Prominent Saudi novelist and political analyst Turki al-Hamad was reportedly arrested by the Saudi authorities for a series of controversial tweets. The news broke on Twitter on Monday morning when journalist Khaled al Matrafi @Almatrafi announced [ar]:
هام : حسب معلوماتي وزير الداخلية السعودي محمد بن نايف أصدر امرا بالقبض على الكاتب تركي الحمد وقبض عليه الان.
@Almatrafi: Important: According to my sources, Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef has issued an arrest warrant for writer Turki al-Hamad and have just arrested him.
Al-Hamad, a political analyst and novelist, has published a series of controversial tweets Saturday criticizing Islamists who, he said, “have distracted us with nonsense that we forgot the important issues.” In his next tweet he likened Islamism to Nazism. “But the age of Nazism is long gone,” he said, “and the sun will rise again.”
However, the tweet that seemed to have caused the strongest reaction from conservatives on Twitter came earlier that day. In that tweet he said: “Our Prophet has come to rectify the faith of Abraham, and now is a time when we need someone to rectify the faith of Mohammed.”
The incendiary Tweet [ar] in question is dated December 22nd:
جاء رسولنا الكريم ليصحح عقيدة إبراهيم الخليل، وجاء زمن نحتاج فيه إلى من يصحح عقيدة محمد بن عبدالله..
@TurkiAlHamad: Our Prophet has come to rectify the faith of Abraham, and now is a time when we need someone to rectify the faith of Mohammed.
For the alarmed Saudi Twittersphere, news of the arrest was condemned as an attack on free speech in the very conservative kingdom where criticism of religion, the royal family and government are not tolerated. The hashtag #اعتقال_تركي_الحمد (#ArrestOfTurkiHamad) reflected a movement of solidarity as well as a heated debate. As some voiced their disagreement with Hamad’s views, @abdulazizbulbul replied:
Its your right to be disappointed or disagree, but his right to express his views without being arrested.
#اعتقال_تركي_الحمد لا أتفق مع تركي فيما يقولة ولكن الوقوف في صف المستبد اكثر جرما من تغريدة الحمد.
I do not agree with Turki’s declaration but being in the position of a despot is a bigger crime than #Hamad’s tweeting.
At the time of writing, it is unclear whether the writer has been arrested or if he’s being held for questioning by the authorities according to @fSabouni:
With regards to the previous tweet, other sources claim that Turki Al-Hamad is only being questioned over the tweets and was not arrested.
An advocate of liberal Islam, the author of the trilogy Atyaf al-Aziqah al-Mahjurah (Phantoms of the Deserted Alley) whose work has been banned in his home country as well as in Bahrain and Kuwait writes about the taboos of Saudi society and does not shy away from discussing religion, politics and sex. Numerous fatwas have been issued against him, but despite that, he remained in Riyadh after obtaining his Ph.D from the University of Southern California. He is very critical of the Saudi government and Islamists.