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05 March 2024

Malaysia deports Saudi over Twitter posts

By Nadim Kawach

Malaysia on Sunday deported the young Saudi journalist who is wanted in his home country over a Twitter post about the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) that sparked calls for his execution, an official said.

Hamza Kashgari, who was detained in Malaysia during the week after fleeing Saudi Arabia, left the country in the custody of Saudi officials, according to a Malaysian government official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

Malaysia's government would not immediately confirm Hamza's deportation, but a Home Ministry statement Sunday said Kashgari would be sent back to Saudi Arabia.

"Malaysia has a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and (Kashgari) will be repatriated under this arrangement," the statement said.

"The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities."

Mother appeals for mercy

The mother of a 23-year-old Saudi columnist accused of insulting Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) has made an impassionate appeal for authorities in the conservative Muslim Gulf Kingdom to pardon her son.

The appeal by Umm Hamza followed reports of her son’s arrest in Malaysia just after he fled the country and coincided with calls by Saudi Islamic fundamentalists to punish Hamza Kashgari in accordance with Islamic law, which involves death penalty for apostasy, newspapers in the Kingdom said.

Just before he fled Saudi Arabia on hearing news that King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has ordered him arrested and punished, Kashgari was reported to have repented and publicly apologised for his Twitter article deemed by many Saudi citizens and scholars as insulting to the Prophet (PBUH).

The article was published on the Prophet’s birthday last week and it triggered thousands of angry comments on Twitter, Facebook and Saudi newspapers. The Saudi Arabian Arabic language daily Albilad, where Hamza works, quickly issued a statement saying it was not responsible for his acts.

On Thursday, Kashgari was reported by the US Newsweek magazine as saying he was stunned by the turn of events but that he resigned to the fact that he can never return home. “It’s impossible. No way….I’m afraid, and I don’t know where to go.” Kashgari said, adding that he planned to apply for asylum somewhere.

Saudi newspapers said on Thursday Riyadh had been in touch with Malaysian authorities to repatriate the writer to face trial but it was not immediately clear whether Kuala Lumpur has agreed to the request.

The Malaysian news agency issued a statement later confirming Kashgari’s arrest under an Interpol warrant and said he would be sent back home.

“I want now to tell all Moslems my son’s story….and I would like to ask them: is there any chance for him…I am not demanding much…just please hear me out…I am a Moslem woman who will never accept any offence against our religion, our Prophet and our God,” Umm Hamza told Saudi newspapers.

“My son is only 23 years old who has grown up in Koran memorization schools…I don’t remember he had ever looked into my eyes when speaking to me…I don’t know how and when all this happened to him…all I know is that he reads too much and when he is late for prayers, I would rebuke him.”

Umm Hamza said she had no idea about her son’s article in Twitter, adding that he looked much worried a day after the article was published.

“He woke up on that morning and hurried towards me. He then put his head on my chest and started crying. When I asked him what’s wrong, he simply replied he was just upset. He refused to have his breakfast. After a while I returned to his room and found his father crying. My husband told me that Hamza has just kissed his feet and asked him to forgive him. He told his father :’forgive me dad because I have let you down, but I have repented. Only then I learned what happened and eversince, I have been praying to God to save him.”

She said she was stunned to read his comments in Newsweek as he does not speak English and had always asked his father to send him abroad to study the language. She said she was also surprised by the quick public reaction against her son and called for a fair trial and investigating causes of his comments.

“I am sure that if Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is present now, he would place his hand on Hamza’s chest and say :’Oh God, guide him to the right path.”

According to Newsweek, a friend of Kashgari’s said that she had accompanied him to the airport in Kuala Lumpur and witnessed his detention. “We were just watching him, waiting for him to pass the immigration checkpoint. Once he submitted his passport, they asked him to step away for a few minutes,” the friend said.. “And suddenly these two people without uniforms just arrested him.”

The Saudi Arabic language daily Ajel said King Abdullah’s order to arrest Kashgari came after many scholars, dignitaries and citizens in the kingdom sent messages to the Monarch expressing indignation at Kashgari offences.

On Tuesday, Saudi Information minister Abdul Aziz Khowja was reported as telling all local newspapers and magazine not to carry any article by Kashgari for what he described as persistent offences against Islam.

“I have instructed all newspapers and magazines in the kingdom not to allow him to write any thing and we will take legal measures against him,” he said.

“When I read his articles, I wept and got very angry to have someone in the country of the two holy shrines address our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) in this offending way,” he added.

In a statement on Thursday, the Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa (Islamic edict), which head by the Kingdom top Islamic scholar, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al Shaikh, said Kashgari is an apostate who must be tried.

“He insulted God the Almighty and doubted God existence…he also offended and sneered at Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)…Moslem scholars across the world have agreed that any one who does this is an apostate…he must be tried in accordance with Sharia (Islamic law),” it said.