Monday, February 13, 2012

Photos With Gregore, Kashgari is Collered in Malaysia, Twenty Thousand Facebook Friends Want Blood

For me it was pretty much the sort of weekend that happens to just about everyone in this country once in a while. On Saturday we attended a book signing in honor of  friend and author, Tom Fowler and OKC TV legend John, Count Gregore, Ferguson. It was held in the cozy confines of the Full Circle Book Store on the north side of town and attended by an eclectic lot. Ferguson was gracious, not only autographing his biography, but, dressed in full Gregorian regalia,  happily posing for photos whenever asked. Afterward we ate an early dinner in a local restaurant. The next day was spent surfing TV, listening to tunes, writing a piece here, and enjoying a huge meal of roast beef, potatoes, corn and such. It was, as usual, high tide and green grass all around.

Hamza Kashgari wasn't having nearly as much fun. Sunday Malaysian authorities deported Kashgari to his native Saudi Arabia where the journalist will face some heavy charges. On Saturday, while I was hamming it up with Ferguson in front of a camera, Kashgari was on the lam from Saudi authorities, not to mention several tens of thousands of Muslims who want his head on a plate. His crime? On the prophet Muhammad's birthday a few days before he wrote three fictional tweets depicting a conversation between the two of them. In one he said something along the lines of he, "loved the rebel in you, loved some aspects of you, but hated others."

The excrement hit the fan immediately. Death threats began to pile up. The Saudi Information Minister gave instructions to ban him from writing for any Saudi newspaper or magazine. Kashgari jumped ship and headed to New Zealand, but didn't make it past Malaysia. The Malaysians have been roundly denounced for the swift detention and deportation by people such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian-American journalist. While Malaysia is a Muslim country it prides itself on being a moderate one, prompting questions about the government's reasoning and courage. In fact a lack of courage is probably at the heart of the decision. They didn't want to be blamed by any number of radical Islamists with access to bombs among other things, for either harboring, or letting Kashgari pass into the relative sanctuary of a western government.

Saudi clerics have called Kashgari an apostate who should face punishment, proving once again Islam is rather like The Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.

If charged with blasphemy the journalist could face the death penalty. An unnamed Saudi lawyer says that is probably unlikely, but the punishment he can expect will be severe. The mind reels at what might be considered severe in Saudi Arabia.

Kashgari himself was quoted as saying, "I was demanding my right to the most basic human rights--freedom of expression and thought--so nothing is in vain." Obviously this is one brave man. He needs to be, the other side of the coin is that a facebook page has been established, probably because someone always establishes a facebook page, and its title is, "Saudi People Want Punishment for Kashgari." It currently has 20,000 "friends".

The point of all this I suppose is that while we cruise along unaware here in the United States there are places in the world where something as simple as a fictional tweet can get you killed.  That while we do the fun and inane things that we love to do and eat far too well, people are running for their lives just because of something they said.

It is a different world out there. One as alien to us as any dreamed up by a science fiction writer. One we really don't want to be a part of. Or, lastly and most importantly, one that we must depend on.


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