Saudi novelist arrested for tweets criticizing Islam

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (

Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef ordered the arrest of controversial novelist and political analyst Turki al-Hamad Monday for apparently criticizing Islam and the royal family in a series of tweets.

The tweet that reportedly caused the most upset said “just as the prophet had descended once to rectify the faith of Abraham, it was time for someone to come and right the prophet Muhammad's religion.”

Saudi Arabia has not disclosed the charges leveled against Hamad, however, Saudi media outlets have speculated that the offending Tweet brought on the arrest.

Saudi Arabia is well-known for cracking down on those who insult the Muslim religion or the ruling family.

The tweet caused confusion about whether Hamad was criticizing the religion itself or only the way it is practiced. Saudi responses on Twitter ranged from accusing the outspoken novelist of “atheism” to agreeing with “the need for more a more righteous application of Sharia.”

A Twitter post is often seen to be a vague means of expressing opinion, because its 140 character limit restricts elaboration, lending itself to misinterpretation. In 2010, CNN veteran Octavia Nasr was fired over a tweet that eulogized the late Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was seen as close to Hazbollah. Nasr wrote a blog post clarifying her tweet, but CNN superiors said her credibility had “been compromised.”

Hamad is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, he caused a stir for criticizing a Minister of State Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahad, saying he did not know how to run the state.

More recently, in a tweet that was apparently interpreted as an insult to the ruling parties, he had tweeted: 'While the rest of the world is busy debating Iran's nuclear capacity, we're busy with whether women can drive..."

In another tweet Saturday, he said that the Muslim Brotherhood finally obtained freedom of expression, but did not use it properly, and so they "lost in a couple of years what they had gained over decades."

Hamad claims he promotes the coexistence of 'liberalism' and Islam. He was born in Jordan and is now living in Saudi Arabia. A self-declared champion of tolerance, he believes that Islamic fundamentalism can be combated through education.

Four fatwas were issued against him by Saudi religious clerics for his trilogy titled 'Phantoms of the Deserted Alley', and the books remain banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

His first novel of the three, Adama, speaks of an 18-year-old named Hisham struggling with Saudi Arabia's conservatism and familial traditions, as he moves towards liberalism with books and peer dissenters.

He had told The Daily Star that the fatwas, that permit his assassination, were mere nuisances. And in an interview with the London-based Majalla online magazine, he said:

"Their fatwas do not intimidate me, because I know that they claim they are speaking on behalf of God, our Lord, Muslims and non-Muslims, he is not theirs only. Their fatwas are a means to impose their influence on thought and society, so one should stand against them."



When did the anti-Islamic atheist Abu Khalil become an expert on what is Islamic or not? Didn't he consider Nabeel al-Awadi's series on the Seerah, "Wahabi anti-semitism", so that necessitate Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muhammad ibn Maslamah are "Wahabis" because of their confrontations with the Hijazi Jews? How come As'ad didn't talk about "Shi'ite anti-semitism' when Al-Manar did a series on Khaybar in the summer of 2011? And if there was a Turki al-Hamad in Hezbollah's heartland engaging in an ideological confrontation with Hezbollah, would we see the same defense? We saw what Amal and Hebzollah did to those Shi'ite leftists in the 80's. There are thousands of Turki al-Hamad's in Iran who were jailed by the Iranian regime and I didn't see As'ad or the other secular sectarian, Ibrahim al-Amin defend them, just like they promote gay rights and pride parades in Hamra, let's see them promote this in their hometowns in Tyre and Quleila.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top