Saudi Arabian writer Hamza Kashgari, 23, a columnist for the al-Bilad daily in Jeddah, was forced to flee the Kingdom for safety when a fatwa demanding his execution for blasphemy was issued earlier this week.
Reports indicated that King Abudllah himself intervened to demand Kashgari's arrest, but Kashgari had fled to Malaysia. Emirates 247 reported that authorities in Kuala Lumpar arrested the writer on Wednesday and are coordinating his extradition back to Saudi Arabia. Saudi's Islamic Fatwa Committee are calling for Kashgari to be punished in accordance with Sharia law, which means he could face execution for apostasy.
Furore in Saudi was aroused when the writer posted his reflections on the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter. The series of Tweets included a post quoted by theDaily Beast which said "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.”
Kashgari's use of social media blogs and Twitter was already under surveillance by Saudi authorities, when he posted what were regarded as blasphemous Tweets. As his Tweets were quickly responded to with calls for his death, Kashgari removed them and issued a lengthy apology, to no avail.
The Daily Beast reported "In a span of just days, the issue came to dominate social media—from the onslaught of tweets under the hashtag #HamzahKashghri to vitriolic YouTube videos and a Facebook group, currently boasting nearly 8,000 members, called “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”—and reached all the way to top clerics and the king."
Those who know Kashgari were worried about his safety but tried to distance themselves from him. Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan described the high emotions in the Kingdom, saying “There was an amazing anger. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I think it’s because this is an extremely unique case. We’ve never had our own Salman Rushdie before. We’ve never had a case as extreme as this one of someone crossing the line.”
A friend of Kashgari told the Daily Beast “Everyone who tried to objectively deal with this case was immediately stigmatized and labeled an enemy of the prophet, who therefore should suffer the same fate Hamza is awaiting.”
Blogger Saudi Jeans spoke to another friend of Kashgari who said “This is not spontaneous,” adding that the bloodthirstiness of the conservative reaction indicated others may also be targeted for their freedom of speech.
Just before his arrest in Malaysia Kasghari had expressed his fears, knowing he would never be able to return home, saying he planned to apply for asylum abroad.