I learned about this story on Greg Laden’s X Blog:
Saudi citizen and journalist Hamza Kashgari tweeted, on Muhammad’s birthday, sent three tweets:
- 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.
I found these to be poignant thoughts about Hamza’s relationship with the Prophet. Others found it to be apostasy (a desertion from one’s religion) and have called for his death. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy, and apostasy is a religious crime punishable by death.
It is a subjective call whether or not Hamza Kashgari’s tweet constitutes apostasy; Kashgari will go to trial and a court will make that call. But after the media attention of this matter I am not very optimistic about his chances of escape from death. Kashgari had fled to Malaysia, but was detained upon his arrival and flown back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Amnesty International considers Hamza Kashgari a prisoner of conscience.
As Ophelia Benson points out, the media loves a good rally for justice, and if enough popular pressure can be brought to bear, perhaps it could make a difference in the fate of this brave, intelligent, freethinking Saudi man. Join the Facebook group Free Hamza Kashgari and sign this Change.org petition for his release. At the very least, we need to make this persecution visible. This suppression of human rights is what can happen when a country is ruled by theocracy.