Inayat Bunglawala, chief spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, has left the following statement on the Guardian's "Comment is Free" website:
This is a revolting case and unfortunately there are several like these that occur every year. The Saudi regime is a truly awful one. I hope that the Saudi citizens are able to overthrow their extraordinarily corrupt royal family and usher in a more democratic and honest form of government. It is a shame that the US/UK governments prefer to support dictators rather than democratic forces in many Muslim countries.
I hope this statement receives the wide publicity it deserves. And I hope it is treated as an official statement of the MCB, which until now has been deathly silent of the fate of the unnamed Saudi rape victim threatened with being flogged. No news yet on their website, however.
There's actually an opportunity here for British Islam. The Saudi case plays into all the negative stereotypes about Islam: the barbarism of its legal codes, its obsession with female "virtue" which frequently seems to override humanity, the tendency of Muslims to criticise everyone else but never themselves. A high-profile campaign to overturn the sentence by the MCB or other, more representative, Muslim organisations (do any exist) would not only help to isolate the Saudi regime internationally, it would do much to boost the religion's public image. It might even undo some of the damage done by MCB chairman Abdul ("it depends on the stoning") Bari in his recent ill-advised interview.
It might also help to dispel lingering suspicions that the MCB and major British mosques are somehow in hock to the Saudi Wahhabite fanatics who have given them so much money.
Muslim groups are good at organising demos, we all know that. If someone's drawn a cartoon featuring their beloved prophet, or written a book, or put out a film they don't like, there's never any difficulty rustling up an angry mob complete with slogans, placards and a TV crew. A group of Bunglawala's boys outside the Saudi embassy calling for justice for this woman shouldn't be too much of a stretch. They could even persuade Salman Rushdie to join in: that would make a few headlines.