Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saudi Arabian Writer Hamza Kashgari: Clemency and the 23-year-old brain

Hamza Kashgari is a 23-year-old Saudi writer (poet and local journalist), who, on the occasion of the Prophet Mohamed's birthday wrote a series of tweets that were imaginative, yet crossed a line for appropriate discourse within Islam and particularly within more conservative approaches, and especially within the religion and culture of Saudi Arabia.
Those who know Kashgari were worried about his safety but tried to distance themselves from him. Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan described the high emotions in the Kingdom, saying “There was an amazing anger. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I think it’s because this is an extremely unique case. We’ve never had our own Salman Rushdie before. We’ve never had a case as extreme as this one of someone crossing the line.”-- Katerina Nikolas in The Digital Journal
The response was rapid, with a furious denunciation on Twitter, death threats to him as an apostate, and the organization of a Facebook petition calling for his arrest and punishment by death. More remarkably, given his relative obscurity and the Twitter format, the Saudi clerical establishment responded immediately with a fatwa and charges of blasphemy and apostasy, and King Abdullah ordered his arrest on these charges which carry the death penalty (by beheading). This was despite Hamza following the advice of his religious teachers, and deleting all tweets and issuing an apology. Also on the advice of friends he went into hiding and then fled the country. He was arrested at the airport in Malaysia, en route to New Zealand and is being held for extradition to Saudi Arabia.

All of this happened within 3 days of the publication of the tweets on the Prophet's birthday.

Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari was arrested at the airport in Malaysia, after he fled his country following outrage over his tweets that were deemed to be insulting to the prophet. AFP PHOTO / Saeed KHAN

When I first learned about Hamza's plight, I immediately thought that he was caught up in the conservative turn Saudi has taken, and its increased and increasingly overt vigilance of social media that have accompanied the response by Saudi to the Arab Spring, and to national demonstrations--whether for women's right to drive, or for the release of prisoners, or regarding (sectarian support) for Bahrain in the Eastern Province.

As soon as I read that Hamza is 23, I spontaneously thought of current research in neuroscience imaging of the brain, which shows that the human brain continues to mature through adolescence to the age of 25, before which it isn't fully formed, nor fully capable of adult reasoning. Before that age men and women, but men in particular, are more likely to act impulsively, in negative ways, as they are less cognitively able than adults to fully appreciate the consequences of actions, to project into the future, or to resist the impulse to act on emotion.

Based on what I have read about, and by Hamza Kashgari, he is an intelligent, imaginative writer, with no past history of crossing lines, or disrespecting the religion in which he was raised, and to which he adheres. It seems that on the occasion of the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohamed, he took a flight of fancy, and shared it via Twitter. Unfortunately, he took a big step over the line, in such a manner as to become the perfect target to serve as a warning to others.

إتصال أم حمزة كشغري على برنامج البيان التالي
Saudi program, that includes comments by Hamza's mother

I sincerely hope that the religious and political authorities in both Malaysia and Saudi Arabia will avail themselves of the options available within Islam to allow Hamza to further repent, and to be spared. I also hope that other Muslims who have been offended and enraged will also find their way to humility and forgiveness. Ultimately, Hamza will be judged by Allah, who does allow for repentance and forgiveness.

In the meantime, I have signed a petition that had approximately 5,500 signatures when I signed earlier this morning. I don't usually sign petitions, but this one is organized via a third party, Care2, with good standards of seriousness of purpose, authenticity, and confidentiality (if the box stayed ticked through my iPod's battery lows, my name should not appear). More importantly, in this situation the stakes are very high. The petition is address to the Malaysian government to prevent Hamza's extradition to Saudi. Please take a look, and seriously consider signing. The petition is here.
When we spoke Wednesday, Kashgari asked that I not reveal where he was hiding or his plan of escape. Now that he has been detained, his friends hope publicity will build pressure on the Malaysian government not to extradite Kashgari to Saudi Arabia. Karpal Singh, a well-known Malaysian lawyer and member of parliament, is being encouraged to take Kashgari’s case. Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler has offered to serve as Kashgari’s international legal counsel. Cotler has served as legal counsel to such famous dissidents as Nelson Mandela, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Natan Sharansky and Maikel Nabil. Many have credited him with creating the international pressure that led to their release.--David Keyes, in The Daily Beast
See Also:

