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Twitter Aflame With Fatwa Against Saudi Writer Hamza Kashgari
Feb 8, 2012 6:10 PM EST
A young Saudi blogger’s tweets about the Prophet Muhammad have inflamed Islamists, who are calling for his execution. Mike Giglio exclusively interviews Hamza Kashgari.



Last week, just before the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old Saudi writer in Jidda, took to his Twitter feed to reflect on the occasion.

“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,” he wrote in one tweet.

“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,” he wrote in a second.

“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,” he concluded in a third.

Twitter quickly flooded with responses to Kashgari, registering more than 30,000 within a day. He was accused of blasphemy, and enraged Saudis called for his death. By the time he removed the tweets and issued a long apology, backtracking on his comments and begging for forgiveness, the danger had already expanded beyond the Web. Someone posted Kashgari’s home address in a YouTube video, and, his friends say, vigilantes came looking for him at his local mosque. The Saudi information minister banned Kashgari’s local newspaper column and barred outlets across the country from publishing his work. Nasser al-Omar, an influential cleric, called for him to be tried in a Sharia court for apostasy, which is punishable by death. Other leading clerics decried Kashgari on their own, and Saudi Arabia’s council of senior scholars issued a rare and harshly worded communiqué condemning him and his tweets and demanding that he be put on trial. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s leading news site, SABQ, reported that the king himself had issued a warrant for Kashgari’s arrest.

With the pressure mounting, Kashgari fled to Southeast Asia earlier today. Hours later, in his first interview with the press, he told The Daily Beast that he was stunned by the turn of events but resigned to the fact that he can never return home. “It’s impossible. No way,” he said. “I’m afraid, and I don’t know where to go.” Kashgari says he is now planning to apply for asylum abroad.

Though Saudi Arabia has seen uproars over controversial newspaper articles or scholarly works before, no great calls for Sharia trials have ever sounded in the kingdom on account of a few tweets—and the furor has gone viral, snowballing into a bigger scandal than anything the country has seen in the recent past.

When he caught wind of the tweets, Fouad al-Farhan, a respected liberal and Saudi Arabia’s most influential blogger, knew Kashgari was in trouble. He quickly got in touch with the young writer and urged him to issue the apology. “Don’t try to be a hero,” he told him. “You will lose big time.”

By tweeting about the prophet, al-Farhan says, Kashgari crossed a line that even Saudi liberals won’t dare to touch. Even so, al-Farhan was surprised by the level of rage that Kashgari inspired, and how quickly it spread. In a span of just days, the issue came to dominate social media—from the onslaught of tweets under the hashtag #HamzahKashghri to vitriolic YouTube videos and a Facebook group, currently boasting nearly 8,000 members, called “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”—and reached all the way to top clerics and the king. “There was an amazing anger. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” al-Farhan says, noting that the outrage in Saudi Arabia has exceeded even the levels seen after a Danish newspaper infamously published a cartoon of Muhammad in 2005.

“I think it’s because this is an extremely unique case. We’ve never had our own Salman Rushdie before. We’ve never had a case as extreme as this one of someone crossing the line,” al-Farhan says.

Al-Farhan has been harshly critical of Kashgari’s tweets. Even Kashgari’s friends, all of whom requested anonymity, say they’re reluctant to come to his defense—and have even felt the need to attack him themselves. “Everyone who tried to objectively deal with this case was immediately stigmatized and labeled an enemy of the prophet, who therefore should suffer the same fate Hamza is awaiting,” says one.

Adds another: “Right now we’re not worried about freedom of speech. We’re worried about the safety of our friend. And right now we can only help his safety if we condemn him, and [from there] try to rationalize what he said.”

Kashgari says he never expected such an outcry—“not even 1 percent.” But he knows the mindset of his critics well. He was raised as a religious conservative in a traditional Salafi community, becoming more liberal and “humanist,” in the words of one friend, as he grew older and embraced the Web. His writing also grew more provocative, particularly on Twitter, where he had attracted the ire of conservatives who kept a close eye on everything he wrote. Ahmed Al Omran, who keeps the popular blog Saudi Jeans, says it’s common for conservative activists to keep watch over liberal-minded social-media feeds. “They wait for the moment when they say something controversial to use it against them. Hamza is apparently one of the people they’ve been monitoring,” he says. “Most people feel strongly about the situation. But at the same time, I feel that conservatives are trying to take advantage of the situation, make an example out of him, and show their strength.”

Kashgari says he knew he was being watched online; since the controversy arose, someone released a compilation of his past tweets on the Web. “I knew I was being monitored. I considered it a form of psychological warfare,” he says. “But I didn’t give it that much attention, because I didn’t want them to think I was losing the battle.”

