Civil Liberties

Blasphemous Saudi Tweeter Has Been Deported, Supporters Could Be Punished


Prophet Muhammed, South Park, super best friends

On Friday, I wrote about Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year old Saudi writer who tweeted about the Prophet Muhammad. His tweets were seen as "apostasy," which could merit the death penalty under Sharia law. He soon fled Saudi Arabia, but was arrested in Malaysia, while en route to to seek asylum in New Zealand. Amnesty International even called him a "prisoner of conscience." However, on Sunday, the Malaysian government deported Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia.

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein defended the decision, arguing that Malaysia is not a "safe transit" for those wanted by their home nations. He also labeled Kashgari a "terrorist." In addition, Hishammuddin blasted the idea that Kashgari could be executed for tweeting as "illogic," claiming:

Allegations that he would be executed, abused, do not make sense. The country being accused is a dignified country. These are serious allegations against Saudi Arabia.

He added:

I hope this issue is not politicised on the basis of freedom and human rights…We received a
request from Saudi Arabia and we will not protect anyone who is wanted.

Unfortunately, capital punishment is all too common in Saudi Arabia. Since Wahabi Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia, it enforces a very strict (and literal) form of Sharia law. Between 2008-2010, Saudi Arabia executed almost 200 people, all by public decapitation. In December 2011, a Saudi woman was beheaded for practicing "witchcraft and sorcery," while in 2009, the leader of a jewelry thief gang was "crucified:" He was decapitated, his severed head was impaled, then his body was publicly displayed. As for Kashgari, if he is convicted of apostasy, he would be guilty of hadud, or "crimes against God." These crimes often led to the death penalty.

In addition, Kashgari's supporters in Saudi Arabia might also face a similar fate. According to Khaled Abu Rashid, "Those who supported the contents of Kashgari's tweets are considered criminal exactly like him," and thus, would merit the same type of punishment Kashgari receives. However, this comes with Kafkaesque legal contortions:

If the support was for general principles like freedom of expression, then this is a different matter, but if the support was for the attacks on Allah and His Prophet, then the supporters should be tried for apostasy.

Here is my original post on Hamza Kashgari. Reason on Islam and censorship. Back in 2003, the BBC interviewed Saudi Arabia's "leading executioner." A few choice quotes from that exchange:

The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled metres away…People are amazed how fast it can separate the head from the body.

No one is afraid of me. I have a lot of relatives, and many friends at the mosque, and I live a normal life like everyone else. There are no drawbacks for my social life.