Saudi Writer Hamza Kashgari Flees Country After Controversy on Twitter (Saudi Jeans)
Hamza Kashghari (Crossroads Arabia)
Hamza Kashgari (Chapter One)
Hamza Kashgari (Qusay Today)

Ifta wants Kashghari tried for apostasy (Arab News)
Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari arrested for blasphemy (Digital Journal)
Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari faces charge of blasphemy after tweets about Muhammad (Washington Post)
Saudi Writer Hamza Kashgari Detained in Malaysia Over Muhammad Tweets (The Daily Beast) (includes tweets quoted in translation)

Save Hamza Kashgari (Facebook)

Again, please sign the petition to spare the life of this young person.


Anonymous said...

"Hamza Kashgari, he is an intelligent, imaginative writer, with no past history of crossing lines, or disrespecting the religion in which he was raised, and to which he adheres. "
Just to let you know there are many people that i am close to that knew of him from uni and he was always making offensive statements about the prophet (pbuh) and many people would warn him about the possibility of a punishment if it became public but he didn't care.
In his twitter history he also used to post quran but he would deliberately take words and change them.
He did push the boundaries and was warned doing so before being finally caught out.

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thank you for commenting and for adding that dimension.

What you describe is a common pattern of someone escalating a behaviour despite warnings, and then finally either crossing a line too far or being found out doing it, or reaching someone else's limit.

As I wrote, nothing that I have read about Hamza or of his translated tweets made reference to the information you have provided, and it is good to add and consider any broader context.

I still hope for clemency for Hamza, as the earthly punishment proposed seems, for whatever reason, not to be in keeping with the possibility allowed within Islam of repentance.

Thank you again for commenting, and for adding this aspect!

Anonymous said...

Your welcome i just wanted to share the little info i had like u said to add another aspect. I have asked many people about the reason for this potentially huge punishment and why can't he just repent to Allah and be forgiven....time again the answer was because we have worldly punishments and then we have our punishment that Allah will give those who have digressed on the Day of Judgment. The mere repentance to Allah for such a sin as mocking the Quran/Allah or the Prophet (pbuh) needs a worldly punishment as it is also used to warn off others from following in the same path.
The whole situation is sad i think and i can't help feel for his mother and father however the situation turns out.
I find it somewhat comical that the King is so quick to summon and charge this boy when the royal family themselves are such hypocrites against Islam and yet every wrong they do goes un-noticed and untouched..but Allah is the Most Just and they can't hide from him.
On a lighter note i love ure blog..keep up the good work.

Abu Abdullah said...

As per shariah, he can repent and be spared.

However what surprises me is that everybody are up in arms to protect some one who posts negative comments on Prophet Mohammad or draws an offensive cartoon to specifically insult muslims.

But at the same time, journalists like Rick Sanchez, Helen Thomas, etc. say one word about the Jews or the oppression of Palestinians, the entire journalist community crucifies them on a stake.

Susanne said...

I woke up this morning and read that he'd been extradited to Saudi Arabia. Maybe one day soon I'll wake up and see what? That they forgave him, they imprisoned him, they killed him?


Wendy said...

@Abu Abdullah
The difference is that people may get upset and angry when people say something against Jews but they DO NOT kill over it.
Muslims should have the right to voice a question or opinion and it should only be Allah who is the one to judge them. I also believe many Muslims remain Muslims out of fear and that is very sad.

Abu Abdullah said...

"The difference is that people may get upset and angry when people say something against Jews but they DO NOT kill over it."
Tell that to a dead palestinian or an dead iraqi kid, it doesn't make any difference. When we are not given the freedom to condemn Israeli/Jewish racism and killings it really doesn't make any difference.

And what gives you the idea the muslims are muslims coz of fear? Ofcourse yes this is something what evangelicals love to say in their southern baptist churches that Muslims are muslims coz of fear, and i have heard that argument one too many times in evangelical lectures and crusades.

Wendy said...

Well, I am not a fan of any organized religion and what happens with Palestinians is not because they speak against Jews but because the Jews want their land.

When one fears to speak against the religion and when one is threatened with death should they choose to leave a religion and when when is brought up to believe they will rot in hell if they deny their religion then I would suggest there are many who do NOT leave said religion because of fear.

Dentographer said...

