Journalist Flees Saudi After Tweet on Prophet

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Culture and Information Minister Abdel Aziz Khoja banned Hamza Kashgari from working for any Saudi newspaper or magazine, as he announced on his official Twitter page. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Badr al-Ibrahim

Published Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An apology by Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari over his controversial tweet about Prophet Mohammad failed to dampen a Salafi campaign against him prompting him to flee his home country.

The issue has turned from a spontaneous reaction into an organized campaign run by a group of disturbed Salafis, which has included death threats.

That’s how a series of attacks quickly escalated against Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari following his tweets on the Prophet Mohammad’s mawlid (birth), which was celebrated on Saturday. Kashgari fled in the wake of the campaign. There are conflicting reports about his current whereabouts. A new twitter account believed to be his claims he headed to Canada while other news reports say he is in Southeast Asia.

The Saudi writer, who wrote for al-Bilad newspaper, did not only receive a deluge of threats. His address and phone number were circulated so that his opponents would know how to find him.

Indeed, Kashgari’s tweets were offensive to the stature of the prophet, but he later admitted to this offense and apologized.

This did not stop a group of hardliners from accusing him of cursing the prophet outright, which he did not as. Kashgari clearly declared his admiration to many traits of the prophet, but wanted to “shake hands with him as an equal” rather than a subject.

Thus, the incitement campaign against Kashgari began online, where the feelings of those “defending the prophet” were expressed in ways that the prophet would not approve of.

A clerical group, Sheikhs of the Sahwa, joined in as Sheikh Nasser al-Omar openly wept in reaction to the incident, inciting the state against Kashgari. Thus, a royal decision was issued on Monday to arrest the writer.

It appears that Kashgari is being set up as the scapegoat, by the religious and political authorities.

Al-Omar’s tearful speech may explain some of what is happening. After wiping off his tears, he talked about the strife and instability in neighboring countries (meaning the Arab Spring), blessing the security and safety of the kingdom.

He then moved on to explain the existence of fanaticism in the country, which he attributed to the presence of Kashgari and people like him who “speak as they wish.”

Al-Omar and like-minded religious conservatives are in effect trying to strike a deal with the state along the following lines: “We supported you in countering unrest, strife, and the effects of the Arab Spring. We have previously resorted to violence against our jihadi sons, when they stood against you. We are not asking for much, we simple want to maintain the Islamic nature of our society.”

For guardians of the temple, this means suppressing freedom of expression and imposing their views on the social lives of Saudis in the name of “fighting sharia violations.”

They are more than ready to turn a blind eye to corruption, arbitrary detention, and other problems because they do not consider them “infractions against sharia.”

Kashgari’s case has become a tool that is being used to demonstrate this movement’s present strength for several reasons.

First, this group is concerned about the Arab Spring and its impact on the kingdom, which could limit the clergy’s power over society and incite the masses against the country’s authoritarian system.

The second reason has to do with conservatives losing their case against women working at lingerie stores.

They also fear the appointment of a new head of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and the possible limits that will be imposed on its work as a result.

Furthermore, they want to prove their strength in battle against their opponents. This would convey the message that this is their political time and that they are able to make a strong comeback and compensate for what they have lost.

Using this rhetoric, they want to embarrass the political authorities into granting them additional powers, especially since they openly speak about the possibility of the emergence of terrorists as a result of the actions of Kashgari and others like him.

But the problem resides in their inability to control everything.

Twitter, the medium that they used to condemn Kashgari, cannot be monopolized by any one party. The communications revolution has broken this unilateral mentality that they want to prevail.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Below are the controversial tweets posted by Hamza Kashgari (@hmzmz) along with their English translations.

On your birthday, I will say that I loved the rebel in you, which always inspired me. But I didn’t like the aura of holiness, I will not bless you.

On your birthday, I see you in my face everywhere I turn. I will say that I loved some things in you, hated some things, and I did not understand many other things.

On your birthday, I will not bow to you. I won’t kiss your hands. I will shake hands with you as an equal, and smile at you like you smile at me, and talk to you only as a friend, nothing more.


Kashgari's words on the day of the Prophet's birthday are hurtful and offensive.. and he clearly wanted it to be so..he wanted people to read it and create buzz.. the behavior cannot be supported.. but to be hanged for it, I do not approve.. Saudi govt has always been strict, and i personally do not see why everybody is surprised.. kashgari has done nothing right to be hailed and appreciated.,. he is degrading a prophet.. not saving a woman, and he had no need to.. any prophet being insulted from any religion wud be hurtful to its own believers right.. prison him, not kill.. this is abuse of freedom of expression..

I agree with you

"Don't follow what ever there is in the religious books. Instead analyze on your own and then realize the truth". To me, Kashgari was doing that. But a death penalty? This shows that there is no freedom in Muslim. If Kashgari has sinned for this, he would be punished by the prophet himself. Giving him death penalty is much greater a sin. No one has the right to take some one else's precious life. People who decided to give him death penalty are greater sinners.

"This shows there is no freedom in Muslim"

Man you ignorant orientalists don't ever seem to stop with ridiculous "conclusions" like this. Did it ever occur to you that there's dozens and dozens of Muslim countries outside of Saudi Arabia? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, not all Muslim countries are the same? Please cut the self-righteousness and generalizations.

