rights everywhere are upheld, which involves going after the global rise in anti-Semitism.
“We all have a responsibility to stand firmly against anti-Semitism and denial of the Holocaust,” Haidar wrote. “Since childhood, we grew up on hatred of Jews and taught to curse them. We have to insist on repudiating this message and work actively to eliminate them.”
Badawi ran a website called Saudi Arabia Liberals, where he wrote myriad critiques of the Saudi government, including denouncing the Saudis’ treatment of women in public and that the regime is “backward thinking.” He also condemned Hamas for promoting a “culture of ignorance and death.”
After Badawi was imprisoned, Haidar and her three children sought refuge in Canada, where they have resided since October 2013.