Jalees Rehman, M.D.: Reacting to Reactionary Muslims

Jalees Rehman, M.D.: Reacting to Reactionary Muslims

Last week, the Saudi writer and blogger Hamza Kashgari tweeted about Prophet Muhammad and his tweets caused an unanticipated fire-storm of outrage among many Saudis. They formed an "electronic lynch mob" and responded with hate-filled tweets, Face-book posts, comments, threats and YouTube videos, calling for the arrest and punishment of Kashgari.

A prominent Saudi cleric accused Kashgari of apostasy ("Ridda"), which could be punishable by death under Saudi law. Multiple sites reported that an arrest warrant was issued by the King of Saudi-Arabia, even though Kashgari deleted his tweets and apologized for them. Realizing that his life was in danger, Kashgari escaped from Saudi-Arabia. However, at the request of the Saudi authorities, Kashgari was detained mid-journey by the Malaysian police at the Kuala Lumpur airport, so that he was unable to reach his destination New Zealand, where he had intended to ask for political asylum...

... there are indeed a number of Muslims in Muslim countries who may be willing to oppose the reactionary-conservative movements, but it also reminds us that they need additional support, both from within Muslim countries as well as from outside.

Muslims living in North America or Europe can provide some degree of support by increasing the awareness of the problems. Mosques or Muslim community centers in North America and Europe rarely discuss the suppression of dissenting religious views in Muslim countries. Another step is to contact national organizations such as ISNA and CAIR and request that they intervene on behalf of Muslims and non-Muslims alike who suffer under oppressive Muslim governments that use religious injunctions to stifle dissenting views in matters of religion.

Hopefully, CAIR and ISNA will not only criticize the violation of Kashgari's freedom of expression by the Saudi government but also take a broader approach to help protect the freedom of expression of journalists, writers, thinkers, academics, artists as well as all others who wish to express their opinions in Muslim countries without having to fear punishments and retributions by governments or vigilante mobs.

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