Hamza was only a snowball that rolled up and caused an avalanche.

i thought saudi is going to dark ages,i was so naive,Saudi is falling into a black hole.

Susanne said...

I read Wendy and Abu Abdullah's thoughts yesterday and first thing this morning saw this comment on another blog which reminded me of the conversation here.

Mohd Ibn Juferi said 3 hours ago:

I think it is good that he will be punished by death sentence. It will act as a deterrant for others. There is a good reason why in shariah law, apostasy or leaving Islam carried the death penalty. Imagine what would happen in this day and age of internet and mass communication…there would be large number of people wanting to leave Islam so they can live their lives the way they choose to, not as chosen for them by Allah and his messenger.

It is a crime to leave the Muslim ummah in the lurch and join some other faith, and in some cases, no faith at all(as Atheists)

We should be glad that even in the face of all these “western” ideals, there are a handful of countries who have adopted the shariah code. It remains to be seen whether they will implement it.

Allah knows best.

I wonder if this is one of those evangelical preachers in the southern Baptist churches.

bigstick1 said...

I will try to be nice. However, up front all religion are a lie. So with that said. Can we just call all those who cried over this and go on about the prophet that never was "DRAMA QUEENS."

People stop killing people over make believe, unicorns and the big sky fairy. Learn your history and you will find the beginning of the Abrahamic religions is mish-mash of paganism including Yahweh being a pagan god. Seriously, Christianity and Islam are built on a foundation that has already been found to be a lie. Ergo they are nothing but lies as well.

Stop the insanity just say "no" to religion. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Well, I tried to be nice. Not sure if I succeeded depending on one's point of view.

Majed said...

Being young and impulsive has nothing to do with all this, I think this Kashgari has just gone mad,or at least this is what we should think has happened,and we have to give him the benefit of the doubt, and simply leave it to Allah the Almighty to forgive him and guide him to the truth, if not insane or mad what kind of Muslim on earth would speak the way he spoke about the prophet (pbuh).

This reminds of my chat with a Pakistani girl in London who asked me an advice about the best way to stay in London for ever, as she is living there on student Visa,I told apply for an asylum ,and sarcastically said to her the best way to get it is simply to say something wrong about Islam,Mohammad(pbuh) or God forbid about Allah The most gracious and the most merciful,and she said ASTAGFIRULLAH don`t say like that,what I mean to say may be he is trying to get somewhere and he thinks this the shortest way to it.

So %99.999999999 muslims will never change their religion the remaining fraction might do only over temptations and worldly interests.

Do You know in India there are 200 million muslim most of them very weak muslims who hardly said La Ilaha Illaah few times in their lives let alone knowing the the punishment of apostasy, and there are no sharia laws,how many of them change their religion hardly any,do you know that most muslims wonder how can people not be muslims are they in their ....minds!!!!! and I am really being polite but I could not phrase in a better way.

But sure I will vote to forgive Kashgari, because the Prophet would have done so his forbearance
tolerance is well documented and we should not try to be monarchist more the monarch himself.

And someone please tell me what some people mean when they say organized religions, and how come islam is an organized religion we don`t have a babas or mamas nor we have lamas or whatever neither any sort higher authority.

Countrygirl said...

So for muslim there's no compulsory in islam unless you are a muslim...If you are a christans, Jew, whatever you won't be forced to become a muslim and it's ok i you decide to become a muslim BUT if you are a muslim you will be killed if you decide to change religion...but your life it will be spared if you demostrate that you are immature/dimwitted/whatever...just one word GROW UP the world doesn't turn around muslim. I'm fed up that for everyone must pay attention of what she/he say fearing the wrath of some stone age menataly muslim. None was killed when life of Brian or last temptation were released the directors didn't live in fear for their life but i can cite ton of cases where a commedian/director/blogger/writer said something agains allah/islam/mohamed and they had to live in fear.

I wasn't able to read the twitt of hamza but i think there were pretty tamed compared to what you usually read about about christianity.

Chiara maybe i'm wrong but from you wrote it seems that HAmza wrote those twitt because "less cognitively able than adults to fully appreciate the consequences of actions, to project into the future, or to resist the impulse to act on emotion." do you think that anyone who spoke against allah,mohamed is less mature?

Sadly this young man live in a stone age country where everyone must think what the religious leader reminds me of the Borg

Wendy said...

