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Saudi Liberal Arrested For Tweeting About Islam, Prophet Muhammad

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Saudi Liberal Arrested For Tweeting About Islam, Prophet Muhammad *Introduction* Dr. Turki Al-Hamad, a liberal Saudi journalist and writer known for his
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 27, 2012
      Saudi Liberal Arrested For Tweeting About Islam, Prophet Muhammad

      Introduction

      Dr. Turki Al-Hamad, a liberal Saudi journalist and writer known for his criticism of extremist Islam, was arrested recently for some statements he made via Twitter on December 22, 2012. Dr. Al-Hamad wrote: "A new Nazism has arrived in the Arab world, named Islamism. However, the age of Nazism has passed and the sun will rise again"; and "Our honorable Messenger [the Prophet Muhammad] came to correct the faith of Abraham, and now we need someone to correct the faith of Muhammad."[1]

      These tweets sparked a fierce debate on Twitter, in the Saudi press, and among Saudi clerics and intellectuals.[2] The clerics called to punish Al-Hamad for his "heresy," while liberal Saudi intellectuals came to his defense. On December 24, 2012, only two days after the tweets were posted, Saudi Interior Minister Emir Muhammad bin Naif ordered Al-Hamad's arrest.[3]


      Al-Hamad's Tweets[4]

      Who Is Turki Al-Hamad?

      Born in 1952, Al-Hamad was a professor of political science at King Saud University from 1985 to 1995. He began his career as a journalist in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, and later wrote for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsatand, more recently, for the Saudi daily Al-Watan. He has also published several books that are considered controversial in Saudi Arabia due to the author's statements and views, such as the statement: "Allah and Satan are two sides of the same coin."[5]

      Al-Hamad is also known for criticizing Saudi education. In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he pointed out that 15 of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks had been educated in Saudi Arabia according to a religious-political ideology that breeds terrorists.[6] Last year, he caused a stir on Twitter when he directly criticized Saudi Emir and minister 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin Fahd for being disconnected from the people and their problems.[7]


      Turki Al-Hamad.[8]

      This is not the first time that tweets or statements regarding Allah and the Prophet Muhammad have sparked outrage in the Saudi religious establishment or triggered arrests and other sanctions by the authorities. In February 2012, journalist Hamza Kashgari was arrested after posting tweets about the Prophet Muhammad which many in Saudi Arabia regarded as offending Muhammad and Allah. The tweets caused a significant media stir, with some demanding to punish the journalist and even execute him for heresy, and others calling to stop the media assault on him.[9] Turki Al-Hamad, who was among those to defend Kashgari, said that his tweets were an example of "creativity that is being stifled by a society hostile to intellect."[10]

      Furthermore, in the past year, several other liberal Saudi columnists published articles on Allah and the Prophet Muhammad that were regarded by Saudi clerics as harmful, leading the latter to publish communiques warning against a spreading wave of atheism in the country.[11]

      Saudi Clerics: Al-Hamad Is An Infidel And Must Be Punished

      Al-Hamad's opponents, who include pundits and academics, claimed on social networks that his statements harmed Muhammad and other sacred symbols of Islam, with some even calling to prosecute him. Saudi cleric Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Tarifi called to punish Al-Hamad; Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh Al-Luhaidan called to place him under house arrest for life, provide him with psychological treatment, and ban the publication and distribution of his books[12]; and prominent Saudi cleric Sheikh Sa'd Al-Buraik called to prosecute him in religious court.


      Sa'd Al-Buraik's post on Facebook.
      [13]

      Jihadi Sheikh Abu Al-Walid Al-Ansari tweeted that Al-Hamad was an infidel who had left the fold of Islam.


      Abu Al-Walid Al-Ansari's tweet.[14]

      Dr. Muhammad Al-Barrak, a professor at Umm Al-Qura University and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), said: "We expect the Senior Clerics Council [Saudi Arabia's top religious institution] to issue a fatwa against the infidel Turki Al-Hamad, who claimed that the religion of our Prophet Muhammad needs someone to fix it."[15] The head of the Lawyers for the Prophet Muhammad Association, Dr. Muhammad Al-Awlaki, said that Al-Hamad's past suggested that his statements were indeed meant to harm Islam, and that the association would file legal charges against Al-Hamad.[16]

      Deputy chairman of the World Association for Acquainting People with the Prophet, Dr. Khaled Al-Shay', praised Saudi Interior Minister Emir Muhammad bin Naif's decision to arrest Al-Hamad, and said that, with this move, he had fulfilled his duty to defend Muslim law. Al-Shay' added that Al-Hamad's statements were deviant and despicable.[17]

      Support For Al-Hamad On Twitter

      Others came to Al-Hamad's defense. Twitter groups defending him have been formed, including one called "We Are All Turki Al-Hamad,"[18] and another called "Turki Al-Hamad Arrested,"[19] both of which feature messages of support and objections to the Saudi regime's attempts to silence liberals in the country.


