Saudi Twitter Apostate Arrested in Malaysia

February 10, 2012  

Malaysian police detained a young Saudi journalist and poet who fled his country after Twitter comments he made about the Prophet Mohammed led to public calls for his execution.

Hamza Kashgari was taken into custody after flying into Malaysia’s main international airport on Thursday, police spokesman Ramli Yoosuf told AFP.

“Kashgari was detained at the airport upon arrival following a request made to us by Interpol after the Saudi authorities applied for it,” he said.

State news agency Bernama said Kashgari was arrested “for allegedly insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.”

Shortly before his arrest Kashgari told the Daily Beast he would never return to Saudi Arabia, “It is impossible. There is no way.”

Last Monday, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud ordered Kashgari’s arrest “for crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet.”

“People are put on trial for offending other people, and the matter is far more critical when there is a profanation of God or His Prophet,” King Abdul Aziz explained in the instructions to the interior minister to arrest Kashgari.

Malaysia and Saudi Arabia do not have a formal extradition treaty. He could, however, be extradited under othe bilateral security agreements.

Last week, Kashgari sent out a series of tweets that reportedly addressed the Prophet Mohammad as an equal.

“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.

However, amid the backlash Kashgari deleted the series of tweets and officials in Muslim countries have refused to allow journalists to reprint them.

The controversial twitter conversation sparked some 30,000 responses, according to an online service that tracks Twitter postings in the Arab world.

Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is generally punishable by lashes in Saudi Arabia, though such sentences often include a potentially lethal 500 lashes.

Kashgari apologised recanted his tweets and begged forgiveness, but that has not stemmed calls for his head.

That did not stop the furious calls for Kashgari to be put to death.

One of the religious leaders so incensed is a cleric named Nasser al-Omar, who appeared in a YouTube video weeping because he said he could not bear to see the Prophet insulted.

“These people [like Kashgari] should be put to trial in Sharia courts,” al-Omar said. “It is known that cursing God and his Prophet is apostasy. And the fact that he has repented with cold words will not probably save him in the court.”

A committee of top clerics subsequently branded Kashgari “an apostate” and an “infidel”, demanding he be tried in an Islamic court.

Apostacy carries the penalty of death by beheading in Saudi Arabia.

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