The Appalling Hamza Kashgari Story


Many of the other FTBers have already written about this, and while I have little to add other than my own outrage, I want to make sure everyone has seen the story. A Saudi man was arrested in Malaysia and sent back to Saudi Arabia to face possible death over “blasphemous” Tweets about Muhammad.

A Saudi journalist was deported Sunday to his home country, where he was expected to face arrest and possibly death for writing about the Prophet Muhammad.

The journalist, Hamza Kashgari, had been detained by the Malaysian police since Thursday, when he was stopped at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at the request of the Saudi government. Mr. Kashgari, a newspaper columnist based in Jidda, had fled Saudi Arabia amid public outrage after he wrote about an imaginary meeting with the Prophet Muhammad in a series of posts on Twitter, according to news reports…

The Saudi king has reportedly called for his arrest, and many in the religiously conservative country have accused him of blasphemy, a capital offense in Saudi Arabia.

Muhammad Afiq Bin Mohamad Noor, the Malaysian lawyer hired by Mr. Kashgari’s family, said he obtained an interim court order from the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Sunday afternoon that would have prevented the authorities from deporting Mr. Kashgari. He only discovered later on Sunday, when he spoke to an immigration officer at the Kuala Lumpur airport, that Mr. Kashgari had already been deported on a private Saudi jet.

For some reason, that last part seems like a weird bit of dissonance in the story. They wanted him so badly that they sent a private jet to get him. Because of some Tweets. That’s just fucking sick, as is the whole thing. And you know what I don’t want to hear? Any bullshit about cultural relativism or how terribly unfair it is to “impose” our “Western values” on them. Kashgari is a human being, which means his liberty should be protected by governments, not destroyed by them. And that principle does not disappear just because it’s happening inside another border rather than ours.

If we do not take the normative position that human rights should be protected for all people, we’re just full of shit. That’s why it’s important to defend freedom for this man and condemn the barbaric ideology that may well put him to death and, at the same time, defend the freedom of Muslims in this country against the attempts by the Christian right to deny them their right to practice their religious. Not only are those two positions not contradictory, they are consistent and necessary.

Comments

  1. d cwilson says

    The most stunning thing to me is that there are extradiction treaties out there that cover blasphemy.

  2. Chris A says

    I don’t know if they have an extradition treaty which specifies blasphemy, but I would be willing to bet that they have one which allows fabulously wealthy governments to get what they want…

  3. says

    The worst part about this entire thing was that his Tweets didn’t seem at all inherently blasphemous. They were like a love letter to a flawed individual. They were kind of like “I don’t think you’re perfect, I disagree with you on some things, but I love you anyway.”

    To die over something like that is… ridiculous.

  4. raven says

    The worst part about this entire thing was that his Tweets didn’t seem at all inherently blasphemous.

    Yeah, that was my reaction. It was pretty tame stuff. Not like me saying Islam is as real as all the other religions which is to say, they are all fake.

    Supposedly in Islam, they aren’t supposed to Deify or worship Mohammed. He was just a human, albeit a messenger from god.

    That is what they do in monotheistic religions. There is no god but Allah and that includes Mohammed as not a god.

    If their religion was true, they wouldn’t have to go around killing people over it.

    Hitchens: Xianity lost its best defence when they stopped burning people at the stake. Islam isn’t ready to give that power up yet.

  5. eric says

    The worst part about this entire thing was that his Tweets didn’t seem at all inherently blasphemous.

    No, that really isn’t the worse thing. The worse thing is SA putting him on trial and potentially executing him for his beliefs regardless of whether they are blasphemous or not.

    Had what he said been so amazingly, appallingly blasphemous that all seven billion inhabitants on earth agreed, yes, that’s blasphemous, it would still be a tragedy to punish him over it. That’s what free speech is all about. ‘It wasn’t blasphemous’ is the wrong response. ‘Beliefs ought not be punished, period, full stop, blasphemous or not’ is what you should be saying.

  6. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    They were like a love letter to a flawed individual.

    To the Saudis, apparently, the implication that Muhammad might have been less than a perfect being is blasphemous.

  7. raven says

    Blasphemy is truly a crime without a victim.

    It’s like insulting ET, Superman, the Green Lantern, or Frodo the hobbit.

  8. matty1 says

    @2

    I don’t know if they have an extradition treaty which specifies blasphemy

    According to this Malaysian Human Rights group they don’t have any extradition treaty just an informal ‘arrangement’ of arresting people on the request of foreign governments.

    Malaysia and Saudi Arabia do not have a formal extradition treaty but have close ties as fellow Muslim countries.

    The home ministry defended its stance earlier Sunday.

    “Malaysia has a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and (Kashgari) will be repatriated under this arrangement,” it said in a statement.

    “The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

  9. anandine says

    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne said: To the Saudis, apparently, the implication that Muhammad might have been less than a perfect being is blasphemous.

    Then I’d better not let them know that I think Mohammed was a practicing schizophrenic, listening to the voices in his head.

    Or that he betrothed Aisha when she was 6 or 7 and consumated the marriage when she was 9, which in today’s world would make him a pederast.

