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Saudi Arabia: Fate of Journalist Hamza Kashgari Hangs in the Balance

Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari set off a social media firestorm last week when he tweeted an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Mohammed.  In his tweets, which have since been deleted, he wrote to the Prophet: “I have loved the rebel in you” but “I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.” He also wrote, “I shall shake [your hand] as equals do … I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

Not long after publishing the tweets, Kashgari began to receive death threats.  His address was posted on a social media site, and clerics began calling for him to be executed, or tried for apostasy.  On February 8, he fled the country, headed for New Zealand…but was caught in transit in Malaysia by local authorities, who detained him; shortly after, news emerged that Saudi Arabia had issued an extradition order.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammudin Hussein was quoted as saying that Malaysia would repatriate Kashgari to Saudi Arabia. A Facebook page in solidarity with Kashgari that emerged mid-week has more than 1,500 members.

As of the time of publication, an interim order had been issued to stop Malaysian authorities from deporting Kashgari:

@FadiahNadwa: Justice Rohana Yusuf jz gave interim order 2stop Govt fr deporting #HamzaKashgari to Saudi Arabia.On our way to serve court order to police.

There were, nonetheless, conflicting reports that Kashgari had been extradited.

A battle of opinions

A battle of opinions is being waged on social networks, with many of Kashgari's fellow Saudi citizens continuing to argue for him to be tried. Their calls seem to be outnumbered by calls from members of the international community, as well as citizens of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, for Malaysia not to extradite Kashgari.

Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran believes that there's more to the case than meets the eye:

While I understand how many Muslims would take offense at anything that touches the prophet, I don’t think it explains the whole story. Yes, many feel strongly about such matters and therefore they reacted accordingly. However, it is clear that many on the right decided to take advantage of the incident to score points and make political gains. It was a low hanging fruit.

While some may perceive religious conservatives defending the Prophet’s honor simply as piety, others say there is more behind it, that this is actually part of a long-term plan.

Mariam, a writer for Arab News, is dismayed by the potential charges:

@onlymytweets: I don't recall an Ayah or Hadith saying God has transferred authority to mankind to judge. Or is it just me? #HamzaKashgari @SalmaanTaseer

Self-described Saudi-American poet Bint Talal has been tweeting her concern for Kashgari's safety. She tweets:

@majda72: I want to go to sleep but I'm consumed with fear for #HamzaKashgari I keep checking twitter & fear the worst.

@RFatani is angered by the reactions on social media, tweeting:

@RFatani: 1000′s of tweeps calling for #HamzaKashgari head to roll! They should be banned from entering countries that have ‘inciting hate’ laws

Writer Khaled Almaeena‘s [ar] tweets expressed the widespread sentiment that the threatened punishments do not fit the crime:

@khaledalmaeena: ان الله غفور رحيم ولو كان حبيبنا سيدنا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم بيننا وسمع اعتداره وشهادته لسامحه ‎#hamzakashgari‏ ‎#saudi‏ ‎#ksa

@khaledalmaeena: God is merciful and if Mohammed (PBUH) were alive he would have heard his apology and forgiven him.”

Among those in Saudi Arabia who were happy to hear that Kashgari might be extradited was @AboTamem, who tweeted:

@AboTamem: @nsurendrann Our brother HAMZA in the way to his home…he is not under your law!! #hamzakashgari

@mkabmr also felt that Kashgari went too far:

@mkambr: Personally anyone who ridiculed prophet Muhammad PBUH is a persona non grata #HamzaKashgari

But @ArabRevolution's tweet was more representative of the general sentiment on Twitter:

@ArabRevolution: Just putting this out there, neither I or millions of other Muslims agree to what Saudi decides to do with #HamzaKashgari #freehamza

  • Pingback: Malaysia deports Saudi journalist for tweeting; faces execution | ZDNet

  • Bashir

    Freedom of speech and expression does not give any individual the right to insult those with whom they disagree. Freedom of expression must be used to protect the moral values of society and respect for people of diverse persuasions or backgrounds.

  • http://www.rainerebert.com Rainer Ebert

    Please sign this petition, ask your friends to sign as well and help save Hamza: https://www.change.org/petitions/king-abdullah-immediately-release-journalist-hamza-kashgari

  • Mohommed Reese

    Ah, now didn’t the Prophet (pbuh) also say that every soul has its own religion ?….

  • Al-Zuhayyan

    Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country that applies Sharia rules and provisions. It must apply the Sharia and render its judgment against those who commit blasphemy against GOD and his prophet Mohammad.

    Any action on this ground is legal.

    Lets look at what the land of the free is doing in the name of democracy and freedom.

    The US continues to detain thousands of innocent Saudi citizens without true due process of law and indicted them on fabricated evidence, because they are people of color and Muslim activists.

    We urge the US President to walk the walk and talk the talk and release these thousands of innocent Saudi citizens, including Turki Al-Hamdan, from the horrible conditions of US prisons.

    The US detention of Turki Al-Hamdan is illegal.

    Give Turki his freedom that he rightfully deserves.

    The US prophesies democracy and breaches freedom around the world (The poor people of color of Third World), while in practice, it grants democracy and freedom only to selected citizens, specifically the WASP ethnicity (White Anglo Saxon Protestants citizens), and those citizens of color are looked upon as sub-humans and granted prisons without due process of law.

    It is an institutionalized racism.

    Yes, the US can do anything in this world, including detaining thousands of Saudi innocent, Muslim, because it is a super power, whereas Saudi Arabia is obstructed from applying its law of the land because it is a Muslim country with no navy fleets around the world.

    We ask what Saudi Arabia and its citizens should do force respect on the US and the world?

    What Saudi Arabia and its citizens should do to exert their will and free these thousands of Saudi citizens from US prisons?

    Yes, it is POWER.

    Stop US double standards and release Turki al-Hamdan.

    We had enough from US hypocrisy.

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