Saudi Writer Violates Blasphemy Law for Tweeting

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An undated photo of Hamza Kashgari.

A columnist for the Jeddah-based Al Bilad newspaper, Hamza Kashgari, was detained Thursday by Malaysian police after fleeing to the country from Saudi Arabia to escape execution after he insulted the Prophet Muhammad:

Mr. Kashgari’s tweets incited outrage in the conservative Islamic country, where many regarded them as blasphemous, and reportedly prompted the king to call for his arrest. Blasphemy is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

More than 13,000 people have joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari.”

According to The Daily Beast, a friend of Mr. Kashgari, who asked not to be named, accompanied him to the airport and witnessed his detention.

“We were just watching him, waiting for him to pass the immigration checkpoint. Once he submitted his passport, they asked him to step away for a few minutes,” The Daily Beast quoted the friend as saying. “And suddenly these two people without uniforms just arrested him.”

An official from Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who refused to be identified, said Mr. Kashgari would likely be repatriated to Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Kashgari would be sent back “because he is on the watch list of Saudi Arabia,” the official said.

Some reports have suggested that Mr. Kashgari wanted to seek asylum abroad. But the foreign affairs official said Malaysia does not grant asylum out of respect for the laws of other countries. “It’s not our practice to grant political asylum,” the official said, adding that the ministry had contacted the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The official said Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, had good diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.

What was it that was so horrible for him to earn the ire of puritanical Islamists and calls for execution? What was his crime? He twittered:

In one Twitter post, which has since been deleted but was published by Agence France-Presse, Mr. Kashgari wrote to the Prophet: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you. I will not pray for you.”

The Daily Beast:

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.

Really?! Seriously?!? That’s it!?! This constitutes an outrageous insult and blasphemy against the Prophet?

Actually, not at all surprising for the thin-skinned fanatics of the religion of perpetual rage (to clarify this for new readers: I aim this at the Salafis, Islamists, Taliban, Qutbists, and likeminded puritanical Islamic fundamentalists).

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.”

Well….I bet this is one of those times when he is not loving Muhammad but feeling the hate.

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 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.”

If Kashgari is to somehow survive this, it’s going to take a mass media international outcry and pressure.

Perhaps, like the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” event, an “Everybody Tweet Muhammad Day” is in order to show support for Kashgari.

23 Responses to “Saudi Writer Violates Blasphemy Law for Tweeting”

  1. 1

    Nan G

    The f’n bastard ( I mean Saudi Sheikh Nasser Al Omar) who is calling for this blogger’s death has had his crocodile tears put on You Tube for all to see.
    Be sure to note how he would treat YOU if he gets his way.
    Watch all of it.
    “We should debate atheists with cold words BUT we should warm up that debate with the heat of the sword,” he says.
    He wants this blogger killed.
    He says, of the blogger’s apology: “That’s between him and Allah.”
    We kill him.
    Apology or NOT!
    Orders from Allah.

    The poster asked:
    Really?! Seriously?!? That’s it!?! This constitutes an outrageous insult and blasphemy against the Prophet?

    Um, yeah.
    Remember the poor English teacher who wanted to help the really poor in Africa so she went there to teach?
    She brought a Teddy Bear to class and let her students give it a name.
    They chose “Mohammad.”
    She was almost killed for that.

  2. 2



    Um…Yup, I remember. One of the first recalls that popped into my head when it comes to Islamic lunacy.

    The commenter wrote:

    Um, yeah.

    You do realize I only feigned shock and surprise, right? It’s like you intentionally ignored the sentence that followed after the one quoted.

  3. 3

    Nan G

    @Wordsmith: Yup.
    Wouldn’t want anyone to accuse you of painting all Muslims with too broad a brush, not after all you’ve written to the contrary, Word.

    Looks like Malaysia is Hamza Kashgari’s last hope for life.
    Will they send him back the The Kingdom or won’t they?
    Funny thing about Sharia.
    As the leaders of Sharia states feel threatened they can follow Sharia more and more tightly than before.
    Only a few weeks ago Saudi women were told they might be allowed to witness soccer games from inside stadiums.
    Over 1 million of Saudi guest workers are Christians.
    And for years they were allowed to hold prayers and worship in private homes.
    In fact, in 2006 the US State Department started a diplomatic initiative with Saudi Arabia on religious freedom.
    It resulted in a publicized (at least in the United States) “confirmation” by the Saudis that they would allow private worship in house churches, and rein in the religious police.