  10. says

    Appalling case. But:

    not to rain on the parade here, but many western countries still have blasphemy statutes on the book (a German blogger just won an acquittal in court after he called the RCC a sect of “not so nice word for people raping children”). Even the UN seems to frequently take position against defamation of religion, UNLESS the death penalty is involved, which makes the current case all the more interesting:

    – according to Saudi judicial procedures, which are based on shariah law, the sentencing seems to be totally up to the judge, and ultimately to the king. Contrary to what many western media outlets write, the death penalty is not a given, many cases, especially those that received western media attention, did end in imprisonment, or deportation (in case of foreign nationals). The Saudis have at times paid attention to western attention, so the campaigns that have started just now are important!

    There is no extradition treaty between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, but if a government wants to deport a foreign national, they don’t need a treaty for that. They could just define their stay as not in the government’s interest and void their visa (or rather rescind the entry permit).

  11. slc1 says

    His mistake was going to a Muslime country like Malaysia. Just another boost to the late Christopher Hitches’ claim that religion poisons everything.

  12. matty1 says

    Also here we can see the Malaysian Foreign Ministry’s own list of treaties. There is no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia listed on there. It does appear the Malaysian government broke their own laws in doing this.

  13. laurentweppe says

    They wanted him so badly that they sent a private jet to get him. Because of some Tweets.

    Personally, I heavily suspect that the “blasphemous” tweets are a pretense to get rid of a journalist, especially at a time when the Saudi dynasty is facing riots and would like to crush them without the rest of the world noticing.

    ***

    Or that he betrothed Aisha when she was 6 or 7 and consumated the marriage when she was 9, which in today’s world would make him a pederast.

    first a pederast is an homosexual ephebophile, typically someone who’s not going to lust after a human female, regardless of her age.
    Second, Aisha being fucked by Muhammad when she was 9 years is but one traditional tale, and not even the most likely one to boot: and I’m starting to be really tired to have to repeat again and again that to treat one traditional tale as the confirmed historical truth because it fits one’s agenda is a dishonest trick.

  14. says

    slc1,

    he went to Malaysia, because Saudi nationals don’t need visas for Malaysia. Unlike for Europe or the US.

    matty1,

    please show me the Malaysian law that says that the Malaysian govt may not deport a foreign national who no longer has the right to be inside the country?

    That said, what Malaysia did is horrible as well and they should condemned for it, but I don’t think it’s illegal.

  15. says

    matty1,

    Malaysia could have broken international law, but I’m not sure how much they would care about that.

    Now there are press reports saying that Kashgari’s lawyers had obtained a last-minute injunction from the High Court to stop his deportation, and if the authorities intentionally ignored that, they could have broken Malaysian law. A suit to that effect has been filed.

  16. says

    pelamun wrote:

    Appalling case. But:

    not to rain on the parade here, but many western countries still have blasphemy statutes on the book (a German blogger just won an acquittal in court after he called the RCC a sect of “not so nice word for people raping children”).

    I’m not sure what parade you believe yourself to be raining on here. Why is this relevant to my post at all? Do you think it would change my position at all? All blasphemy laws should be done away with, everywhere.

    Even the UN seems to frequently take position against defamation of religion, UNLESS the death penalty is involved, which makes the current case all the more interesting

    The tide has turned on that issue. The defamation of religion resolution has received fewer and fewer votes over the last few years and that language was stripped from the most recent resolution on religious intolerance passed by the General Assembly. But again, I’m just not sure why you thought this was raining on anyone’s parade or why it was worth bringing up as though it was some sort of important counterpoint.

  17. eric says

    @6: To the Saudis, apparently, the implication that Muhammad might have been less than a perfect being is blasphemous.

    Which adds a whole other level of irony to the situation, since the law against drawing pictures of Muhammad was done to prevent idolatry. They took a somewhat reasonable religious procscription, extracted the spirit, and stomped it into mush while enforcing the remaining hollow shell with the death penalty.

  18. says

    Ed,

    because whenever these things happen, people are often quick to point to the cultural differences between the West and the Islamic world. Some people in the West then often display a self-righteous attitude about the issue. (I didn’t say you did.)

    I bring it up because the persistence of blasphemy laws (and other religious privileges) in western countries is an issue dear to me, and frustrating too, because there is not much political will to do anything about it (though the abuse scandal has had some influence here). I just wanted to remind everyone that blasphemy laws still exist in the West, too. Sorry if you felt that to be a derail.

    I also brought up the UN because I found it horrid that the UN would get behind that. If that language was stripped from the most recent resolution, then this is something I didn’t know about and which comes as a positive surprise to me.

  19. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    They took a somewhat reasonable religious procscription, extracted the spirit, and stomped it into mush while enforcing the remaining hollow shell with the death penalty.

    Is a “procscription” a proscription that you’ve pulled out of your ass?

  20. matty1 says

    Pelanum, you are right the Malaysian government can in law expel any non citizen they please to any place that will receive them.It also appears they have never signed up to the UN Convention on Refugees so the international law thing would probably also go nowhere. I would say though that detaining someone transiting through your country because a nation you have no extradition treaty with accused them of a ‘crime’ and without allowing them to challenge that detention goes against the spirit if not the letter of the rule of law. If they had really just wanted him out of Malaysia he could have been allowed to continue on to New Zealand.

