Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No word about Kashgari, Saudi tweeter who faces death

A couple of columnists are trying to keep the Hamza Kashgari story alive, but it is hard - because he has effectively disappeared in Saudi prison.

Peter Worthington in the Toronto Sun:
The world’s media isn’t paying a lot of attention to a Saudi Arabian journalist facing death for blasphemy for his inconsequential musings on Twitter.

When Kashgiri’s tweets appeared in the Saudi daily al-Bilad, reportedly King Abdullah was furious and ordered that Kashgiri be arrested “for crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet.”

The newspaper announced he’d been fired a month earlier — whew, get out of the line of fire, eh!

Most Islamic scholars (and certainly those in Saudi Arabia) are said to agree that apostates must be executed, and that the law cannot be overturned since Muhammad himself had ordered the penalty.

Now that he’s back in Saudi Arabia, Kashgiri has vanished from view. An unperson, with brave individuals like Farzana Hassan willing to risk extremist retribution for defending him.
Richard Cohen in WaPo:
The Kashgari affair shows a Saudi underbelly that is just plain revolting. There is nothing romantic about beheadings, and there is nothing romantic about religious zealotry. The kingdom, in fact, was founded by marrying the House of Saud with the zealous and intemperate Ikhwan, a fierce Bedouin tribal army. The alliance enabled Ibn Saud to conquer much of the Arabian Peninsula. It has been an absolute and extremely conservative monarchy ever since. Its state religion is the severe Wahhabi strand of Islam.

I am aware of the king’s role as custodian of the holy places, and I am aware of his political need to mollify the country’s powerful and totally medieval religious establishment. But Saudi Arabia cannot remain under the thumb of an extremely reactionary religious establishment that in some sense is as powerful as the royal family. It’s hard to attract — or keep — first-class talent in what, after all, is a very weird place. Women are not permitted to drive, and the chance remark, if it is deemed heretical, can result in draconian punishment.

A life is on the line. I asked the Saudi embassy in Washington the status and the whereabouts of Kashgari and was told to put my request in writing — an e-mail. That was late last week, and I have heard nothing. So keep your eye on Hamza Kashgari — in some ways the future of Saudi Arabia, in all ways merely a terrified human being.
There are no updates in Saudi media about him, and they mostly ignored him to begin with so as not to expose their countrymen to the terrible things he tweeted (and also not to accidentally be considered as if they are spreading his apostasy.)

If any person whose life is in danger should be the talk of Twitter, it should be a symbol of free speech like Hamza Kashgari, not a leader of a terror group like Khader Adnan.