Twenty-three-year-old Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari has been arrested in Malaysia after sending out a series of controversial tweets about the Prophet Muhammed Saturday that caused some religious conservatives to call for his execution. He was detained Thursday morning at Kuala Lumpr International Airport, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed.
“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,” were among the tweets sent by Kashgari during the Muslim prophet’s birthday last week.
“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,” he wrote in a followup tweet.
“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,” he concluded. His Twitter profile has since been deactivated.
Kashgari’s tweets provoked charges of blasphemy, and some called for his death, disregarding his repeated public apologies. The address of the 23-year-old, who held a job as a columnist in his local newspaper, was posted on YouTube. Fearing for his safety, Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia “sometime Monday or Tuesday,” the Journal reports. A source close to Kashgari told The Daily Beast that Kashgari was on his way to seek asylum in New Zealand when he was arrested in Kuala Lumpr.
Kashgari was detained by request of the Saudi government, but his fate is not yet clear. According to the Journal, Kashgari’s statements could be considered capital offenses under Saudi Arabia’s Shariah law. The government did announce last week that Kashgari was subject to legal penalties and was banned from writing for publication.
In an interview with The Daily Beast before his arrest, Kashgari defended his actions, saying, “I was demanding my right to practice the most basic human rights — freedom of expression and thought — so nothing was done in vain.”
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