  21. says

    matty1,

    yes, they should have let him continue to New Zealand, which probably would have received him under the circumstances even without a visa or maybe issued one quickly.

    I’ve been following things in Malaysia with growing concern over the years now, it comes as no surprise to me that they would hand him over to Saudi Arabia. Hopefully the domestic lawsuit goes somewhere.

  22. says

    pelamun wrote:

    I bring it up because the persistence of blasphemy laws (and other religious privileges) in western countries is an issue dear to me, and frustrating too, because there is not much political will to do anything about it (though the abuse scandal has had some influence here). I just wanted to remind everyone that blasphemy laws still exist in the West, too. Sorry if you felt that to be a derail.

    I also brought up the UN because I found it horrid that the UN would get behind that. If that language was stripped from the most recent resolution, then this is something I didn’t know about and which comes as a positive surprise to me.

    I agree on both of those things and have written about both of them at great length for many years. That’s why I’m just not clear on whose parade you thought you were raining on. Neither I nor any commenter in this thread was having a parade to be rained on by those issues. If that phrase had been left out, I would not have reacted as I did.

  23. says

    Ed,

    I agree that the phrase was poorly chosen in retrospect. On other blogs, over the past few months, there have been commenters like that, but you’re absolutely right that this wasn’t the case here, and in this post. So I retract it.

  24. anandine says

    laurentweppe, thanks for the corrections. I have apparently always been using “pederast” wrongly to mean people who like sex with little kids of either sex. My bad.

    I confess I used Wikipedia to check the age of Aisha at consummation. It matched the story I had heard, and I believed it. The fact that it is a “traditional tale” doesn’t automatically make it wrong, but it does put it more toward the category of Washington chopping down the cherry tree, or maybe more like Abraham and Isaac. Thanks again for the correction.

  25. Tualha says

    Well, Mr. President. Saudi Arabia is our great ally, yes? Our big buddy in the Middle East, right after Israel. So, are you going to call them up and officially ask them to respect this person’s human rights? Or are you just going to let them execute him for things he said? To put your mind at ease, perhaps I should mention that you probably won’t lose many votes if you do the right thing here.

  26. exdrone says

    He only discovered later on Sunday, when he spoke to an immigration officer at the Kuala Lumpur airport, that Mr. Kashgari had already been deported on a private Saudi jet.

    What are the chances that Saudi officials watched the CIA’s extraordinary rendition flights and thought, “Now that’s a terribly good idea.”

  27. laurentweppe says

    I confess I used Wikipedia to check the age of Aisha at consummation. It matched the story I had heard, and I believed it

    It is the version of the story most often told: the problem being that it is the version most often told not because it is backed by more evidence, but because it provided throught the muslim world a convenient justification for arranged marriage and aristocrats indulging in child molestation, and quite frankly, I don’t feel obliged to treat a piece of pro-rape propaganda as the unchallenged historical truth; especially in a case where there is a non negligible possibility that the accounts were deliberately falsified to accommodate the depravity of the upper class.

    ***

    The fact that it is a “traditional tale” doesn’t automatically make it wrong

    Well, it is definitely possible that Muhammad was a child rapist: it’s simply far from certain. It’s also possible that Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings, but most people refrain from saying things like “We know for a fact that the author of the Declaration of Independence was a rapist“, because there is an important distinction between hypothesizing and boldly proclaiming one’s certainty.

  28. F says

    Don’t forget that Kashgari had also previously expressed support for uprisings in other countries, such as Syria. Il bet the House of Saud doesn’t much care for that, either.

  29. jamessweet says

    So what’s the scoop on INTERPOL’s involvement? I first heard that their infrastructure had been used to flag Kashgari, but then they were denying it and saying that Saudi Arabia and Malaysia organized this whole travesty all on their lonesome. Any new info on that?

    It’s important to me, because while it’s no less tragic or shocking if it was just two buddy-buddy Muslim countries getting together to piss all over human rights, it’s a lot less surprising if INTERPOL is not involved. Also, I think it’s important because a sufficient amount of outrage would likely extract a promise from INTERPOL to never pull this shit again, whereas I don’t think the Saudi or Malaysian governments much give a fuck.

  30. Chris from Europe says

    @pelamun
    Unfortunately the story about the German blogger (he called the church the German equivalent of “childfuckers”) will likely go on. And immediately there were people outraged that he wasn’t convicted because he supposedly insulted every Catholic.

    If Mr Kantel loses on a higher level of jurisdiction, I hope that he’ll challenge the constitutionality of the law. Personal honor and child protection shouldn’t be an excuse to violate freedom of expression at the current level. But I don’t have much hope that it will succeed.

  31. says

    @Chris

    Actually, I was wrong in calling it an acquittal, it was more like the judge denying the prosecution’s request to try him. Against which the prosecution has to appeal immediately. I haven’t seen any reports that they did, maybe you know more about it?

    There’s nothing on Mr. Kantel’s blog…

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