Thursday, February 16, 2012

Every prophet is despised and persecuted in his own land

Portrait of an intellectual fugitive
Look at this young man's face closely. Hamza Kashgari is only 23, way too young to die - but some clerics in Saudi Arabia are demanding that he be put to death.

What did Hamza do? As far as I know from reading a bit of background on him, his only crime is that he can think and feel.

Hamza worked as a columnist for al-Bilad, a Saudi Arabian daily, but was fired at the end of 2011 for refusing to conform to orthodox views.

Mabahith, the Saudi Arabian secret police, had Hamza on their radar when the Arab Spring started and young thinkers in Saudi Arabia were inspired to organize public forums in support of the people's freedom movement blossoming around the planet. Hamza was part of this eruption of youthful optimism, this promise of genuine transformation, this glimpse of a new world free from the shackles of cruel tradition.

Sheikh Nasser al-Omar: shedding crocodile tears
Sheikh Nasser al-Omar, an influential cleric, wept on TV while demanding the young man's execution for apostasy. What a pathetic performance, using sentimentality to camouflage ruthlessness; playing the unpopular role of Public Inquisitor and at the same time hoping to be loved!

We have seen too many reptiles in human  guise heading too many cruel and bloodthirsty institutions - too many hanging judges who kiss their wives and mothers when they return home from work, and hug their children. And yet they relentlessly continue their gruesome work - sentencing to death other people's wives and mothers, and other people's children.

Look at this Sheikh's face closely. What do you see? I see a closet pervert, an evil priest who secretly enjoys ripping throbbing hearts from sacrificial virgins and calling it religious devotion; a covert pedophile or pederast who would publicly condemn others for homosexuality. I may be wrong, of course. Sheikh Nasser may once have thought and felt the same way as Hamza Kashgari - but, lacking the nerve to be a public rebel, he opted for a safe career as an establishment cleric. In so choosing he became an accomplice of profound evil - just as the Vatican was complicit in the tyranny of Hitler's Third Reich, and all who continue to endorse the Barisan Nasional are complicit in institutionalized corruption.

Every messiah was labeled a rebel and heretic
Look closely again at this young rebel's face. What do you see? I see a poet's deep and sensitive intelligence, an idealist and defender of justice, freedom and truth.

I see a young Kahlil Gibran... or a Jesus... or another Muhammad. It isn't so difficult to see those qualities in his eyes. I also see the anger of a young man who has seen right through the greed, the hypocrisy, and the brutality of an utterly corrupt power structure which uses religion to subdue and control the masses by keeping them ignorant and superstitious.

What got Hamza Kashgari into trouble with the Saudi Arabian government was a series of gentle, contemplative but indiscreet tweets he posted on 5 February 2012, the prophet Muhammad's birthday...

“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,” he wrote in one tweet.

“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 second.

“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 in a third.

The late great Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran
These sentiments are to me entirely reasonable and they represent the way any intelligent young person brought up in any religious tradition might be expected to think, once they begin to question the roots of their own faith. Is that a crime punishable by death? Is it even a crime to ponder the irony of deifying long-dead prophets whilst exploiting, enslaving and exterminating living human beings?

Apparently, in Saudi Arabia, it is. Which, to any sane and reasonable person, is symptomatic of a virulent form of psychopathology. A mind virus, no less. Such outrageous manifestations of patriarchal tyranny can only be described as atavistic, reactionary, absolutely barbaric. I would consider it the moral duty of every sane and reasonable human being to oppose this abhorrent form of institutionalized evil, and to ensure that any political regime espousing such cruel and antiquated laws be overthrown without delay.

Tragically, Hamza Kashgari's flight to freedom included a stopover in Kuala Lumpur - where he was arrested by the Malaysian authorities and handed over with unholy haste to Saudi Arabian law enforcement agents - despite a timely court injunction against his deportation obtained by his local lawyers.

In bowing to pressure from the Saudi Arabian government, Malaysia's home minister has revealed himself to be shamelessly spineless and lacking in any compassion or nobility whatsoever.

Malaysia, as a sovereign nation, has every right to refuse to be complicit in such grotesque barbarity. The fact that it acted against Hamza Kashgari without hesitation just to appease Saudi Arabia puts the Najib regime in the worst possible light. That's right, folks, it's all about the money.... again! Saudi Arabia has massive investments in Malaysia, particularly in the colossal Iskandar development project.

Considering the Barisan Nasional's abysmal track record in human rights, it would have run against their grain to defend intellectual freedom against the heavy-handed, jack-booted encroachment of international power politics.

Will America remain silent in the face of such outlandish tyranny? Most certainly, considering its equally abysmal track record in geopolitics. After all, Saudi Arabia is a valued trading partner and favorite ally of the influential oil families.

Hamza Kashgari's young life hangs in the balance. Whether or not it is spared, he has already won his place in history. The Arab Spring will shortly activate in Saudi Arabia, the world capital of tyranny.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri,
Hamza's brave & beautiful defender
I feel profound admiration and gratitude for Lawyers for Liberty, particularly Fadiah Nadwah Fikri, who has valiantly taken on Hamza Kashgari's case. LFL's courage and dedication represent the silver lining on an extremely dark cloud hanging over our bleak national karma.