Yesterday in Saudi Arabia, best-selling novelist Turki al-Hamad, one of the KSA’s most well-known writers, was arrested for remarks he posted on Twitter.
The tweets in question — about a dozen of them, published on Dec. 22 – criticize religion. These two are trans. Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker, who has written about the arrest on his blog:
One said: “The Prophet came with a humanitarian religion but some changed it into anti-human religion.” Another said: “All religions call for love … practices and rituals do not mean what is going on in the heart.”
Others include the tweet, “Our Prophet came to rectify the faith of Abraham, and now is a time when we need someone to rectify the faith of Mohammed.” And: “Neo-Nazism is on the rise in the Arab world in the guise of Islamism. But the time of Nazism is over and the sun will shine again.” (Read the rest here.)
Al-Hamad, best-known for his coming-of-age trilogy, Phantoms of the Deserted Alley, must have known what he was doing might be dangerous. His arrest follows not long after the arrest of young Saudi poet Hamza Kashgari, who was taken in last February after tweeting an imaginary conversation with Prophet Muhammad.
Also yesterday, a Saudi court decided to pursue apostasy charges against online activist Raif Badawi, who edited the website “Saudi Arabian Liberals.”
Al-Hamad was jailed in his youth for political activism before moving to the US for graduate school. His novels have by and large not been well-reviewed, but they certainly stirred readership and controversy in the KSA. On the front cover of one of his novels, it says: “Where I live there are three taboos: religion, politics and sex. It is forbidden to speak about these. I wrote this trilogy to get things moving.”