Kashgari has since deleted his Twitter account, and he says some like-minded friends have done the same. He declined to comment on his apology and retraction but insisted his battle was still not lost. “I view my actions as part of a process toward freedom. I was demanding my right to practice the most basic human rights—freedom of expression and thought—so nothing was done in vain,” he says. “I believe I’m just a scapegoat for a larger conflict. There are a lot of people like me in Saudi Arabia who are fighting for their rights.”


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/02/08/twitter-aflame-with-fatwa-against-saudi-writer-hamza-kashgari.html

the country is really raging over this issue the past 3 days, I've always expected - and waited - for this inevitable clash but didn't think it will come this soon, will be really interesting to see how this pans out, one thing is for sure, he did the smart thing by leaving Saudia..
 

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Tragic.

Also waiting for the predictable onslaught of anti-Islam posts. Maybe Topspindoc will make an appearance with his anti-religion/anti-Islam/xenophobic rants.
 

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Also waiting for the predictable onslaught of anti-Islam posts. Maybe Topspindoc will make an appearance with his anti-religion/anti-Islam/xenophobic rants.
would be justified in this case, Saudi Arabia is supposed to be the face of Islam as that's where it originated from, to see this amount of public intolerance embodied is disgusting, and speaks much on the culture and mindset of the general public here and what type of education they are being fed
 
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would be justified in this case, Saudi Arabia is supposed to be the face of Islam as that's where it originated from, to see this amount of public intolerance embodied is disgusting, and speaks much on the culture and mindset of the general public here and what type of education they are being fed
Is the public anger really as widespread as the article described?

Saudi Arabia strikes me as quite an oppressive country actually, even before reading this article. I guess any real change would probably have to start with a regime change...
 

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Is the public anger really as widespread as the article described?
even more, I've never seen anything like this here before, it's beyond hysteria

Saudi Arabia strikes me as quite an oppressive country actually, even before reading this article. I guess any real change would probably have to start with a regime change...
not the most oppressive out there but yes it is, but this is not about the ruling regime, the ruling royalty are actually more open and liberal than the general public when it comes to religious/social issues (not political ones obviously), for instance the government doesn't mind women driving but the Wahabi/Salafi opposition to this is still a majority here so even the king can't do much about it
 

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And this is the civilisation we're supposed to consider as being on equal footing with the Western civilisation.
 

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Aren't you afraid that you can be identified?
worried about me? I'm touched

I'm not stupid enough to post something like what he posted in Arabic (with a full name and a pic under it), there are too many liberal Saudis and I'm just one of them, in his case he's a public figure before this incident (had about 15,000 followers on twitter), relatively unknown on a large scale but he was still a young contributor to a low-key published newspaper

he is the ideal scapegoat for all the anger built in the conservative (read: ignorant) public towards the humanist/freethinking Saudi elite
 

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And this is the civilisation we're supposed to consider as being on equal footing with the Western civilisation.
I don't think any sane mind argued/would argue that Saudi Arabia represents an equal footing civilization to the West, not even to Turkey or Qatar ffs

if you are talking about Islam/Arabs, then you should know that there was a time when the Islamic/Arabic civilization led the fields of science and philosophy when Europe was still dwelling in the dark ages, this is not about a particular race or religion
 

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I don't think any sane mind argued/would argue that Saudi Arabia represents an equal footing civilization to the West, not even to Turkey or Qatar ffs

if you are talking about Islam/Arabs, then you should know that there was a time when the Islamic/Arabic civilization led the fields of science and philosophy when Europe was still dwelling in the dark ages, this is not about a particular race or religion
You think I don't know that.

My hometown has an Arab name, and it was probably more advanced back then than it is now.
 

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Censorship does not exist in the West? Have I been lied to? Rocking in a Free World as Ole Neil put it? Paradise on Earth?


Then I'm living in the Orient !:rolleyes:


Those who petitioned for unbanning Rushdie's book are the FIRST to use their influence to have journalists fired whenever these latters write something against 'em.


Bunch of naive, hypocrite ***** ! [edited by author for fear of a ban]
 

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Those who petitioned for unbanning Rushdie's book are the FIRST to use their influence to have journalists fired whenever these latters write something against 'em.
What are you talking about? The book was never banned in the West, so nobody petitioned to unban it.
 

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the Washington Post reports that he has been arrested in Malaysia and could soon be deported back to Saudi Arabia..

Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari faces charge of blasphemy after tweets about Muhammad
By David Keyes, Friday, February 10, 3:31 AM

Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari was detained in Malaysia on Wednesday night and is likely to be extradited soon to Saudi Arabia, where he will be tried for blaspheming religion. Kashgari, 23, had fled the kingdom Monday after he received thousands of death threats. His crime? He posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

“On your birthday I find you in front of me wherever I go,” he wrote in one tweet. “I love many things about you and hate others, and there are many things about you I don’t understand.”