    But lately the Saudi government has used other, non-religious-freedom laws to arrest Christians and other non-Muslims, imprison them and try to force them to convert.

    December 15, 2011, 35 Ethiopian Christians working in Saudi Arabia were arrested and detained by the kingdom’s religious police for holding a private prayer gathering in a home in Jeddah.
    The official charge is that they were “mixing with the opposite sex” — a crime for unrelated people in that Salafi-influenced country.
    But the real reason is that they were praying as Christians.
    The Saudis strip-searched all the women and subjected them to an abusive body-cavity search.
    They have been held until now.
    But last month a Muslim imam started coming in and pressuring them to convert to Islam.
    These Ethiopian women would be happy to forego the pay owed them if they could simply go home to Ethiopia.

  4. 4

    James Raider

    So, let’s see, . . . for over half a century we’ve sent our Cash to Saudi Arabian kings and princes who used that cash to finance to proliferation of Salafiyyah, commonly referred to as Wahhabism, throughout the Muslim world. The cash infusion into this religious fanaticism, which had subsided in the first half of the 20th. century, brought us 9/11 and continues to bring us terrorism.

    Our Cash has also been sent to a new world power, China, a communist country RW&A to kill its own dissenters, one which holds the largest amount of our foreign held debt.

    The trend doesn’t look good.

  5. 5


    Outstanding post. I hope Christians in America realize how lucky we are to live in a country where this can’t happen. That is, of course, unless we allow it to, by supporting candidates who insist on bringing their own personal, (what should be) private beliefs into government. It’s chilling to see the Republican debaters (with the exception of Paul) fall all over themselves in their attempts to out-do each other in proclaiming the heated fervor of their faith and how it would inform their public policy.

  6. 6


    James Raider
    that’s why we are at lost of money for our own people,
    you know I was beginning to pay attention to RON PAUL FOREIGN PLAN, and this event bring me to his strategy more as time goes by,
    he says why would we send money to people who hate us, and they really do,
    he is right in my view now,

  7. 7

    James Raider


    Our indirect/almost-direct financial support of the extremism that is Salafiyyah, has also produced a distinct FEAR in 99% of all Muslims regardless which version of the Quran reading they prefer to follow.

    All Muslims default to remaining quiet if they don’t support the extremists.

    Making changes to this trend, will not occur by intrusion in foreign lands, but will reverse by changing our methods and strategies at home, i.e.: Nuclear Energy and Canadian oil. We also have much unused influence over the Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which we have never properly applied to the advantage of taxpayers – bad leadership.

    We SEND our money. They don’t take it.

    As for Paul, while he presents occasional glimpses of common sense, for as long as I’ve listened to him, he has too regularly strayed off the road, and into the realm of fantasy.

  8. 8


    ‘More than 13,000 people have joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari.”’
    Occasionally someone who isn’t paying attention will act as if the substantial majority of the Arabic world is really just being enmeshed against their will in conservative Islam. Oppressed by Saudi royalty or intimidated by fundamentalist mullahs… and if they were allowed to choose their own destiny, they’d sooner be more secular and freer.
    But the reality (reflected in the above facebook page and also in polls of the Arab population on various issues) is that the average Muslim is *really, really* conservative by Western standards. 80% in Egypt feel that the death penalty is appropriate for apostasy from Islam, for example.

  9. 9


    you know the MAYOR BLOOMBERG SOLD HIS SOUL TO MUSLIMS, HE IN NEW YORK EVICTED THE CHRISTIANS PRIESTS. I just heard that on HANNITY, and I’m not surprise, I had my doubts on him since he agree on the 9/11 BUILDING THE MOSQUE, HE WAS DEFENDING IT,
    It’s now clear as crystal
    they are advancing the goal of ISLAM ,TO CONQUER AND ENSLAVE AMERICA

  10. 10


    James Raider
    I guess your right on PAUL, AND TOO SOON TO MAKE A CHOICE,
    because they are all human being with good intentions and this year the biggest responsability
    on their shoulders, that is to win over OBAMA, AND THAT IS WHY WE ALL HAVE TO HELP ON IT,
    I think it’s important for all to get in the act. It has become every AMERICAN RESPONSIBILITY NOW
    thank you for your smart suggestion.