      Posted by the "Turki Al-Hamad Arrested" Twitter group

      Journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote on Twitter: "The ritual of blood and hatred surrounding Turki Al-Hamad's arrest exposes the damage [caused by] our deteriorating education [system] and by the extremist culture that has filled the head[s] of an entire generation." Saudi journalist Ahmad 'Adnan wrote on Twitter: "Turki Al-Hamad's arrest is resounding proof of the truth of his own statement that 'Islamism is the new Nazism." Saudi columnist Nasser Al-Sarami tweeted: "Turki Al-Hamad has been under arrest for three days, and there is no word and no information [about him]. How can that be?"[20]

       
      Jamal Khashoggi's tweet


      Ahmad 'Adnan's tweet


      Nasser Al-Sarami's tweet

      Saudi Liberals Defend Al-Hamad

      Al-Hamad Did Not Attack The Prophet But Rather Religious Extremism

      Several liberal Saudi columnists also mobilized in Al-Hamad's defense. In an article in the official Saudi daily Al-Sharq, columnist 'Ali Makki claimed that the attacks on Al-Hamad were unjust: "'The infidel Turki Al-Hamad' – that has been the outrageous headline on Twitter for the last two days, and [tempers] are still flaring... Worst of all are the calls to kill him, and there are also some who call to press charges against him... This goes to show how [easily] some fools can be incited... I am saddened by this evil attack, using immoral weapons [against a man who] merely expressed a different opinion and spoke his mind. [His attackers] ignore the idea [itself] and instead attack the person who mentioned it...

      "Turki Al-Hamad simply called on us to abandon [religious] zealotry and demand the complete truth... He did not curse the Prophet Abraham or our beloved Muhammad as he is accused of doing. He [only] asked to remove from religion elements that do not belong in it, and longed for a tolerant and peaceful culture, and the denunciation of all forms of violence. Had [his attackers] read his tweets in full, as well as the tweets that came before and after them in the same context, they would have discovered his true meaning: that the Creator brought forth human faith, but there are those who turned it into human hatred..."[21]

      We Suffer From 'Turki Al-Hamad Phobia'

      Several months ago, in August 2012, columnist Turki Al-Dakhil wrote an article in the government Saudi daily Al-Riyadh titled "The Turki Al-Hamad Phobia," in which he addressed the enraged reactions of Saudi conservatives to Al-Hamad's statements over the years. He wrote: "In the last few decades, Turki Al-Hamad's character has been attacked and distorted more than that of any other figure... Incidents were taken out of context, and stories about characters [in his books] were presented as reflecting his own views and behavior...

      "He has the courage to write his bold, clear, and rebellious views under his real name... [and] his sincerity on Twitter is the best example of this... Al-Hamad has written important books... and it is [unjust] to summarize his [character] and his long [intellectual] journey with a few words taken out of context. Ask one person among the host of Al-Hamad's detractors if he has read anything Al-Hamad [has written], and he will say no.

      "[The response of his critics] is emotional [rather than rational], as evident [from the following incident]: A member on a certain forum made a bold move and published one of Turki Al-Hamad's articles [under the caption] 'here is a great article by Sheikh So-and-So.' After everyone praised [the article], he wrote: 'The writer of this text is Turki Al-Hamad!!' They were amazed... Could we [perhaps] be less emotional and more rational in our criticism?"[22]    

      It should be mentioned that the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) also condemned Al-Hamad's arrest.[23]

       

      Endnotes: 

      [1] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1.

      [2] The incident was widely covered in the Saudi e-newspaper Sabq (December 23-24, 2012), and more briefly on the government Saudi daily Al-Madina (December 23, 2012).

      [3] Sabq (Saudi Arabia), December 24, 2012.

      [4] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1.

      [5] For an interview with Al-Hamad on this topic, see Anbacom.com, March 21, 2009.

      [7] Gulfnews.com, December 25, 2012.

      [8] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 24, 2012.

      [9] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4516, Controversy in Saudi Arabia Over Journalist's Tweets about the Prophet Muhammad, February 22, 2012.

      [10] Almokhtsar.com, February 8, 2012.

      [11] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 877, Saudi Clerics Warn Against Wave Of Atheism In Country, August 23, 2012.

      [12] Almoslim.net, December 26, 2012.

      [13] Facebook.com/saadalbreik.

      [14] Twitter.com/aknafbmansari. It should be mentioned that, according to Muslim law, an infidel's life is forfeit.

      [15] Almoslim.net, December 24, 2012.

      [16] Slaati.com, December 24, 2012.

      [17] Sabq (Saudi Arabia), December 24, 2012.

      [21] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), December 24, 2012.

      [22] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), August 12, 2012.

      [23] Twitmail.com, December 26, 2012.


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