Majed I agree that many millions of Muslims live in peace in a very moderate way with no Sharia law or religious police breathing down their backs and that is a wonderful way for a Muslim to live. To have to live in fear that you say something wrong or think about buying a red rose on Valentines Day is not very healthy. I listen to Muslims talk here in Canada about how they just want to be good people and not worry about whether someone is Shia or Sufi or whatever but if someone like Hirsi Ali or Rushdie speaks out they must hide and/or live in fear of death. It takes a very brave person to speak out and more would probably do so if they weren't so afraid.
I certainly hope nothing happens to this young man.

oby said...

This man has a right to his opinion...period. He may not agree or believe in some of what the prophet did but that is his right to use his brain and question. Maybe he will find the answer he seeks and maybe he won't but the fact is he should not be afraid of speaking badly about Mohammed or if he were not Muslim and some other faith, speaking about another prophet as he chooses. Coercion is a terrible way to keep faith. Those who do so freely will not be harmed in any way by this man's thoughts...those who do not might find strength in his words to voice their own opinions and perhaps that is what the bigger issue is about. If there is dissension in the ranks then there is the possibility of a crack in the edifice.

Rebellion is the territory of the young generally speaking. Perhaps he did not fully anticipate the consequences of his actions...then again maybe he did and had to say it anyway. Who knows in 20 years (if he lives that long) how this young man might feel? Individual expressions made in youth often temper with age.

Anonymous said...

So he wrote something bad about the prophet, so ?

It's between him and the prophet and maybe allah, let them decide what's to be done, how does this rampant controlling of what someone should say about the prophet lead to a better life for everyone.

Or why does the general population care to punish him, it's not like they are all pious and pure, let them out of saudi on a break adn see their behavior ( or atleast the behavior of 75% of them) , such bad behavior that warrants the chopping off of a few things - and i kid you not. i saw their antics in new orleans..

- Radha

Majed said...

Radha from your point of view it might seem to be very simple,except that Allah and any of his prophets are not just someone, they are the foundation that support and the pillars upon which the faith and convictions of millions of people rest,people fight and die for much lesser things than this, some might kill you for insulting his mother,father,daughter,a rag like flag or paper like passport,and many of them just over as trivial thing as an encroachment on a piece of land, that depends on how much love or value one put on the things in question, and yes it also depends on how thick one `s skin is, as we can not expect from a hare to take what can a Rhinoceros take, and about what you see Saudis doing in New Orleans, or ,what others see them doing in other places does not mean they love Allah and the Prophet any less than others,they are just sinners and who is not unless they think what they are doing is not wrong or a sin,but believe me most of them love Allah and his prophets,the problem is that some people have stronger urges than others and few only can resist temptation specially those who are not used to seeing the opposite sex so often ,but when their batteries get low and the tide of their desire ebbs they feel sorry, and wish they had it cut off or sewn depending on the case before doing such things.
I wonder why nobody thought that, it is absolutely unethical,immoral,
inconsiderate and backward to mitigate,ridicule and make fun of others in anyway even a child knows that but people in the west and who tries to follow them, need time to learn that, as they have no time for such tiny little things, that we in the east give a lot of importance, I do not understand what kind of people will burn a book that people consider sacred and disrespect a man they do not even know anything about, just because they are free to do so, even stupidity has limits and worst is to see such stupidity coming from learnt and sophisticated stupids.

Anonymous said...

I'm not debating if he was right or wrong, or if he hurt anyone's feelings or not, all i'm saying is he has an opinion on a god/prophet/whomever why should that increase or decrease someone else's piouseness, if you think the prophet is right and the BESt why should someone else's opinion of himchange it for you???

so carousing and causing a general nuisance is a sin but they love allah, but this fellow cannot say a few things about the prophet and still love allah ???

I don't see the point, so if my boss says i'm useless and lazy and maybe th erest of my managers don't agree with my boss, it's hurtful to me, my career , my self esteem and maybe even my paycheck , so i can i have my boss thrown in jail and prosecuted? no ? why not? it's his opinion on me, and his opinion has a bigger effect on my lifestyle and my capacity to maybe feed my kdis than if my boss said something about a person I revere.

Allah and his prophets may be a foundation for millions of followers however i don't think they demanded a killing on their behalf. Punishing this young man goes directly again that very foundation.
well anyway heard he was to be set free...:-)


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