Syria – Extremist group ‘executes’ 15-year-old Syrian boy for heresy


 

Monday, 10 June 2013
The gunmen belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (File photo: Reuters)
Reuters, Amman

Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents on Sunday as punishment for what the group regarded as a heretical comment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mohammad Qataa was shot in the face and neck a day after being seized, said the pro-opposition monitoring group, which is based in Britain and uses a network of observers across Syria.

“The Observatory cannot ignore these crimes, which only serve the enemies of the revolution and the enemies of humanity,” said the group’s leader Rami Abdulrahman.

A photo released by the Observatory showed Qataa’s face with his mouth and jaw bloodied and destroyed, as well as a bullet wound in his neck.

The Observatory, which based its report on witness accounts of the killing, said Qataa, who was a street vendor selling coffee in the working-class Shaar neighborhood, had been arguing with someone when he was overheard saying: “Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes down [from heaven], I will not become a believer.”

The gunmen, who belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, took Qatta on Saturday and brought him back alive in the early hours of Sunday to his wooden stand, with whiplash marks visible on his body.

“People gathered around him and a member of the fighting brigade said: ‘Generous citizens of Aleppo, disbelieving in God is polytheism and cursing the prophet is a polytheism. Whoever curses even once will be punished like this.”

“He then fired two bullets from an automatic rifle in view of the crowd and in front of the boy’s mother and father, and got into a car and left,” the report said.

Abdulrahman said the boy’s mother had pleaded with the killers, whose Arabic suggested they might not be Syrian, not to shoot her son. Qataa’s parents said the youth had taken part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Aleppo.

Since last year, large parts of the city have fallen under the control of Islamist brigades, including the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra Front, as well as other rebel units.

Women are not outsiders in Dargahs #discrimination #Religion


Syeda Hameed | November 10, 2012, Times Crest

 

 

MYTH MAKING: 'La ikra fiddin', the revolutionary Quranic verse, says that there is no compulsion in religion

Men and women perform the ‘tawaaf‘ together at the Kaaba during Haj. Why then is there a debate over women’s rights to worship in the sanctum of dargahs?

The issue of women not being allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum in dargahs is nothing new. It has been raised over ages in many parts of the world. But it is now time it is challenged and challenged on the very ground on which it has been imposed.

I have been turned away from the astana many times. The simplest question to ask is this: would the Sufi saints whose remains are buried in the astana and whose creed embraced all regardless of caste, creed, sex or even religion, ever condone that a woman is forbidden to recite the Fatiha at their grave? The answer is a resounding ‘No’.

The fact that Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan has raised this issue with widespread political support is commendable. If you want to be enlightened about the spirit of Islam, dear reader, read on. If your mind is closed, stop here.
My study of the Quran the Sunnah and the Hadith has given me the confidence to claim before the world that Islam gives equal rights and status to women along with men. In pre-Islamic Arabia there was a time when the birth of a girl brought such shame that the child was placed in her living grave. This practice was prevalent then and is not unknown today in many other forms. At that time the new religion which was revealed (Islam), gave property rights to women and girls. Here begins the story of a woman’s place in Islam;a story that the gatekeepers and so-called custodians of Islam continuously abuse by issuing false and damaging fatwas. These are placed on a religion that was the first to require that women when they earn, have a right to spend their earning as they wish. How many of these custodians of Islam even know this? And how cleverly those who do know it, conceal it.

Gyanvapi Masjid in Varansi, Hazratbal in Sirinagar, Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, Kalyar Sharif in Roorkee, Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer;are a few dargahs that have restrained my movements. In Srinagar I was with a group of women of all faiths. When we were prevented from entering the shrine and asked to do the tawaaf (circumabulation) ‘outside’, I protested before the guards. I asked my host family, who are among the most respected, devout people in Kashmir, why this happened. They were shocked;they had never heard of these restrictions.

