On February 4, 2012, the date marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, a 23-year-old Saudi man named Hamza Kashgari posted three messages on Twitter, which were perceived by many in Saudi Arabia as direct insults to Muhammad. The incident caused a stir in Saudi Arabia, with thousands of Twitter users calling for his execution. Karshgari attempted to flee the country but was apprehended in Malaysia and deported back to Saudi Arabia to face charges of blasphemy, apostasy, and atheism, which carry the death penalty.
Kashgari was a columnist for a local paper, and was occasionally critical of the government in his writings.
Following are excerpts from an address by Saudi cleric Sheikh Nasser bin Sleiman Al-Omar, which was posted on the Internet on February 5. 2012:
"I Am Afraid That Allah Will Inflict a Just Punishment Upon Us Because Of the Leniency That We Witness With Regards To Affronts Against Allah And His Messenger"
Sheikh Nasser bin Sleiman Al-Omar: "May the peace, blessing, and mercy of Allah be upon you. 'And when We intend to destroy a city We command its affluent, but they defiantly disobey therein... [breaks down weeping and sobbing]
"'And when We intend to destroy a city We command its affluent, but they defiantly disobey therein. So the word comes into effect upon it, and We destroy it with [complete] destruction.'
"Lord, do not punish us for the deeds of the foolish among us. Indeed, those who affront Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment. [sobs]
"Forgive me, my brothers, but I cannot deliver today's lecture. How can I possibly teach at a time when Allah and His Messenger are being reviled in broad daylight? [sobs]
"I am afraid that Allah will inflict a just punishment upon us because of the leniency that we witness with regards to affronts against Allah and His Messenger."
"My Dear Ones, the Fools Affronted Allah and His Messenger... Perhaps You Have Seen What [Hamza Kashgari] Wrote On His Blog... This Is Blatant Heresy"
"My dear ones, the fools affronted Allah and His Messenger. We witness civil strife, catastrophes, killing, and destruction in so many countries, while we live in this safe country. While these people are being released without punishment, without discipline, and without chastisement – and perhaps those who would punish them are prevented from doing so – I am worried about imminent punishment.
"I have come here to advise, to warn, and to ask for forgiveness for what has happened and still happens, my dear ones.
"Perhaps you have seen what [Hamza Kashgari] wrote on his blog. He has admitted this. Perhaps you have seen how he talks about Allah, and about the Messenger of Allah. [...]
"He wrote: 'My friend screamed at me: Where is Allah, in light of all this injustice? I said to him, I really don't know.' Look at the accusations he levels against Allah. Then he writes to the Lord: 'I don't understand why You do all this, I cannot believe that You really did so, and I do not understand why You still hide in the heavens. If You are really there, You are not understood.'
"This is blatant heresy, my brothers. [...]
"He said to the Prophet Muhammad: '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 your hand as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.'
"Dear brothers, there is much more. What is left for me to say?" [...]
"Things Have Been Posted on Liberal Websites... And Then People Ask Why There Is [Islamic] Extremism"
"Several stages preceded what happened, dear brothers. Things have been posted on liberal websites, by writers belonging to the liberal, or secular, or atheist stream, but they were left to their own devices. And then people ask why there is [Islamic] extremism.
"You know that I am one of the staunchest critics of extremism. It is not in keeping with the path of the Prophet Muhammad. You know that mine is one of the loudest voices calling for moderation. But we will not allow Allah or His Messenger to be publicly reviled, while we remain silent and bear false witness, Allah forbid. [...]
"What is written on liberal websites in this country is astounding. [Islamists] languish in prison on charges or suspicions, and after a year or so, it turns out that they were innocent – after the suffering they underwent. Moreover, anybody who criticizes a few officials is placed on trial and imprisoned, while anybody who affronts Allah or reviles Him or His Messenger enjoys what they call 'freedom of thought.' [...]
"We want the law to be implemented, so that anybody who affronts Allah, His Messenger, or his companions will face a criminal trial. After all, these are more exalted [than the officials].This is a serious matter. [...]
"People ask why there is such extremism. This is part of the reason. I am not justifying extremism, but explaining it. When young people see that someone who affronts Allah and His Messenger is safe and sound, extremism develops, security is compromised, and the country and its citizens are destroyed. [...]
"This is the result of the imported culture. When our young people lack defenses, and they read such things – that's when these terrible things happen. How can they not, when we throw them to the countries of the West without any defenses? Children and young people are sent to the West to study. Ask cultural attachés, not me, what goes on in those countries." [...]
"A Father Wrote To Me a Few Days Ago: 'My Son Is Studying Abroad, And He Has Done All Kinds Of Things – Is It Permissible For Me To Kill Him?'
"Their fathers and mothers throw them to the countries of the West. A father wrote to me a few days ago: 'My son is studying abroad, and he has done all kinds of things. Is it permissible for me to kill him?' I said: No, don't kill him. You made two mistakes: Your first mistake was to throw him to a Western country, where he absorbed the things he absorbed. You agreed to send him there. He was a young man, and you didn't give him any defenses. And now, you want to add insult to injury by killing him? No, you can't. It is not your call to make. Bring him back to the country, and if he is not deterred, turn him in to the authorities, so that they can deal with him." [...]
"The Islamic Scholars Have Ruled That Whoever Curses Allah or His Messenger Must Be Punished For Apostasy – Even If He Recants"
"I turn to the king, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques: Your responsibility is clear. These people must be punished. I appeal to the king and to the crown prince. These people must be punished. They must be turned over to an Islamic court, which will try them in accordance with Islamic law. It is well known that cursing Allah constitutes apostasy.
"The claim that he recanted – as I read before coming here – in ice-cold words – should not help him in court. In matters between a man and Allah, we do not intervene. The Islamic scholars have ruled that whoever curses Allah or His Messenger must be punished for apostasy, even if he recants."