The Case Of Hamza Kashgari


Hamza Kashgari is a 23-year old Saudi poet and writer who has been involved in a big media frenzy after some tweets he’d published on the run-up to Mawlid. The tweets were an imaginary conversation, in Arabic, Kashgari was having with Prophet Mohamed (pbuh):

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.

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.

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.

Hours after he published the tweets, Kashgari apologized and fled to Malaysia, en route to New Zealand to flee prosecution by the Saudi authorities. But he was deported by the Malaysian government and he now faces serious charges. His tweets have been regarded as blasphemy. Although he made many apologies and his family intervened in the media to defend him on grounds of his young age (his mother allegedly complained about harrassment the family has endured because of their Kashgari origin), he still may face severe punishment although the death penalty is now unlikely, news sources report.

I am not really surprised at the Saudi government reaction, but what really scared me was the ordinary people’s hatred directed towards Kashgari! A Facebook group was created calling for Kashgari to be executed for ‘apostasy’, thousands of tweets were published to condemn him. Many vociferated against the evil that is ‘liberalism’. Many preachers on religious channels speak approvingly about the Muslims ‘love’ for their Prophet coming through these reactions. I don’t agree at all, I only see expressions of hatred and psychopathy. Even after the apologies, the feeling doesn’t seem to have subsided and many doubt that Kashgari has ‘really’ repented.

I am not for unbridled free speech and I tend to be in favor of some minimal regulation. But the reactions this case has provoked are just incredibly intense. I mean, the guy has deleted the tweets and apologized at length. He’s only 23 for God’s sake! I don’t think it is just another case of Internet communities going biserk (lynch mob psychology). We see enough of this behavior in our day-to-day lives, at work, in the market, in the mosque…It is definitely a pattern that is specific to today’s Muslim societies and I don’t think this is a crude generalization. It worries me that many people in our part of the World respond more intensely to hatred and negative feelings than they do to positive feelings. It’s like we’re regressing to the dawn of humanity, primitive behavior. Many would point the finger at religion but I honestly do not think this is the cause at all. Religion is only an effective legitimation tool for such behavior, precisely because it symbolizes virtue and goodness in these socio-cultural settings.

There is a parallel to be made here with the infamous cartoons episode. That event might be argued to have been a fabrication of the Western media to a large extent. One might say that they did it on purpose to ridicule Muslims. (Maalich assidi) But what about this case? 100% made in the Islam-land. What now?

The world has gone insane. This is what Monty Python has to say about this case:

18 thoughts on “The Case Of Hamza Kashgari

  1. Sorry but it’s not 100% made in Islam-land. There’s Twitter in the middle of the story!🙂

    I hadn’t read his apology text before, it is a “bayan tawba” yaw! This story is stupid wessalam.

    ElKhabar organized a debate yesterday between some Algerian secularist writers and their Islamist counterparts. More details expected tomorrow but apparently the Islamists say there are some red lines one shouldn’t cross. But as you rightly said, it is not about Islam or religion. France and some other countries punish people guilty of negationism. These same Algerian secularist writers have and accept other red lines which are not related to religion, etc.

    On a side note, I think this guy is very lucky. In no time, he could book a ticket and take a plane to New Zealand. Think of a poor Algerian who would be in a similar situation… And why insist he’s 23yo only… The world has changed and a 23yo man is now considered like a little boy.

    • MnarviDZ

      Not sure about his ‘repentence press release’, to me it looks even more blasphemous than the initial tweets! How dare he speak thus of our Prophet (pbuh)?!! Hence, I demand the toughest punishment to be unleashed on him so that he serves as a lesson to koul man tsawwil lahou nafsouh …etc.

      I agree, some red lines shouldn’t be crossed and the nature of these depends on the culture of each country. I think the issue here has to do also with what punishment or consequence there should be to crossing these red lines and whose responsibility it is to decide? Nobody is disputing the relevance of red lines to any society, even liberal ones. But the problem is when a deleted tweet becomes enough to get you killed! I totally agree, this young man was lucky he could flee immediately after his silly tweets. In Algeria, God only knows what his fate would have been.

  2. Le problème c’est que avec tous ces (nouveaux) moyens de communication aujourd’hui, tout le monde se sent “obligé” de donner son avis sur tout, alors ça va dans tous les sens… et si tu ajoute à cela le “phénomène” de : votez pour le meilleur (ou celui que vous voulez) chanteur, danseur, maman, maison… bref: votez, votre voix compte! Les gens croient que leurs voix comptent vraiment, ou que leur avis est important et qu’il faut obligatoirement le donner… alors ça crée des “groupes” sur Facebook et ça appelle à tout et n’importe quoi… les dernières “révolutions” ont fait croire (grâce à Aljazeera par exemple) que ces voix sur les réseaux sociaux comptaient ou pouvaient peser… C’est du n’importe quoi….
    Moi je trouve que ce “jeune homme” n’avait pas à écrire ce qu’il a écrit…. il est citoyen saoudien et il devrait connaitre la loi de son pays normalement, wella lala? 23 ans? Il est majeur et vacciné normalement et juridiquement responsable en Islam, si pubère n’est-ce pas?….
    Et maintenant qu’il a écrit ce qu’il a écrit et dit ce qu’il avait à dire, et si c’est une affaire de “Justice” (personnellement, je n’en sais absolument rien), c’est à la justice de son pays de décider, et certainement pas à la “masse”… mais, Allah Ghaleb, c’est un signe de notre (mauvais) temps….