The arguments raised by those who support the Mumbai shrines’ establishment – that the Sharia forbids men and women from performing rites together – negates the very basis of Haj where lakhs of men and women perform the tawaaf of the Kaaba together. They have strict instructions that when they tie their Ahraam they must leave their faces uncovered. The Ahraam is like a shroud;clothed in that one piece of garment, women and men stand equal in the eyes of God. Again, the Islamic injunction for modesty in dress, applies equally to men and women. Ayats in the Quran are clear. If men are permitted to give talaq women are free to give khula, I could go on quoting Surahs after Surahs.

During the life of the Prophet, women were free to enter mosques and question the Prophet on Quranic revelations. It was the query of his wife Umm Salama which resulted in the revelation of Surah Al Nisa, the second longest Surah of the Quran, elaborating on the rights, responsibilities, and defining the dignity of women.
The important fact which is conveniently forgotten by most patriarchs is that unlike Christianity, Islam has no organised church, no Pope, no religious head. Islam is the world’s last revealed religion. The Quran says that 1, 24, 000 prophets preceded Prophet Mohammad. But post-Islam there is no ‘guide’ for the Ummah. The Quran therefore makes the momentous statement that Allah is closer than you shehrug (jugular vein).

Therefore, as Mualana Abul Kalam Azad has said in his monumental work Tarjumanul Quran, human beings are asked to understand the religion and its injunctions according to their “own light”. With this clear direction given by the Quran, many sects, and many schools of jurisprudence came into being;each one interpreting its tenets in its own way. People were free to choose any or go their own way. Where is the place here for dictatorial muftis? La ikra fiddin is the revolutionary Quranic verse: there is no compulsion in religion.

I should have spoken up much earlier in defence of Islam which is endangered by false interpretations. To confuse archaic traditions with the religion itself is to do it huge disservice. I would rather join my voice with the poet Ghalib who has written: Hum muhid hain aur hamara kaish hai tar e rusm (We are believers in One Allah and our creed is to reject customs). 

The author is a human rights activist and member of the Planning Commission

#Pakistan-Girls’ school on fire in Lahore over ‘blasphemous’ exam questions #Vaw


Press Trust of India | Updated: November 01, 2012 12:59 IST

LahoreA large number of people, including activists of religious parties, ransacked and set on fire a girls’ school in Lahore and clashed with police following reports that a question paper for a test had contained blasphemous references to the Prophet, police said on Thursday.
Activists of groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Islami Jamiat Talba, the students’ wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and parents of some students were among those who on Wednesday vandalised three buildings of the Farooqi Girls High School, located near the historic Data Darbar shrine.Residents of Karim Park near Data Darbar began gathering outside the school on Wednesday morning following reports that its owner, Asim Farooqi, and teacher Arifa had committed blasphemy.

According to witnesses, the mob surrounded the three school buildings and forced their entry into the complex even after a large police contingent was deployed at the spot.

A sizeable number of activists of the Islami Jamiat Talba and JuD were part of the crowd and they demanded that the police should hand over the blasphemers to them.

The protesters subsequently forced their entry into the buildings after police used teargas in an attempt to disperse them. They let terrified students vacate the buildings and searched for the “blasphemers”.

After failing to find them, they ransacked the buildings and torched furniture, property and the car of the school’s owner.

The charged protesters also stopped fire service personnel from entering the buildings to extinguish the fire.

The police tried to disperse them for a second time but were unsuccessful.

Legislators Mian Marghoob and Khawaja Imran Nazir of the PML-N that rules Punjab and senior police officers reached the spot and requested the protesters to go home so that police could investigate the matter.

“I assure you the government will thoroughly investigate the matter and will not spare those involved in blasphemy,” promised Mr Nazir, who is the political secretary to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Later, police claimed they had arrested both Farooqi and Arifa and booked them under the harsh blasphemy law.

A police official told PTI that the private school’s administration had set a question paper for a test a few days ago that allegedly contained “indecent” remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

Police also registered a case against unidentified protesters for ransacking the school buildings.

 

No, Banning “Innocence of Muslims” Is Not the Solution #mustread #mustshare


 

Posted: 09/17/2012 , Huffingtonpost
  Chair, Muslims for Progressive Values Canada

Once again we Muslims take centre stage in the arena of world politics, our “anger” dominating the headlines over a poorly made YouTube video, called “Innocence of Muslims.” And though the video is poor, both in content and production quality, the title alone is excellent.

