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Goat Milk: Death by tweet? How Hamza Kashgari’s fate will shape the face of Islam today

29 March 2012 Loonwatch.com 7 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Goat Milk: Death by tweet? How Hamza Kashgari’s fate will shape the face of Islam today

Visitors sometimes ask why we don’t devote more of our articles to criticizing some of the regressive views within the Muslim community.

For one thing, there is already an overwhelming amount of criticism leveled at the Muslim community, which in itself is not a bad thing. However, much of what passes as “criticism” is actually pure and unadulterated hatred, something we highlight daily. The well funded machinery of anti-Muslim Islamophobic hate propaganda is an industry with thousands of websites, growing organizational structure and reach. It takes time and effort to combat this hate, and at the moment we are one of the only sites taking on the misinformation and bigotry emerging from the hatemongers on a daily basis. So of course that is our focus and will remain as such.

Also, loaded words like “moderate,” “liberal,” “reformer” and “critic” are at times code words used by self-proclaimed “Muslim” spokesmen/women who play the role of modern-day Uncle Toms and Sally Hemings, (see: Tarek Fatah, Zuhdi Jasser or Asra “Quranolatry” Nomani, etc.).

Still, the question remains, should one really leave the “criticism” to those who sell out the Muslim community for personal aggrandizement?

The fact is there are many Muslims across the world and in America who “criticize” without being agents of empire and imperialism and who do so not for reasons of personal enrichment. In fact, the most effective “criticism” originates within Muslim communities and it is they who should be seen as leaders in this regard. Interestingly, one of the regular Islamophobic talking points forwards the opposite notion, that Muslims are a monolith who have no critical voice when it comes to regressive forces within their community. Anyone who cares to do a minimal Google search on this topic can quickly dispel that belief.

Regressive views garner widespread attention, and are a public relations bonanza for hatemongers like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. In fact, a tiny group of regressive throwbacks in the Muslim community are arguably the best allies for anti-Muslim hatemongers, and for that reason, it makes sense to voice dissent and offer some alternative views from time to time.

This brings us to Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari, whose tweets on the occasion of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday landed him in the midst of a controversy and a possible “death sentence.”

All Muslims are indicted in the public imagination, even if a majority find the case frivolous and absurd. However, there are voices of thoughtful opposition, criticizing the persecution of Kashgari. Adeel Ahmed’s article, published on Goat Milk, discusses the case and its implications, arguing it will either lead the Muslim community a step forward–or several steps back.

Death by tweet?: How Hamza Kashgari’s fate will shape the face of Islam today

by Adeel AhmedGoat Milk

On the occasion of Mawlid, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, a young 23-year-old former columnist for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Bilad newspaper tweeted a conversation he imagined he would have if he were to meet the Prophet Muhammad.

-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.

-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.

-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.

Almost immediately after the posts he was running for his life. He hopped a plane in Jeddah hoping to reach New Zealand. In Malaysia, where he had to change planes, he was stopped and held until a private plane arrived to take him back home to Saudi Arabia. Now, he sits in a Saudi jail awaiting a possible death sentence.

Yes, death.

Saudi cleric Nasser al-Omar called for Kashgari to be tried for apostasy. Outrageous, I first thought, living here in the Western world. Although I don’t believe that the tweets validate in labeling Kahsgari as an apostate even if he did insult the Prophet Muhammad, let’s just agree with al-Omar’s point of view. If Kashgari is an apostate like al-Omar says, we must look into what Islam says about capital punishment, apostasy and those two linked together.

The Qur’an states: “…Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom” (6:151). Key words here are “by way of justice and law.” It is clear that capital punishment can be applied by a court as long as it is justifiable and lawful, which fall under two crimes: intentional murder and Fasad fil-ardh, or spreading mischief in the land. The term “spreading mischief in the land” is generally interpreted as crimes that affect a community as a whole and destabilize society. These include treason/apostasy, terrorism, land, sea and air piracy, rape and adultery.

That being said, it must mean that al-Omar’s argument to punish Kashgari with the death sentence for apostasy is valid, correct? No. What al-Omar fails to realize is how that ruling originated and under which circumstances.

During the time of war, if one were to abandon his Muslims by committing treason and declaring himself as an apostate and then fight against Muslims, it would be valid to punish the individual with the death sentence. However, Kashgari is not fighting against his home country, and as a result, is not committing treason. The problem rests in that al-Omar, along with many others, tie apostasy to treason instead of realizing that apostasy is not always linked to war and treason, especially not in this day and age. So, if he is an apostate, should the death sentence apply? Is speaking ill of the Prophet Muhammad considered an act of mischief large enough to punish Kashgari with capital punishment, given that he is considered an apostate?  This is where I searched further to see what Islam says about punishments for the act of apostasy on its own, without being linked to treason.

In Surah 4: 137, the Qur’an reads, “Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe and again deny the truth and thereafter, grow stubborn in their denial of the truth, God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way.” With this passage it’s evident that even after rejecting Islam twice, no punishment is prescribed for the apostate.

Furthermore, Dr. Maher Hathout, a leading American Muslim spokesperson, underscores in his recent book “In Pursuit of Justice: The Jurisprudence of Human Rights in Islam” that while apostasy may be a sin in the eyes of God, it is not considered criminal behavior.

Subhi Mahmassani, an Islam scholar and jurist from Lebanon, has observed that the death penalty was meant to apply not to simple acts of apostasy from Islam, but when apostasy was linked to an act of political betrayal of the community. The Prophet never killed anyone solely for apostasy. This being the case, the death penalty was not meant to apply to a simple change of faith but to punish acts such as treason, joining forces with the enemy and sedition. [Arkan Huquq al-Insan fi l-Islam (Bases of Human Rights in Islam), Beirut: Dar al-‘Ilm li-l-Malayin, 1979, cited in Kamali, as above]

Executing a person because of conversion to another faith or out of faith clearly contradicts the Qur’an, the ultimate source of Islamic law. Without the apostasy being linked to treason that leads to a matter of national security or security of a Muslim community, capital punishment cannot be permitted.

The question now remains, if Islamic law prohibits capital punishment for apostasy, where did Muslims get the idea that it is valid? In Josef Van Ess’s book “The Flowering of Muslim Theology” he observes this issue and the first execution of someone who spoke ill of the Prophet Muhammad. Dating back to the 8th Century, Syrian scholar Muhammad Ibn Said Al-Urdunni was executed for statements he made about the Prophet Muhammad. Al-Urdunni stated that, although Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet, if Allah wanted, He would and could create another Muhammad. He simply was stating that Allah, the Almighty, has the ability to do whatever he wants, which includes creating another Muhammad. It is as unknown as to whom exactly made the final decision to charge Al-Urdunni with apostasy, but the Syrian government issued the death sentence for disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad by even imagining that there could be another prophet after him. The intentions behind the Syrian government are unknown, however, one is to assume that they could have been trying to set an example for Muslim citizens—if Al-Urdunni is executed, people will not dare to speak ill of the Prophet. It seems that al-Omar is using the same philosophy of the 8th Century government in Syria. But we sit here now, in the 21st Century with the same problem that Syrians tried to squash in the 8th Century. So, does al-Omar really believe that the death sentence will in fact put fear in citizens from talking badly about the Prophet?

It is unfortunate that Muslim scholars don’t stand together to stop al-Omar and the Saudi government from this to move forward. Apostasy is not the equivalent of treason. Kashagri wasn’t out to destroy a Muslim community. There should not even be a trial. Under Islamic law, people of other faiths and people who leave Islam are not to be harmed.

The problem is that Saudi Arabia strives to both move forward in the world of high technology while they govern strict limitations and boundaries upontheir citizens. Their strong and strict Wahabbi interpretation of Islamic law will be a crutch for Muslims all over the world, especially the Western world, where Muslims constantly try to prove that Islam is a religion of peace and forgiveness and that Muslims can coexist in a world with other religions. The decision on Hamza Kahsgari’s case will leave a mark. It can either be a huge step in the right direction or send Muslims back another ten.

Adeel Ahmed is an actor and writer. His work has been featured at Sundance and SXSW. Credits include Law & Order CI, Saturday Night Live, Domestic Crusaders. He will next be seen on Hum TV’s drama series Hum Tho Huay Pardesi as well as Rangoon on Theatre Row in New York City. 

Read the original here: http://goatmilkblog.com/2012/03/07/death-by-tweet-how-hamza-kashgaris-fate-will-shape-the-face-of-islam-today-adeel-ahmed/

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7 Comments »

  1. excellent article. shows some of the many perils of governing by religious law.

  2. “The Prophet never killed anyone solely for apostasy.”

    not according to a book i have no idea what it’s origin is. this guy must be a koran only muslim. is the author even a muslim? certainly not sunni?????? omg i can’t stop laughing. seriously. the disinformation is hilarious.

    i’m sorry. it’s good to know this guy differentiates between major and minor apostate. it would be good if the four major schools of islamic jurisprudence agreed with him.

    “solely” is he sure? oh wait the prophet didn’t kill anyone, only gave the orders to kill someone. LOL

    Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57:

    Narrated ‘Ikrima:

    Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.’

  3. clear as mud………bring on the sharia.

    Volume 9, Book 84, Number 72:

    Narrated:

    Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman and Hibban bin ‘Atiyya had a dispute. Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman said to Hibban, “You know what made your companions (i.e. Ali) dare to shed blood.” Hibban said, “Come on! What is that?” ‘Abdur-Rahman said, “Something I heard him saying.” The other said, “What was it?” ‘AbdurRahman said, “‘Ali said, Allah’s Apostle sent for me, Az-Zubair and Abu Marthad, and all of us were cavalry men, and said, ‘Proceed to Raudat-Hajj (Abu Salama said that Abu ‘Awana called it like this, i.e., Hajj where there is a woman carrying a letter from Hatib bin Abi Balta’a to the pagans (of Mecca). So bring that letter to me.’ So we proceeded riding on our horses till we overtook her at the same place of which Allah’s Apostle had told us. She was traveling on her camel. In that letter Hatib had written to the Meccans about the proposed attached of Allah’s Apostle against them. We asked her, “Where is the letter which is with you?’ She replied, ‘I haven’t got any letter.’ So we made her camel kneel down and searched her luggage, but we did not find anything. My two companions said, ‘We do not think that she has got a letter.’ I said, ‘We know that Allah’s Apostle has not told a lie.’”

    Then ‘Ali took an oath saying, “By Him by Whom one should swear! You shall either bring out the letter or we shall strip off your clothes.” She then stretched out her hand for her girdle (round her waist) and brought out the paper (letter). They took the letter to Allah’s Apostle. ‘Umar said, “O Allah’s Apostle! (Hatib) has betrayed Allah, His Apostle and the believers; let me chop off his neck!” Allah’s Apostle said, “O Hatib! What obliged you to do what you have done?” Hatib replied, “O Allah’s Apostle! Why (for what reason) should I not believe in Allah and His Apostle? But I intended to do the (Mecca) people a favor by virtue of which my family and property may be protected as there is none of your companions but has some of his people (relatives) whom Allah urges to protect his family and property.” The Prophet said, “He has said the truth; therefore, do not say anything to him except good.” ‘Umar again said, “O Allah’s Apostle! He has betrayed Allah, His Apostle and the believers; let me chop his neck off!” The Prophet said, “Isn’t he from those who fought the battle of Badr? And what do you know, Allah might have looked at them (Badr warriors) and said (to them), ‘Do what you like, for I have granted you Paradise?’ ” On that, ‘Umar’s eyes became flooded with tears and he said, “Allah and His Apostle know best.”

    like american courts aren’t f*ed up enough already.

  4. Humans should not kill each other at all. It is against God’s will and a great sin.

    “Everyone who kills a human being is a double murderer. He kills his victim – and the human being in himself.”

    Do not follow those who preach that humans should end other humans’ lives.

    What value has a faith that forces people to stay in it on pain of death? Let them go! Just let them go in peace!

    According to your own faith, they are bound for eternal hell anyway – is that not bad enough for you? Why soil your hands and souls in their blood, too?

    Murder is blasphemy, for it is destroying God’s own handiwork.

  5. looks like muslims can’t agree on how much islam they want.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17571131

  6. @mike. Muslims are people of different races and cultures. They have different backgrounds and education, are you not amazed by that? Muslims believe in freewill. Are you saying that there is only one Christian belief since there is only one bible? Looks like christians can’t agree how much christianity they want either, lol. They could not even agree which bible is the correct translation. I know Christianity, being a born and raised Roman Catholic and in a community and country of Christians. I even studied it for say THIRTY YEARS! My parting words… only a true Muslim understands Islam. Anyone who said they know Islam is either a Muslim or a liar (pretender), so which one are you? No matter how much reading you do on Islam, you will NEVER understand it unless you accepted it as a faith. Its like millions of people reading the bible and come out with DIFFERENT translation. So mote it be.

  7. marcelo,

    “are you not amazed by that?” no why would that be amazing? yes i know islam has spread throughtout the world, most especially on a longitudinal line along the silk road and other trading routes. http://muslimpopulation.com/

    “Looks like christians can’t agree how much christianity they want either, lol.” lol i agree. you know what is even funnier, is that most muslims on this site seems to think everyone who isn’t muslim is a christian. or on occasion a jew. why is it that you realize the racial and cultural diversity of muslims but not the religious diversity of westerners? i was raised roman catholic as well. sorry for your luck.

    “which one are you?” well first i don’t claim to know islam. so i would say neither. what’s up with only two choices. you sound like the guy here who asked me if i was a christian or a jew.

    “So mote it be”? i take it that’s a typo? can’t figure it out by content?

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