    • Oumelkhir

      You make a valid point, but let us not hide the sun with a gherbal (don’t know how to say this in English but the meaning is miss the wood for the trees). The fundamental issue here is that of the limits of ‘free expression’ or more to the point ‘creativity’ (this young man is a poet so one expects him to have a fertile imagination) in Muslim societies and how to ‘correct’ excesses. It is therefore not about what so and so should or shouldn’t do, it is about how a Muslim society deals with somebody who does what they shouldn’t have done! In my opinion, this is a very serious question as it directly impacts on creativity (arts and literature in particular).

      • Pour moi, il ne s’agit ni de “créativité” ni de “littérature” et encore moins d’art… quand j’ai vu sur la page d’El Khabar (merci Mnarvi🙂 que des gens comme Boudjedra débattaient de “ibda3” :-)))….
        Le Hamza en question, il a pensé (mal), il a écrit et publié…. d’autres ont protesté et les médias étaient là pour “gonfler” ce qui est devenu une “affaire”…. amma 3an “young man”, je ne sais pas pourquoi son âge devrait le disculper au moment où des “révolutions” sont selon ce qu’il en est rapporté menées par des “jeunes”…. ou dorka had les jeunes yessal’hou bach idirou hadja wella ma yessel’houch? Et soit dit en passant, je suis sure qu’une majorité de ceux qui ont protesté sur Twitter ou sur Facebook ont le même âge, sinon moins que lui….
        Cette histoire est une distraction médiatique comme une autre pour la “masse” pendant que les “grands” vaquent à leurs affaires….

        • Au fait Mabrouk 3likoum le “new look” très joli, vraiment🙂
          Mais j’aimerais quand même savoir où a été prise la photo… Je pense que c’est clair que c’est Juillet 1962 en Algérie… mais où précisément?

        • Oumelkhir

          Well I suppose you could argue that media themselves are a distraction and they should be banned! But the point is media are here and they are evolving and they will not disapear. And freedom of expression is directly linked to creativity potential, it is not about deciding what constitutes ‘creativity’ and what doesn’t. For me, Rai songs are ghastly and I would be happy to ban them but I accept that banning a music genre just because I don’t see what is creative about it would compromise the music genres I like and find ‘creative’. This is the equation that needs to be solved at countries’ level and it is a tough equation that hasn’t been settled in Muslim countries.

          As for ‘young people’, it is not about ‘age’, it is about how young people are. It pains me to see young people demeaned and belittled. Our conception of ‘young people’ is another problem we need to address. Making a revolution doesn’t exclude doing silly and unthoughtful things at all: impetuosity is a characteristic of the young and unexperienced.

  3. Un jour, un jeune peintre en bâtiment dans mon quartier, pieux et bon depuis, depuis… toujours, fut pris à parti violemment et vulgairement par un de ces islamistes barbus genre ancien voyou repenti, pour une histoire sans aucune importance. J’étais à proximité. Il me dit en conclusion : “Elli marabatouch yemmah, mayrabbihech eddine!”. J’ai trouvé ces paroles très justes. La religion ne change pas les gens. Les bons y trouvent motif à exprimer leur bonté, les violents et les frustrés y trouvent tout autant matière à exprimer leurs frustations. Du temps où je faisais ma prière, j’allais le vendredi dans la mosquée où je sortais parfois avec un sentiment profond de paix après avoir écouté un discours d’une spiritualité qui vole au dessus de l’altitude géostationnaire et parfois je sortais avec un sentiment très désagréable après avoir entendu une violence et une bassesse au ras des pâquerettes. Le discours religieux est à géométrie variable… chacun y puise ce qui correspond à sa personnalité. La violence et la haine dans les réactions à cette affire ne sont pas étonnantes. Il est courant de sortir de la prière de vendredi avec un dou3a habituel : “اللهم فرق شملهم ..اللهم شتت صفوفهم..اللهم زلزل الارض من تحت اقدامهم”…

    Sur Kachgari… je te soupçonne d’avoir reproduit ses tweets parce que tu ne les trouvais aucunement insultants. Je n’y vois aucune trace d’invectives. Il sont même tendres. J’y lis la même révolte qu’un adolescent exprime envers un père sévère. Une réaction de rejet empreinte d’amour et d’admiration, une relation complexe et subtile…. Mais ne demande pas à ces gens de faire preuve de subitilité. Faut pas rêver non plus.

    Mais je ne m’inquiète pas pour lui. Si cette histoire dure, l’oncle Sam qui veut que “le privilège” des condamnations à mort religieuses soit réservé à l’Iran, va intervenir à un moment donné parce que ça fait désordre pour un allié des US. Les Al Saoud se prosternent tout autant devant la Ka3ba que devant la maison blanche… ils s’inclineront.

    • Qatkhal

      Well, I can see how an ‘orthodox’ Muslim would find his tweets not insulting but disrespectful. It is not what he says but the way he says it you see, he speaks of the Prophet (pbuh) as one would speak of any human being, a movie star or a famous person. But if you’re asking about my personal opinion, I don’t think these tweets deserve the reaction they have provoked and I certainly don’t see in them a ‘proof’ of apostasy! I think this is a young man who is probably going through a period of doubt and he is still trying to ‘find himself’ – he is not going to find himself on Twitter but he certainly has said what many young people probably think without being foolish enough to tweet about in public.

      I remember the case of Naguib Mahfouz also – in his case it was a novel (trilogy) he wrote, packed with suggestive metaphors but nothing explicit. He was nearly assassinated but had a lucky escape. I like his novels, his realism is very sobering, but it is not to the taste of some.

  4. I want to write something, a comment or a poem, but I’m afraid to be creative (you never know). Finally I decide to do a copy / paste of another comment from another blog :

    ” Blasphemer!!!! “

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