As a Muslim, resident of North America my entire life, I have never heard the word “innocence” placed next to “Muslims” so many times by the media. So to the “Innocence of Muslims” creators, on this point alone — thank you.

Today’s blog post is dedicated to my fellow Muslims, with one exception.

The exception consists of the less than one per cent of Muslims who are engaging in violent anti-American demonstrations in a number of countries.

Why? Because that part of the community, that less than one percent of Muslims, does not have the time nor the heart for this message.

No, that less than one percent of the community, is working hard to destroy whatever efforts their fellow (mostly Muslim) citizens have made towards democracy in the Muslim world in an effort to replace it with another dictatorship, made up of salafi extremists. (Please note it appears there are no violent demonstrations taking place in the Gulf States likely because the would-be demonstrators there already compose the governments.)

To my fellow Muslims — the 99 per cent who are peaceful — here is my message. Online articles, information and resources, including amateur video productions, are everywhere.

On the topic of Islam, extreme interpretations of our scriptures backed up by sources many of us regard as inauthentic or out of date, receive millions of hits. Some of the information is posted by non-Muslims, but much is posted by those who call themselves Muslim, as well.

And amateur video productions on sites like YouTube and others are a thriving industry all over the world. From the diversity of amateur video production we see that people all over the world have a range of opinions on what is right and wrong, indecent and acceptable, not only in relation to religion, but regarding other matters as well.

And we cannot always “police” all of what is “out there” online. We cannot “police” it in North America. We cannot “police” it abroad. In fact, law enforcement all over the world seems to have difficulty literally policing truly offensive, criminal material, such as child pornography.

“Policing” opinions on religious matters is unrealistic in most instances. But some of you say “Innocence of Muslims” is a special case and should be banned. Personally, I disagree. “Innocence of Muslims” should not be banned, nor should any video that one finds disturbing because of its anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-religious content.

Why? For a number of reasons.

First of all, in relation to “Innocence of Muslims” we must take into account the following factors:

1. Merely because the depiction is suggested doesn’t make it true;
2. Because there is no coercion allowed in Islam according to the Holy Quran, human beings are free to believe as they choose; and
3. Our Prophet Muhammad practiced a virtually super-human degree of patience, which we are supposed to emulate.

Second, in respect to anti-religious material in general, history and current policies show that when governments police the opinions of citizens the result is a dictatorship or at the very least a country that upholds injustice by censoring the criticism against it.

And when people are prohibited from making poor quality amateur YouTube videos, also at stake is the freedom of expression to speak out against the injustice of governments and others in a peaceful, constructive manner.

It means religious minority rights, women’s rights, queer rights — human rights — become endangered further. It means any opposition to those rights may more easily result in violence against minorities. It means that violence against minority groups may be then condoned by governments who do not have the constitution, the resources, and/or the expertise to enforce protections for their minority inhabitants.

It means humanity suffers more not less. What else can be done?

My fellow Muslims — our community has been under a magnifying glass for some time now. But in the past decade, great changes have taken place.

Though there remain many issues we must resolve among ourselves we are no longer afraid to discuss them today in the open.

Our Muslim community leaders — who now hail from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, young, old, queer, straight, male, female, single, and married, are more confident now to express a variety of views, than previous generations, despite opposition and conflict, which at times originates from both inside and outside the mosque.

And unlike the previous generation, our reaction to the insanity of salafist and wahabi extremists, is swift and just — as shown by the statements issued last week by a host of Muslim organizations in North America, condemning the violence at the American embassies and conveying condolences upon the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and members of his staff.

It is in stark contrast to what we watched, particularly, those of us growing up in North America, decades ago, when the reaction to the fatwa pronounced against British Muslim author Salman Rushdie, endangering his life and stifling free expression among Muslims, was relatively muted, or worse. (And we must speak out now to ensure Rushdie is safe, considering the fatwa’s recent renewal).

We know now, as Muslims, we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice, particularly when the perpetrator claims to be Muslim and acts out in the name of our faith. But though we, as a community, may have matured, the media and public perception has not necessarily caught up with us at every turn.