  11. 11


    premium_subscriber, subscriber

    Your story reminded me that the new constitution of Iraq makes Muslim the national religion. This means that they will still be under the same rules as the ones we went over and fought against. They were following the Koran literally.

  12. 12


    @Smorgasbord: ‘they will still be under the same rules as the ones we went over and fought against.’
    Sorta nitpicking, but… the ‘ones we fought against’ were the rules of the brutal but secular regime of Saddam Hussein. This would be a different set of oppressive rules.

  13. 13

    Nan G

    There are new facts out as well as new theories about WHY what happened took place:
    Hamza Kashgari sent out the 3 tweets on Mohammad’s birthday.
    He quickly apologized for them and deleted them.
    But they came to the attention of the king.
    Hardliners used his tweets to orchestrate the incident to score points and make political gains.
    Only recently the king loosened up his tight grip on women’s behavior and these hardliners hated that.
    Those hardliners are in the government and they are trying to scare bloggers and show that what is happening to Hamza Kashgari can happen to them sooner or later.
    The Malaysians have Hamza Kashgari but are not positive they will send him back to the Saudi Kingdom.
    Human Rights NGOs are prevailing on them not to and to allow him to go on to New Zealand to seek asylum.

    From Obama?
    CBS also tried to get a statement from the Saudi Embassy…..also crickets.

  14. 14


    @bbartlog: #12
    They are still under the same “Rule Book” that started the whole mess. If they follow that rule book, we are still the infidels and should be killed. If another leader, or group of people, want to go by the letter of the rules in the future, then it will start over again.

    Let’s not forget that there are still groups who are following the letter of the rules in Iraq, and with the infidels gone, they are going to keep trying to take over the others and make them follow the same rules.

  15. 15



  16. 17


    you have a good point about the the consequence of her death will resonate on some young hopefully,

  17. 18



    I hope Christians in America realize how lucky we are to live in a country where this can’t happen.

    Au contraire Tom. I hope atheists and followers of non-Christian religions realize how lucky we are to live in a country where this can’t happen. Our founding fathers, whom the left abhor, decided there would be no official religion in the country and the people would be allowed to observe the religion of their choice.
    Secondly, why shouldn’t a person’s life experiences inform their public policy. The key word here is inform. Obama certainly allows his life experiences inform his. I don’t hear you whining about that. In the end, life experience, whether it is religious-based or not, should not trump the Constitution. In this respect, Obama didn’t get that memo.

  18. 20


    This story and any other story coming out of thIS area of the world should [but won’t to many] make people kiss the very ground they live on in America…..It is so very difficult to understand the complete envy, hatred, disdain and malcontents who live on the Continent of America….FREE.


  19. 21

    Nan G

    Hamza Kashgari was sent back to the Saudi Kingdom today and was immediately arrested upon exiting the plane.
    His ”crime?”
    Insulting Mohammad.
    Mo’s been dead for over 1000 years.
    And IF he represented any real god at all, that god would be BIG enough to know that words cannot hurt him.
    Hamza Kashgari faces execution if found guilty.
    And, even if he is let go (a real long shot) his own countrymen will kill him on behalf of a fatwa put out for his death by Sheikh Nasser Al Omar and other leading imams in that country.

    If you think you can live peacefully and OPENLY in a country run by Muslims think again.
    Gays, atheists, agnostics, liberated women and so many more are enemies of Islam by their very existence.

  20. 22


    Correct me if I am wrong.

    Islam teaches it’s followers to reject Western ideals and material interests? Yet in many images from areas in Islamic mayhem I have seen young destructors and struttors wearing very trendy Western attire. It first clicked when one image, I believe it was on Flopping Aces, showed very noticeable tan shoes on a young, defiant man. The shoes looked like those marketed in a surfing (aquatic sport, not internet perusing) trendy clothing and accessories catalog. His pants had the “cut” (style) that is current among teens in the West. Perhaps they are jealous of the West. Just not “getting any?”

    And what about the fancy developments on the water and a ski slope in the middle of the flat, hot desert?

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