Friday, February 10, 2012

Sign the petition for the young Saudi blogger accused of apostasy

I have just heard about a really absurd and frightnening story, and I can do nothing else but try and spread it.

Hamza Kashgari, a 23 year old Saudi writer and blogger, has just had to flee his country, and he is in serious danger of being sent back there and risking his life. The reason? Last week, the day of the prophet Muhammad's birthday (a Muslim celebration, although it's observance is frowned upon by the strict version of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia), the young man wrote some posts on twitter for the occasion.

Here are some of his tweets, directed at the prophet of Islam:

“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”.

Nothing that terrible, you would think. But instead, within a day he received over 30,000 replies on twitter, many of them by enraged Saudis accusing him of apostasy and demanding his death. The young man quickly understood he had gone too far, deleted the tweet and published a long apology in which he begged for forgiveness. But it was too late. The Saudi Ministry of Information immediately banned his column on a local paper, while important clerics demanded he be put on trial for apostasy, a crime punishable by death in the kingdom (see this video of a cleric demanding that he be put on trial. It really gives you an insight into the sort of idiots he is up against). Meanwhile, a facebook group calling for his execution inevitably sprung up, and it already counts over 14,000 members. Poor Hamza managed to board a plane bound for Malaysia hours before the government demanded his arrest for "crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet".

The blogger was detained on arrival in Malaysia (also officially a Muslim country), and there are serious worries that he may be extradited back to his homeland, where he could really lose his head. In the best of cases, he will never be able to go back to his country again. And all because of a tweet.

This is a story which may seem amazing, but not so in Saudi Arabia, probably the most religiously intollerant, extreme and puritan country on earth, where many people have a mentality on such matters which reminds you of thirteenth century Europe.

However, things are clearly changing even there. Here is what Hamza declared after fleeing his country: “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”. “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.”

There is an online petition for Hamza Kashgari not to be deported back to his country. Don't hesitate to sign.


Anna Lowenstein said...

My god, I couldn't bear to watch the video. I wonder if those tears are genuine?

Joel said...

And while you're at it, probably shouldn't forget about this family:

If the link doesn't come through, just google "Yousef Nadarkhani", the father who's been given the death sentence in Iran for similar 'crimes.'