Saudi Writer Kashgari Deported
Freedom House is alarmed by the deportation of Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari from Malaysia after fleeing Saudi Arabia to escape death threats for allegedly insulting the prophet Mohammad on Twitter. Kashgari was detained in Malaysia on February 9 and taken back to Saudi Arabia by Saudi authorities on February 12. He was denied access to legal counsel during his detention in Malaysia, which also has anti-blasphemy laws that carry severe penalties. Freedom House is deeply concerned that Kashgari will not be given a fair trial in Saudi Arabia, where charges of blasphemy can carry the death penalty.
On February 4, Kashgari posted a series of introspective tweets about the Prophet Mohammad on the prophet’s birthday, prompting personal attacks on social media from Saudi citizens and religious figures, and calls for his execution. Although Kashgari removed the posts and apologized for any offense, the Saudi government issued an official call for his detention, prompting him to flee to Malaysia. The Saudi government put out a warrant for Kashgari’s arrest, which reports say came directly from the King, and its Fatwa Council has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling him an apostate and calling for his prosecution. His Twitter feed has been deleted, although it is not clear by whom. This case is yet another indicator of the dangers blasphemy laws pose.
The musings of Kashgari are not the first time social media postings have led to accusations of blasphemy or apostasy. Last week, Indonesian police charged a civil servant with blasphemy for insulting Islam and writing, “God doesn’t exist” on Facebook, and in December 2011, Saudi Arabia beheaded a woman convicted of witchcraft. In 2010, Pakistan shut down YouTube and Facebook and called for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to be tried for blasphemy because of an online contest encouraging users to draw cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Freedom in the World 2011: Saudi Arabia
Freedom in the World 2011: Malaysia
Freedom of the Press 2011: Saudi Arabia
Freedom of the Press 2011: Malaysia
Freedom on the Net 2011: Saudi Arabia
Freedom on the Net 2011: Malaysia
Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights