Britain’s Prince Charles will intervene in the case of a jailed Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and urge Saudi Arabia’s new king to halt the punishment, the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported.
Charles embarked on a six-day tour of the Middle East this weekend beginning in Jordan and is expected to also visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. His office is not commenting on his exact agenda and the content of any meetings until they are underway.
Protector of Faiths
The heir to the British throne, who is on a trip to the region, told the BBC that the plight of Christians persecuted by Islamic extremists was “a most agonizing situation,” though it was important to remember they were just one persecuted minority among many around the world.
“But at the same time I fear that the problems in the Middle East are not going to go away immediately,” the prince said in a pre-recorded interview with “The Sunday Hour” radio program. “And so there is a danger that there is going to be very, very few left.”
He appealed for more work to build bridges between religions.
If he succeeds his mother Queen Elizabeth II as monarch, Charles will become temporal head of the Church of England and take the title “Defender of the Faith.” He said that although the title refers to the Anglican faith, he believed the role involved protecting others’ freedom to worship.
“It always seems to me that while at the same time being Defender of the Faith you can also be protector of faiths,” he said.
Intervention in Saudi Arabia
But the Mail on Sunday, without citing sources, said the heir to the British throne would intervene in the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was arrested in June 2012 for offences including insulting Islam, cyber crime and disobeying his father, which is a crime in Saudi Arabia.
It cited unnamed British diplomatic sources as saying the intervention might carry more clout given his royal status.
Badawi was sentenced last year to 10 years in jail, a fine, and the flogging. Before he set off, Amnesty International urged Charles to seize the opportunity of his visit for “a frank discussion of human rights.”
Fear of Radical Muslims in the UK
Separately, in an interview recorded before he departed and broadcast on Sunday, Charles spoke of his alarm at the number of young British Muslims being radicalized, suggesting they should respect British values.
The heir to the throne also voiced concern about Christians fleeing the Middle East in droves, saying the situation might end with very few left in the cradle of the religion.
In a BBC radio interview, Charles said radicalization was “one of the greatest worries” and the issue could not be simply “swept under the carpet.
“It’s the extent which this is happening is the alarming part,” the 66-year-old said.
Speaking of “the values we hold dear”, Charles said: “You’d think that the people who have come here, born here, go to school here would abide by those values and outlooks.
“But, the frightening part is that people can be so radicalized either through contact with somebody else or through the Internet and the extraordinary amount of crazy stuff which is on the Internet.”
British authorities say around 600 Britons have traveled to Syria or Iraq, where Islamic State militants have seized swathes of territory, and that about half of them have returned home, raising fears of a possible attack on British soil.