I debated long and hard whether to write about Saudi blogger and tweeter, Hamza Kashgari. I had hoped that his case would have been dismissed by this point.
By way of background, Hamza Kashgari created an outcry both within and outside of Saudi Arabia for the tweets he made in reference to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Hamza Kashgari is a 23 year old Saudi who had worked at the newspaper, Al Bilad. Kashgari considered himself a writer and a poet. He was seen as a quiet young man with good manners who could recite the Quran from memory. So, what happened where his actions created a fury of rile and called for his execution?
On the Prophet’s birthday Kashgari sent out three tweets over Twitter where he had an imagined conversation with the Prophet. In this conversation, Kashgari referred to the Prophet as a rebel and revealed that while he loved some aspects of the Prophet, he hated others. Reaction to his tweets was quick and strong.
Kashgari sent the tweets in what he described as a freedom to express himself. Close friends to Kashgari urged him to make a public apology and fearing for his safety, suggested he leave Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, Kashgari heeded the advice of his friends. He made a public apology and fled to Malaysia hoping that the furor his tweets incited would die down.
Instead, the clamor for his arrest and execution only escalated. Kashgari was advised to leave Malaysia. Arriving at the airport with plans to travel next to New Zealand, Kashgari was apprehended and turned over to Saudi officials. The Saudi officials placed Kashgari on a return flight to Saudi Arabia where he was met and arrested at the Riyadh airport.
Now Kashgari sits in a Riyadh jail while awaiting his fate. Most Saudi clerics want to see Kashgari punished to the fullest for defamation of the Prophet.
Insulting the Prophet Mohammed is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by death in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. A committee of top clerics branded Kashgari an “infidel” and demanded his trial in an Islamic court.
King Abdullah has the power to pardon Kashgari but that seems unlikely to happen. Will public outcry be enough to save Kashgari? After all, isn’t he really just a young man who was perhaps a little naïve in sharing some candid thoughts? How can his actions really justify a penalty as final as death? He only upset some individuals with words. He did not kill or physically hurt anyone. He did not steal.
What do YOU think?