On Mohammed’s birthday, a Saudi journalist named Hamza Kashgari tweeted some very mild criticism of the Muslim prophet:
“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you,” he wrote in one tweet.
“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more,” he wrote in a second.
“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more,” he concluded in a third.
Having been led to believe that Muslims venerated the Koran, not Mohammed, I would have thought this sounded like good Islam to me, but obviously I’m not a good judge. As the death threats rolled in, Kashgari fled the country. He was trying to reach New Zealand, but was arrested in Malaysia, and extradited back to Saudi Arabia (probably illegally), where he faces the death penalty.
It’s troubling that Malaysia would do this, which I had thought to be a fairly civilized country, by the standards of that part of the world. Officially Malaysia recognizes freedom of religion, and, although it has Sharia courts, they apply only to Malaysian Muslims. (According to Wikipedia.)
But the most troubling part of the story for us in the west is the alleged involvement of Interpol in Kashgari’s arrest:
Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.
Interpol denied that it was involved, which leaves it unclear what happened. It’s hard to see why the Kuala Lumpur police would lie about this, while Interpol, if it were involved, would have every reason to cover up its involvement. Moreover, there is recent precedent for Interpol abusing its red notices (international arrest warrants) in southeast Asia.
But it seems like it should be possible to get to the bottom of this, if some enterprising reporter decides to look into it.