Saudi Arabia: death for Tweeting?

What’s utterly maddening about this is the complete hypocrisy of reactions in the West—both from the establishment, which purports to support democracy and secularism in the Middle East while continuing to arm and underwrite the Saudi regime, and from the “left,” which correctly opposes the rise of Christian fundamentalist rule at home while (as have have bemoaned before) it is so caught up in the mutual demonization among rival branches of the Abrahamic tradition that it seems incapable of recognizing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Is it only going to be neocons who will rally to the defense of Hamza Kashgari? That would be really depressing. From Global Post, Feb. 10:

Saudi faces death calls after prophet tweets
Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi Arabian columnist who made comments on Twitter deemed to be insulting the Prophet Muhammad, was arrested in Malaysia after fleeing his country, according to Reuters.

“It is confirmed that Malaysian police have detained the Saudi writer. This arrest was part of an Interpol operation which the Malaysian police were part of,” a spokesman for the police told Reuters on Friday.

Kashgari was taken into custody at Malaysia’s main international airport, a police spokesman told AFP. The state news agency Bernama said he was detained “for allegedly insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.” Malaysia is a country with a Muslim majority and close ties to Saudi Arabia, though the countries have no clear extradition treaty.

Kashgari’s tweets caused uproar and calls for his execution.

On the prophet’s birthday last week, he tweeted (as printed in The Daily Beast):

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

Kashgari removed the tweets and issued an apology, but enraged Saudis called for his death, said The Daily Beast. His home address was posted online and vigilantes came looking for him. Sheikh Nasser al-Omar called for him to be tried in a Sharia court. The Daily Beast reported that Saudi Arabia’s leading news site said the king himself issued a warrant for Kashgari’s arrest.

Middle East Online informs us that a Facebook page entitled “The Saudi people demand Hamza Kashgari’s execution” already has nearly 10,000 members. Is there a “Free Hamza Kashgari” page yet?

See our last posts on Saudi Arabia, the politics of cyberspace and the struggle within Islam.

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