Though there are plenty of pundits acknowledging we differ from the violent extremists who are taking advantage of the Arab Spring, there are others who continue to paint us all with the same monolithic, bigoted brush.

The words “Muslim Fury,” “Rage in the Muslim World,” are used without regard to the scant number of the demonstrators in relation to the entire global Muslim population.

And there are others hoping to screen “Innocence of Muslims” to a theatre audience — perhaps to bring some of the extremists in our midst, out into the open and create a perception that their numbers are greater.

My fellow Muslims, we live in difficult times. My fellow Muslims what is the solution? Must the problems of the entire Muslim world be a burden that constantly rests upon our shoulders?

Perhaps the answer is yes. Perhaps our generation must rise to the challenge of our era, remembering the words of the great late Martin Luther King Jr who said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And perhaps we must examine our community at home and abroad, with extreme Islamic love. Perhaps we must react not only to deflect the negative light others throw on our faith but consistently, together shine one on those injustices regularly taking place in the Muslim world.

Perhaps we must ask ourselves, not only why American (and other western) embassies are being attacked but why there are places in the Muslim world where there is poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation, honour killings, gender apartheid, persecution of religious minorities, homophobia, torture and murder of citizens by governments and war.

And perhaps we must ask ourselves what we must do, from where we stand, to peacefully, create a world of difference. And again remind ourselves of the words of the Holy Quran that now resonate so forcefully in the collective soul of our generation that — “Allah will not change a nation unless it changes what is in their hearts.”

 

Peace Be Upon You – Internet videos will insult your religion. Ignore them.


Dear Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Jews,

You’re living in the age of the Internet. Your religion will be mocked, and the mockery will find its way to you. Get over it.

If you don’t, what’s happening this week will happen again and again. A couple of idiots with a video camera and an Internet connection will trigger riots across the globe. They’ll bait you into killing one another.

Stop it. Stop following their script.

Today, fury, violence, and bloodshed are consuming the Muslim world. Why? Because a bank fraud artist in California offered people $75 a day to come to his house and act out scenes that ostensibly had nothing to do with Islam. Then he replaced the audio, putting words in the actors’ mouths, and stitched together the scenes to make an absurdly bad movie ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed. He put out flyers to promote the movie. Nobody—literally nobody—came to watch it.

He posted a 14-minute video excerpt of the movie on YouTube, but hardly anyone noticed. Then, a week ago, an anti-Muslim activist in Virginia reposted the video with an Arabic translation and sent the link to activists and journalists in Egypt. An Egyptian TV show aired part of the video. An Egyptian politician denounced it. Clerics sounded the alarm. Through Facebook and Twitter, protesters were mobilized to descend on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The uprising spread. The U.S. ambassador to Libya has been killed, and violence has engulfed other countries.

When the protests broke out, the guy who made the movie claimed to be an Israeli Jewfunded by other Jews. That turned out be a lie. Now he says he’s a Coptic Christian, even though Coptic Christian leaders in Egypt and the United States despise the movie andwant nothing to do with him. Another guy who helped make the movie claims to be aBuddhist. The movie was made in the United States, yet Sudanese mobs have attackedBritish and German embassies. Some Egyptians targeted the Dutch embassy, mistakenly thinking the Netherlands was behind the movie. Everyone’s looking for a group to blame and attack.

The men behind the movie said it would expose Islam as a violent religion. Now they’re pointing to the riots as proof. Muslims are “pre-programmed” to rage and kill, says the movie’s promoter. “Islam is a cancer,” says the director. According to the distributor, “The violence that it caused in Egypt is further evidence of how violent the religion and people are and it is evidence that everything in the film is factual.”

Congratulations, rioters. You followed the script perfectly. You did the propagandists’ work for them.

And the provocations won’t end here. Laws and censors won’t protect you from them. Liberal democracies allow freedom of expression. Our leaders and people condemn garbage like this video, but we don’t censor it. Even if we did, the diffusion of media technology makes suppression impossible. The director of this movie was forbidden, under his bank-fraud probation rules, from using computers or the Internet without approval. That didn’t stop him. Nor did it stop the Arabic-language distributor from reposting the video and disseminating it abroad.

