How many things can you think of in Saudi society that would actually be worth this much outrage? Child marriage? Sexual abuse of foreign domestic workers? The treatment of women as permanent minors? Antisemitic preaching and textbooks? Persecution of non-Muslims?
One could go on. But the righteous indignation is reserved for a 23-year-old with a Twitter account. An update on this story. “Saudi committee calls for “harsh punitive measures” against man who insulted Muhammad,” from Asia News, February 10:
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Hamza Kashghari, a Saudi writer and poet arrested in Malaysia for a few remarks on Twitter about Muhammad, is an infidel and an apostate. His sacrilegious action deserve “harsh punitive measures”, warned Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Religious Edicts (IFTA). “Whoever dares make a mockery of Allah, the Prophet or the Holy Book undermines the religion and displays enmity toward it. It is the duty of the rulers to try such a criminal,” the committee said.
The accusation against Hamza, 23, stem from a few remarks he posted on Twitter last week, birthday of the prophet Muhammad. “On your birthday,” he wrote, “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,” he added, “I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more. 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.”
In one day, his comment generated 30,000 responses, many accusing him of blasphemy or calling for his death. Even though he removed the offending tweet, and apologised asking for forgiveness, the flood did not stop. Someone posted his address on YouTube, and vigilantes from a nearby mosque went looking for him.
The information minister banned all newspapers from publishing anything written by him, and the Council of Elders issued a rare statement of condemnation and harsh request that he be put on trial. King Abdullah himself issued the arrest order.
The same King Abdullah who opened a “tolerance” center in Vienna.
Two days ago, the young man tried to leave the country, but he was arrested by Malaysian police. “Kashgari was detained at the airport upon arrival following a request made to us by Interpol after the Saudi authorities applied for it,” a police spokesman said.
Malaysia and Saudi Arabia do not have a formal extradition treaty. However, an official with the Malaysian Home Ministry who asked to remain unidentified said Kashgari could be extradited under other bilateral security agreements.
Under Sharia (Islamic law), anyone who commits sacrilegious actions that may make him or her kafir should be given three days to repent, failing which the person is to be beheaded.