(photo credit: Courtesy of Twitter homepage)
JEDDAH/DUBAI - A young Saudi blogger and columnist has been deported to
his homeland to face trial soon after fleeing from death threats
triggered by comments on the social network Twitter seen as blasphemy
against the Prophet Muhammad.
Hamza Kashgari, 23, fled Saudi
Arabia four days ago but was arrested by police in Malaysia en route to
New Zealand. Malaysia, which has a majority Muslim population and enjoys
close ties with Arab states, sent back Kashgari on Sunday.
former columnist for the Al Bilad newspaper, Kashgari had sent a series
of Twitter posts, or tweets, one week ago of an imaginary conversation
with the Prophet Muhammad.
In Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil
exporter and home to Islam's two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, such
comments could be considered blasphemy and punishable by death under
the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.
apologized at length for his posts, however, and a Saudi lawyer said
while he faced harsh punishment, it was unlikely to be the death
Interior and foreign ministry spokesmen declined to
comment on Kashgari's status, although Saudi Information Minister
Abdul-Aziz Khoja responded to the incident via Twitter.
read what he posted, I wept and got very angry that someone in the
country of the Two Holy Mosques, attacks our Prophet in a manner that
does not fit a Muslim...," Khoja said.
"I have given instructions
to ban him from writing for any Saudi newspaper or magazine, and there
will be legal measures to guarantee that," he said.
Writing on the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, Kashgari sent three tweets of a fictional conversation with the Prophet.
Addressing the Prophet, Kashgari said he "loved the rebel in you" and that he "loved some aspects of you, hated others".
The reaction on the Internet was swift and vitriolic.
there was a flurry of angry comments on Twitter - estimated at more
than 30,000 in 24 hours. A Facebook page, "Saudi people want punishment
for Hamza Kashgari," has quickly grown to more than 20,000 members.