Online propaganda is speech. But it’s also part of the global rise of lethal empowerment. It’s easier than ever to kill people. In Muslim countries, mass murderers favor bombs. In the United States, they prefer guns. In Japan, they’ve tried sarin nerve gas. TheOklahoma City bomber used fertilizer. The Sept. 11 hijackers used box cutters and passenger planes. Then came the letters filled with anthrax.

Derision is that much harder to control. The spread of digital technology and Internet bandwidth makes it possible to reach every corner of the globe almost instantly with homemade video defaming any faith tradition. It can become an incendiary weapon. But it has a weakness: It depends on you. You’re the detonator. If you don’t cooperate, the bomb doesn’t explode.

This isn’t just a Muslim problem, though that’s been the pattern lately. On YouTube, you can find videos insulting every religion on the planet: Jews, Christians, Hindus, Catholics,Mormons, Buddhists, and more. Some clips are ironic. Others are simply disgusting. Many were posted to bait one group into fighting another. The baiters are indiscriminate. The promoter of the Mohammed movie founded a group that also protests at Mormon temples.

The hatred and bloodshed will go on until you stop taking the bait. Mockery of your prophet on a computer with an Internet address somewhere in the world can no longer be your master. Nor can the puppet clerics who tell you to respond with violence. Lay down your stones and your anger. Go home and pray. God is too great to be troubled by the insults of fools.

End Death Calls for Saudi Poet and Blogger


 By- Paul  Mutter -The National reports that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has “issued a fatwa against Twitter, demanding that ‘real Muslims’ avoid it, calling it a ‘platform for trading accusations and for promoting lies’.”

The pretext for this condemnation of social media is the case of the Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari, who was extradited from Malaysia to the Kingdom after tweeting about the Prophet Muhammad in a manner that the religious authorities deemed blasphemous. If the Saudis wish to make an example, he will be facing blasphemy charges, and possibly death, rather than a lesser (though still absurd) sentencing that would end in him paying a fine. There’s also talk of taking action against anyone who retweeted his messages.

But considering that thousands of Twitter users called attention to Kashgari’s tweets, literally demanding his head, it’s ironic that the Grand Mufti says Muslims should stay off Twitter, since clearly, many salafis are using, and policing it.

And, as The National notes, it’s even more ironic that the Grand Mufti’s issuing a ban since Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the King’s nephew and reputedly the richest man in Saudi Arabia, purchased 3.6% of Twitter’s stock for US$300 million this past December.

The fact that the Grand Mufti wants Twitter gone while a prince wants to buy its shares up nicely illustrates the uneasy dual monarchy that has defined clerical-royal relationship since the 18th century. The monarchy set up in 1923 is actually a dual monarchy because the royal family must maintain the approval of the Wahhabi ulema to rule, and there are those who question this “right” – one of the first crises of the Saudi state occured when the monarchy and ulema, fearing the Ikhwan tribal militias who had won control of the Hejaz for them, turned on the militiamen. The House of Saud procured the British machine guns, the clergy produced a justificatory edict for the crackdown.

As Toby C. Jones notes, “the ulema’s support for the regime is not unconditional. They remain controversial, provocative and confrontational.” Oil wealth and investment portfolios allow Saudi princes to study at Sandhurst and hobnob with French socialites, but they also subsidize the religious-dominated educational system and the social welfare net, which the Saudis have been working to expand in the wake of the Arab Spring, that help hold society together on the al-Sauds’ behalf. “The rebel in you” Kashgari refers to with respect to the Prophet Muhammad is precisely the sort of Islamic value that the Saudi status quo cannot handle — hence the sharp responses from the government against anyone urging reform, including Salafis and secularists. The Sahwas — former Islamist radicals who have become “partners” of the establishment — are the closest thing to a political opposition Saudi Arabia has, their presence is limited by the government and they must be careful not to push too far in the Islamist direction that Osama bin Laden fell in with. One promiment Sahwa spiritual leader has argued in the past that “sovereignty belongs to God alone,” which is indeed “a challenge both to the idea that Saudi citizens should enjoy more participation in governance as well as to the royal family itself.”

