A well-known Saudi writer, Turki Al-Hamad, was arrested on Monday for tweets deemed critical of Islam. Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef reportedly ordered the arrest.
The response online has been polarised, with many
using the hashtag ( Translated: The arrest of Turki Al-Hamad ) to come to Al-Hamad's defence and others using ( Translated: Turki Al-Hamad the heretic ) to condemn him.
The specific tweet Al-Hamad was allegedly arrested for, shown
below, implies he thinks Islam should be corrected:
[Translation] Our Prophet came to rectify the faith of Abraham, and now is a time when we need someone to rectify the faith of Mohammed.
Saudi Arabia is studying new laws to criminalise insulting Islam, including in social media, and the law could carry heavy penalties, a Saudi paper said on Sunday.
Within the next two months the Shura Council will reveal the outcome of study on
the regulations to combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia, unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter told al-Watan, adding that there could be severe punishments for violators.
Criticism penalised under the law
would include that of the religious character Mohammed, early Muslim figures and clerics, it said.
The (regulations) are important at the present time because violations over social networks on the Internet have been observed in the past
months, the sources said. Refering to the case of thw Saudi blogger and columnist Hamza Kashgari. He was was arrested for tweeting comments deemed as insulting to Mohammad. Kashgari said that there were things he liked and disliked about him.
A man in Saudi Arabia is accused of offending Islam and Mohammed in remarks on Twitter.
Hundreds of Twitter users were 'outraged' and demanded the arrest of Mohammed Salama on apostasy charges as was the case of Hamza Kashgari who is already in
jail for supposedly offensive tweets.
The Saudi Arabic language daily Sabq, which carried part of Salama's remarks, said he claimed Mohammed had once tried to commit a suicide because he doubted the Koran. It also quoted Salama as saying on
Twitter : If God gives chances but does not forget, then why He forgot Israel and did not give chances to Gaddafi. The paper also said Salama believed that God will let us enjoy liquor, usury and sorcery in Paradise after we were deprived of
them in life.
The paper reported that Hundreds of Twitter users are demanding the arrest and trial of Salama for insulting Islam, the Prophet and God as was the case with Kashgari.
Saudi Arabia has used Interpol's system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for supposedly insulting Muhammad on Twitter
Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari was detained at the airport following a request by Interpol on behalf of
the Saudi authorities.
Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on Mohammed's birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read:
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.
More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled The Saudi People
Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari . Clerics joined in the call for blood with the demand that he be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death.
Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials
International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said:
Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia's pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.
If an Interpol red notice is the reason for his arrest and detention it would be a serious abuse of this powerful international body that is supposed to respect basic human rights (including to peaceful free speech) and to be
barred from any involvement in religious or political cases.
Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.
Saudi Arabia's mufti, the country's highest religious figure, has rejected calls to shift the trial of a Twitter user, who was accused of blasphemy, from religious courts to the information ministry.
Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Al Shaikh said
that Hamza Kashgari, charged of disrespecting God and insulting Mohammad in his Twitter account, will face trial in the country's religious-court only. The mufti claimed:
We are in a Muslim country and we have a fair
All matters related to justice should be reviewed by Shariah courts as God the Almighty said in the Holy Quran. The justice system in Saudi Arabia is fair.
It seems that the Malaysian authorities would have rather kept the arrest and deportation off the radar. However, the news began to spread. The authorities began trying to justify themselves and their intended actions.
suggested that the arrest was part of an Interpol initiative, though Interpol denied any knowledge of the matter.
Attempts were then made to characterise the affair as being part of an extradition exercise but Malaysia does not
have an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia.
Lawyers were appointed and began efforts to meet their client and to secure his release. They appear to have been given the run-around or kept in the dark about the fact that the
authorities had already unilaterally decided to return Kashgari to Saudi Arabia. The procuring of an injunction from a High Court judge on Sunday to temporarily restrain the deportation came to nought; Kashgari had been deported earlier that morning
despite awareness of the intended legal challenge.
One cannot help but question the manner in which the Malaysian authorities conducted themselves. Malaysia was under no legal obligation to return the journalist to Saudi Arabia
and the two countries are not bound by an extradition treaty, meaning what Kashgari has done in Saudi Arabia is not of relevance in Malaysia. Kashgari had not committed any offence in Malaysia and had entered the country on a valid travel document. He
was not intending to stay in Malaysia; his final port of call was New Zealand.