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: