That’s a tweet by Hamaza Kashgari, a particularly brave Saudi Arabian-based journalist, poet and political activist. Already in trouble for stating this obvious truth, he chirruped a couple of tweets too loud; he tweeted about the Prophet Mohammed. Rather naïve of him, I would have thought, given where he lives and given what he knows, given that this is a subject likely to whip up all sorts of dreadful atavistic passions in a dreadful antediluvian kingdom.
He is young, only twenty-three. It was all innocent enough, but there is no innocence in this desert hellhole. Here it is in full;
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 do at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.
As I say, it’s innocent, playfully so, but with an undercurrent of respect and reverence. After all, Mohammed is not God. But those few words were the cue for a cascade of hate. Pictures of his home address were published; vigilantes appeared outside his local mosque. He started to receive death threats. A Facebook campaign calling for his execution was set up, which so far has collected over thirteen thousand members. Finally King Abdullah in person ordered that he be arrested for “crossing red lines and denigrating religious beliefs in God and His Prophet.”
Kashgari tweeted an apology, twice, to no avail. In fear of his life, he fled the country on a plane destined for New Zealand, where he hoped to obtain political asylum. Unfortunately for him it stopped over in Malaysia. I used to think of this place as one of the few progressive Muslim states, proof that the religion was not totally incompatible with the modern world. It is no longer so, indeed if it ever was. Though he had committed no crime in Malaysia and broken no law, at the request of the Saudis he was detained and sent straight back to Riyadh without any kind of extradition process, without seeing a lawyer, without being allowed to lodge any kind of appeal.
Now back in Saudi Arabia he faces charges of blasphemy and apostasy, which carries a possible death sentence. To counter the mob calling for his execution I joined another Facebook campaign demanding his release. Not that I think that it will have any effect whatsoever. Evil is likely to triumph. But good people still have to do something.
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science - the science against which it had vainly struggled - the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.
Winston Churchill, The River War, 1899