The decision was taken by ‘Shura Council’ in spite of the insulting comments tweeted by Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari 4 months ago.
July24, 2012: Saudi Arabia is all set to amend the regulations that deem insult of Islam as a criminal act. The newly appointed Shura council will go through the possibilities in the coming months to introduce the new law in order to “combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia”, reported Al-Watan, the daily news website in the gulf country.
The declaration is considered to be of high importance owing to the tweets made by a Saudi columnist and blogger, Hamza Kashgiri that supposedly insulted Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam.
The 23, year old recanted the controversial statement, closed his Twitter account and silently left the country in the wake of avoiding death penalty which is a punishment under Saudi law for blasphemy. He was however later extradited from Malaysia to be detained by the Saudi government and now awaits trial for his offense.
Owing to the objectionable comments being posted on Twitter, the social media website was banned from broadcast in the country. The ban was however revoked in 2008 that evidently saw a huge surge in its users. Only in the month of June this year, the number of its members in the country multiplied by an incredible 3000 percent.
Sensing its burgeoning popularity, the site has been joined by many religious clerics as well, such as Mohammad al Arefe who alone possess 1.8 million followers.
With these religious figures joining the social media, those making independent comments over religion have come under more scrutiny and hence are dealt with severely.
Notably, this was not the first time that when someone was made to face punishment on the charges of blasphemy.
In an incident that took place in December last year, Mansor Almaribe, an Australian national was sentenced 500 lashes followed by one year imprisonment on the charges of deteriorating the image of Prophet Mohammad during Haj (Pilgrimage) in Mecca.
Coming back to the law to be introduced in the Arabian country, it would specifically target social networking sites and blogs that are a prominent medium for the rational thinkers to put forth their ideas. Arguably, it could also curb the voices of criticism raised since the start of Arab spring last year over the social media.
Considering the harsh consequences of blasphemy, the Obama administration has been persistent in the development of an international standard for blasphemy prosecutions and is seeking the help of Pakistan together with other Muslim countries to chalk out an acceptable standard. However, the intensity that the law from Shura clerics would accompany still remains a moot point.
To conclude, Internet is a place for the people to express their views freely, without getting under the influence of any religious or political group. With such ruthless blasphemy rules, the independence of thoughts of the individuals surely goes for a toss.
However, to the contrary, religious sentiments are something that could incite the conscience of almost anyone, hence it is better to refrain from expressing views on religion or religious figures. Moreover, the law that is prevalent in Arabian countries has been there since ages and is hard to be challenged.
It is therefore better to avoid making comments that could hurt a country or a particular community. After all, freedom to expression of speech and thoughts does not indicate insulting one’s religion. As for the Blasphemy rule to be introduced in Saudi Arabia, it would be too early to say anything.
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