Hamza Kashgari’s case is one of free speech. The religious establishment, wanting to remain the arbiter of social norms in the Kingdom and hold onto the power it has accrued, is hoping to denigrate a medium that they fear because of its prominent — though exaggerated — role in the “Arab Spring.” They can’t reconcile themselves to globe-spanning electronic mediums that might lead their congregations to start thinking thought crimes. A chilling message has been sent already through the extradition from Malaysia; it will depend on the royal family if the intended message stops with a fine, or with Kashgari’s execution.

PL SIGN ONLINE PETITION AND SHARE WIDELY

 

Malaysia deports Saudi journalist accused of insulting prophet


 Hamza Kashgari fled to Malaysia after calls for death penalty in response to Twitter comment about Muhammad

Kate Hodal, Bangkok, Feb  13, 2012,-Malaysia has deported a Saudi journalist accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad on Twitter, despite claims by rights groups that he could face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Hamza Kashgari, 23, a newspaper columnist, tweeted doubts about Muhammad on the prophet’s birthday last weekend. After death threats, he fled to Malaysia on Tuesday and was detained at Kuala Lumpur airport while trying to leave on Thursday. Malaysian police said Kashgari was handed over to Saudi officials and flown back on Sunday morning, with flight arrangements handled by the Saudi authorities.

Malaysia and Saudi Arabia do not share a formal extradition treaty, but do have close ties as fellow Muslim countries. The Malaysian interior minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said in a statement that Kashgari’s deportation was due to a common agreement.

“Malaysia had a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and [Kashgari] will be repatriated under this agreement,” the statement read. “The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

Kashgari had tweeted about Muhammad last week: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you, and there is a lot I don’t understand about you. I will not pray for you.” He deleted the tweet and apologised, but it attracted more than 30,000 responses, including death threats that spread from Twitter to YouTube and Facebook. Saudi clerics called him an apostate, and a Facebook page demanded his execution. Apostasy, abandonment or renunciation of faith, is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi clerics have already made up their mind that Kashgari is an apostate who must face punishment,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Malaysian government should not be complicit in sealing Kashgari’s fate by sending him back.”

A lawyer for Kashgari called the deportation unlawful and said his counsel had not been informed that he was to be sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said Malaysia’s actions set an all new low. “If Kashgari faces execution back in Saudi Arabia, the Malaysian government will have blood on its hands. The Malaysian government engaged in the most crass form of bait and switch, secretly sending Kashgari back, claiming the return is based on a long-standing understanding between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that there is no bilateral extradition treaty between the two. When seeking a seat on the UN human rights council, the Malaysian government pledged it would abide by international human rights treaties, but from the day they took their seat they have walked away from that pledge.”

A lawyer for Kashgari said that he had obtained a court order preventing his client’s deportation but had been stopped by authorities from serving it.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri told the Malaysian Star: “When we tried to serve the order at the Kuala Lumpur international airport, an immigration officer there confirmed Kashgari had been deported. This is in contempt of court and a violation of human rights.” He added that Kashgari had been denied access to his lawyers since his arrest on Thursday.

Kashgari said in an interview that he was a “scapegoat for a larger conflict” over his comments, Reuters reported. Amnesty International labelled Kashgari a prisoner of conscience and called for his release.

Two weeks ago Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh called on Muslims to avoid Twitter as it “invited [people] to throw charges between them, and to lie in a manner that brings fame to some”, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Saudi Arabia has the third highest number of Twitter users in the Arab region, according to a social media report by the Dubai School of Government. However, those users comprise 0.5% of the nation’s overall population of 27 million.

In January, California-based Twitter said it would censor tweets in certain countries, fuelling debate over freedom of speech on the internet. Thailand, where strict censorship rules already apply, was the first nation to publicly approve of Twitter’s decision. In Malaysia, police have used Twitter and other social media to try to warn activists against rallying in support of the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. In Indonesia, a government minister announced last week that people tweeting in violation of local law – relating to pornography, gambling, threats, fraud and blasphemy – could face seven to 12 years in jail, the Jakarta Globe reported.

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