Update, Friday, 2:00 p.m.: Kashgari has been arrested in Malaysia at the request of Saudi authorities, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Hamza Kashgari had no idea the firestorm sending out a few candid tweets about the prophet Muhammad would cause.
The Saudi blogger, reflecting last week on the upcoming anniversary of the prophet’s birth, wrote, in part: “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.”
Fast forward one week, and Kashgari, 23, has deleted his Twitter account and been forced to fleet the country to Southeast Asia. Leading clerics are calling his for his execution. The king has issued a warrant for his arrest. Islamists continue to show up at his home address in Saudi Arabia, which was posted on YouTube, and at the mosque he attended. A Facebook group demanding Kashgari’s execution is more than 10,000 members strong.
“I'm afraid, and I don’t know where to go,” Kashgari told the Daily Beast.
Kashgari had also written: “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.”
In a video posted to YouTube, Saudi Sheikh Nasser Al-Omar is shown weeping as he pleads with the king to execute Kashgari for writings he calls “shameful.”
Saudi Sheik Al-Qarni sent out a similar message, demanding revenge against Kashgari in another video that appeared on YouTube.
Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan told the Daily Beast Kashgari has become Saudi Arabia’s “own Salman Rushdie.”
Rushdie invoked the fury of hard-line clerics with the 1988 publication of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which portrayed the prophet Muhammad as a flawed character. A fatwa against Rushdie was backed by the Iranian government for nearly a decade.
But in Saudi Arabia, Farhan says he has never seen “anything like” the anger Kashgari’s tweets provoked “in my life.”
Western countries have more recently faced the fury speaking out against the prophet can cause.
In 2010, the show South Park was forced to censor an episode about the prophet Muhammad after receiving a threatening message from an Islamic group based in New York.
After a French satirical magazine published a spoof issue “guest edited” by the prophet Muhammad in November, its Paris office was promptly destroyed by firebombs.
The incident echoed perhaps the most infamous controversy surrounding depictions of the prophet Muhammad — when in 2005, a Danish newspaper printed a series of cartoons about the prophet, including one in which he wore a lighted bomb as a turban. The illustrator has faced death threats ever since, as recently as 2010 having to face off an armed intruder.
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