That being said, of course this is absolutely wrong. And it's a shame that autocratic Saudi clerics are going through with this "punishment" of Kashgari.

Buddhism says, don't follow what ever there is in the teachings. Instead analyze on your own and then realize the truth. To me, Kashgari was doing that. But a death penalty? This shows that there is no freedom in Muslim. Instead it would be better to abandon such religion... If Kashgari has sinned for this, he would be punished by the prophet himself. Giving him death penalty is much greater a sin. No one has the right to take some one else's precious life. People who decided to give him death penalty are greater sinners.

I am excited to see that Islam and Muslims do us Christians a great favor by showing their true face time and time again. Since when did God give you a license to kill people who criticize religious thinking and dogma? You people will never learn that God is not cruel but a loving God who loves us all despite our imperfections! Have you seen a father kill his son or daughter for questioning them about the reasoning behind something or someone's status. It is pathetic to see that Saudi, the country which has no human rights and religious tolerance do this to its people. Then it calls for freedom and democracy in a country like Syria when in its backyard it does not allow anyone to raise their head and demand democracy! Shame on you!

I would say it would be the same God who gave "Saint" Augustine of Hippo the idea to kill for "Christ", wouldn't you agree? and if that's too convenient to forget for your two-dead-cells-for-a-brain to forget, I would then suggest it to be be the "God" of "Saints" of Croatia and Serbia who ravaged then slaughtered tens of thousands of unarmed Muslim villagers and buried them in shallow graves not so long ago in Yugoslavia, or even closer still, your lunatic evangelist Dubya who single-handedly caused the displacement and death of no less than a million Iraqis over a period of continuous genocide lasting over two decades; or is it perhaps the same "God" that inspired the "Gallant Christians" in Uzbekistan, Chechnia and the Caucas?

Bah Humbug Fraud !! At least have the decency to show your true cards, and not hide behind cheap hatred marketed as Christianity.

"I am excited to see that Islam and Muslims do us Christians a great favor"

You're excited because a young man is about to be executed because of something he wrote on Twitter. Disgusting. If you were a real Christian the last thing on your mind would be petty political point scoring between Islam and Christianity but sorrow and compassion for this man's fate.

"You people will never learn that God is not cruel but a loving God who loves us all despite our imperfections!"

Pity that Christianity only learned peace after murdering 6 million Jews. Imagine the trouble saved if this new found love had been a bit earlier.

I see this,

Kashgari’s tweets were offensive to the stature of the prophet, but he later admitted to this offense and apologized.

Does this mean the person who wrote this above Al Akhbar article will also be calling for his persecution if Kashgari did not apologize ?

According to the above writer, Does this privilege of getting offended about Prophet extend to other religions and atheists too ? Isn't it possible atheists too might get offended when people they hold dear are insulted ?

This is the sad state of the Muslim world. And people wonder why Muslims are viewed as "fanatics" by the rest of the non-Muslim world. We are somehow convinced that we are the right ones to carry out God's will, including killing another person for a verbal "insult".

I don't know, this kind of undermines the prophet, because these Salafis are indirectly implying that the prophet could not tolerate dissent, or even an insult. Does that mean he was an impatient hotheaded person who was ready to punish people at the slightest infractions? These fanatics are the ones responsible for Danish people perceiving Muhammad and Muslims are bomb wearing turban heads who will go to heaven by using guns and swords.

If you don't want people to perceive you and your prophet as irrational fanatics, stop acting irrationally and fanatically. Learn how to control your emotions, think, and for once believe in God....let God make the judgement, not you.

Jesus and Mohammed spread the word of God but were mere mortal people like the rest of us imo.

Jesus is truly fully human in every way but He is not a mere human. As much as He is fully human, He is also fully Divine. He is the only begotten Son of God (John3:16). He is the Word of God, meaning He is the logos of God, His very Mind (John1:1). Jesus Himself said I and My Father are one (John 10:30). He also uses the name reserved only for God, He said that before Abraham was IAM (John 8:58). Also in a prophecy about the Birth of Jesus 700 years before Christ, we hear:
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The whole entire Bible is about Jesus being God. He is the only way to the Father and it is very logical for how can there be any way to God only by God. We as people are limited and we can never satisfy the unlimited holiness of the Divine God, that is why God sent His only begotten Son to save us because He loves us and wants us to be His children.

Ya but your bible is irrelevant in this discussion. This isn't about a Saudi christian

I just want to correct some information in this report. all people in Sauid Arabia are asking the king to take very hard action against him. there is no certain group is going behind him but all people ( children, men and women)

thank you

Is it the majority or the vocal minority wanting to vent their anger? How do you know all the people in Saudi Arabia are against him? Can they reveal their thoughts freely without persecution?

Is it permitted to offend another Muslim sect in Saudi Arabia?

So you're saying that everyone is equally brainwashed, not just one group of indoctrinated extremists? That's too bad. Enlightenment will hopefully reach Riyadh one day- that is if the rulers slip up and allow it.

I highly doubt that it was "ALL" the people.

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