Another reads: “No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets came to light last week around a celebration of Muhammad’s birthday, and Kashgari’s ordeal began. Hours before he was detained, Kashgari spoke to me by phone from the house in which he was hiding. “I was with sitting with my friends and one of them checked Twitter on his mobile phone,” he said. “Suddenly there were thousands of tweets of people calling to kill me because they said I’m against religion.”

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because after I consulted with a few brothers, I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet (pbuh) and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand,” he wrote. But the damage was done. As an electronic lynch mob formed, with users posting to a Twitter hashtag that translates as “Hamza Kashgari the dog,” the regime called for his arrest and trial.

Friends advised him to leave Saudi Arabia immediately. “I never expected this. It was a huge surprise. My friends are writers and bloggers and now their lives are in danger too,” he told me. “They fear what will happen to them. The government is trying to scare them and show that what is happening to me can happen to them sooner or later.”

Kashgari noted with sadness that many young Saudis are leaving their country in hopes of escaping the government's repressive policies. “It’s not logical that, if someone disagrees with the Saudi government, that he should be forced to leave the country. Many of those who have been arrested are fighting for simple rights that everyone should have — freedom of thought, expression, speech and religion.”

When we spoke Wednesday, Kashgari asked that I not reveal where he was hiding or his plan of escape. Now that he has been detained, his friends hope publicity will build pressure on the Malaysian government not to extradite Kashgari to Saudi Arabia. Karpal Singh, a well-known Malaysian lawyer and member of parliament, is being encouraged to take Kashgari’s case. Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler has offered to serve as Kashgari’s international legal counsel. Cotler has served as legal counsel to such famous dissidents as Nelson Mandela, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Natan Sharansky and Maikel Nabil. Many have credited him with creating the international pressure that led to their release.

Kashgari encouraged Western nations to support human rights in his country and raise the names of activists under threat. “Pressure alone won’t be enough, but at least it will help people feel that they are not alone,” he said.

The young writer surmised that the threats against him were, in part, a result of the tens of millions of dollars the Saudi king allotted to the religious police last spring. Many Saudi dissidents have noted increased repression in the past few months and are terrified of the ascent of Crown Prince Naif, who has served as interior minister for decades.

The Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi, told a packed audience at New York University this week that Saudi Arabia was a “land of opportunity” where there was no oppression of dissidents. I confronted the ambassador with lists of liberals, women and dissidents that had been arrested, beheaded and whipped. When questioned about Kashgari, Mouallimi replied that the journalist “has gone beyond the limits of what is acceptable in society.” His tweets were “not acceptable in a country like Saudi Arabia. This can never be acceptable,” the ambassador added.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to return to my homeland,” Kashgari told me hours before he was detained. Now, unfortunately, it looks as if he may returned against his will. If that happens, his fate is all but certain as a blasphemer’s guilt is preordained in the theocratic dictatorship of Saudi Arabia.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/saudi-writer-detained-after-tweets-about-muhammad/2012/02/09/gIQApsgW2Q_story.html
 

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dead man walking.

r.i.p. hamza.
 

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I visited Malaysia a few times. I fail to understand why he fled there. Hopefully a Canadian can save him.
 

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I visited Malaysia a few times. I fail to understand why he fled there. Hopefully a Canadian can save him.
I think Malaysia is the furthest country a Saudi can travel to which doesn't require a visa, I doubt he prepared for all of this with a visa on his passport

the visa issue is one of the many misfortunes that comes with being a Saudi
 

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I visited Malaysia a few times. I fail to understand why he fled there. Hopefully a Canadian can save him.
I think Malaysia is the furthest country a Saudi can travel to which doesn't require a visa, I doubt he prepared for all of this with a visa on his passport

the visa issue is one of the many misfortunes that comes with being a Saudi
'A friend of Mr. Kashgari told the Financial Times that the writer had attempted to travel to New Zealand after receiving death threats, but was detained while in transit in Malaysia.'

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fa7bc6ae-533d-11e1-aafd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1lzTeWpPR
 

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What are you talking about? The book was never banned in the West, so nobody petitioned to unban it.
Sorry, I mixed everything up. No petition but I was talking about pseudo-intellectuals who helped him speak out, like Mr Bernard-Henri Levy.

And when there's an article that is critical of BHL in one media of the Lagardère Group, the former would ask his friend Arnaud to have this article censored. Not in Saudi Arabia. Not in Malaysia. Not in Iran or Syria. But in France, Europe, Western World !
 
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