Hamza Kashgari's twelve traumatic days

Hamza Kashgari's twelve traumatic days

The case of a repentant young Saudi journalist, deported back to his home country, has attracted international attention.
article image
An image grab taken from a YouTube video of Hamza Kashgari.

It's been 12 days since Hamza Kashgari, the 23 year old Saudi journalist awaiting interrogation over Tweets deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, first sent out his contraversial messages.

He is still insistent that he is repentant as his case continues to attract attention from international media.

Kashgari "has affirmed to his family that he stands by his repentance, that he has made a mistake and regrets it," a family member told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He fled to Malaysia after his comments sparked a wave of condemnations and threats against his life, but was deported back to Saudi Arabia on February 12.

Upon his return from Malaysia, Kashgari "informed his family he is in very good condition," the source said. "His family is still waiting for authorities to allow them to visit him and appoint a defence lawyer."

A Saudi lawyer told AFP on February 14 that Kashgari "has not yet been interrogated and we hope this issue ends before it reaches the attorney general."

Saudi English-language daily Arab News reported earlier this week that Kashgari would face blasphemy charges.

On the occasion of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, Kashgari tweeted: "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."

His post sparked outrage and prompted thousands to call on a Facebook page entitled "The Saudi people demand Hamza Kashgari's execution" for him to be executed. The page already has more than 23,000 members.

'When I read what he posted, I wept and got very angry'

Saudi's Arab News also reported that worshippers were keen to bring the blogger to justice.

It is not yet clear what punishment Kashgari will face. He has already been given a ban on writing for Saudi newspapers and magazines.

Interior and foreign ministry spokesmen declined to comment to Reuters on Kashgari's status, although Saudi Information Minister Abdul-Aziz Khoja responded to the incident via Twitter.

"When I read what he posted, I wept and got very angry that someone in the country of the Two Holy Mosques attacks our Prophet in a manner that does not fit a Muslim...," Khoja said.

"I have given instructions to ban him from writing for any Saudi newspaper or magazine, and there will be legal measures to guarantee that," he said

The European Union said February 13 that it was "deeply disappointed" that Malaysia deported Kashgari.

"The EU will continue taking all appropriate steps to achieve a positive outcome of Mr Kashgari's case," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Kashgari had quickly apologised for his comments, tweeting: "I have made a mistake, and I hope Allah and all those whom I have offended will forgive me."

Kashgari was a columnist at the Jeddah-based Al-Bilad newspaper, which fired him after the controversy over his tweets.

Insulting the Prophet Mohammed is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

A committee of top clerics branded Kashgari an "infidel" and demanded his trial in an Islamic court.

A YouTube video posted on February 7 seems to show a Saudi cleric weeping as he calls for the journalist to be executed. The DCMF cannot verify the authenticity of this video.

Others have defended Kashgari.

Prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh tweeted: "His repentance from what he said has comforted me. I feel the sincerity of his statements and call onto my brothers to pray for him."

Timeline

February 4 – Kashgari tweets about his feelings towards the Prophet Mohammed. He later deletes his account following an intense and controversial reaction, including calls for his execution.

February 9 – Kashgari flees Saudi but is arrested by police in Malaysia while en route to New Zealand.

February 12 – Malaysia, which has close ties with Arabs states, sends Kashgari back to Saudi.

February 13 – Malaysia defends its decision to deport Kashgari following accusations it failed to protect human rights. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says Malaysia should not be seen as a “safe haven for terrorists and those who are wanted by their countries of origin.”

February 14 – Kashgari is said to be awaiting an interrogation by Saudi authorities. His lawyer Abdulrahman Allahem says he hopes the issue is closed “before it reaches the attorney general.”

February 15 – Kashgari’s family member, speaking anonymously, says the young journalist repents and insists he knows he made a mistake.

Quotes about Hamza’s case

The press has covered Kashgari's case widely. Here are some quotes pulled from some of the analysis that has been streaming through:

The Nation (American weekly journal)

Saudi Arabia appears determined to sacrifice one of its young on the altar of domestic politics…Tens of thousands of self-righteous Saudis responded venomously, including the country’s king, who allegedly personally ordered Kashgari’s detention.

The Guardian (British daily newspaper)

It is likely that he will not be executed, if he makes a sufficiently grovelling apology, though he will certainly be punished cruelly for something that is not a crime in any civilised society.

Washington Post (American daily newspaper)

Kashgari noted with sadness that many young Saudis are leaving their country in hopes of escaping the government's repressive policies. “It’s not logical that, if someone disagrees with the Saudi government, that he should be forced to leave the country. Many of those who have been arrested are fighting for simple rights that everyone should have — freedom of thought, expression, speech and religion,” (Kashgari said).

David Keyes wrote this comment piece, saying he was in close contact with Kashgari before his deportation and detention. He is executive director of the New York-based organization Advancing Human Rights and co-founder of CyberDissidents.org.

Arab News (English language daily in Saudi)

Although many Saudi twitters will see this case as a setback to their newly gained social and expressional freedom, it could be viewed as a milestone representing the vast grounds they covered in their social media experience. But it also shows how badly we are in need to sharpen our social media communication skills.

The Star (Malaysian daily tabloid newspaper)

One wonders how our own celebrated bomoh (Malay healer) – especially those frequently called in to help politicians facing trials in courts as well as football teams seeking spiritual help – would fare if sorcery were similarly enforced as a crime in Malaysia.

Gulf News (English language daily in UAE)

A final note when it comes to Kashgari’s case: perhaps people should remember that after years of battle with his tribe in Makkah who not only disowned him, insulted and fought him but also tortured and killed a large number of his followers, Prophet Mohammad still forgave all.

Source: Agencies, Reports

 

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