Once again the very fabric of free society is being threatened by religious extremism, nay, by the very nature of religion itself.
Three posts on the social networking site Twitter by the Saudi journalist and blogger Hamza Kashgari have prompted outrage in the Saudi Arabian kingdom for his supposed irreverence of the prophet Mohammed - the central figure of Islam.
The content of Kashgari's tweets are almost irrelevant in the context of the initial fervent and disgusting reaction which entailed threats of violence and death by more than 30,000 twitter reactions directed at Kashgari.
A total of 13,000 Facebook users joining a group named, rather ambiguously: "Saudi people want punishment for Hamza Kashgari."
Kashgari fled the country swiftly, as one would when the maximum punishment for apostasy (blasphemy, essentially) in Saudi Arabia, under sharia law - notorious for its disregard for ideas of equality represented in society and in law - is death.
After deleting his twitter account and publishing an apology in Saudi newspapers, he arrived in Malaysia on February 9 with plans to seek political asylum in New Zealand, but was detained at Kuala Lumpur airport.
At 3pm the following day, a Malaysian High Court injunction stopped Kashgari from being extradited back to Saudi Arabia to stand trial.
He had already been flown out of the country five hours earlier.
As an aside, allegations are spinning that Interpol have aided in Kashgari's arrest by issuing a 'red letter notice' requiring instant location and detention.
Interpol are in fact bound not to engage in political or religious arrest warrants, or in cases involving peaceful free speech.
So, once again, we as a human society have doubled back on our tracks and arrived at the indefensible prosecution, persecution, and utter deplorable violence against those who exercise their right to free speech and freedom to practice religion.
This isn't not the first time we have arrived here.
In the 1980s, a fatwa was issued against the Indian-born, UK-based satirical novelist Sir Salman Rushdie.
In his book, The Satanic Verses, he addresses a series of reasonably brief sequences in which a man gravely wracked by mental ill-health re-imagines the story around which the central traditions of Islam are based.
Twenty-three years to this day (Valentine's, rather ironically), the head of Iranian revolutionary state (a term not used endearingly), the Ayatollah Khomeini, called for the slaughter of Rushdie, his editors, and his publishers by "valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world".
There is no room here to examine just how disgusting this request is, nor is there space to discuss the reactions of leading figures throughout the world.
Three translators of the Verses were killed. The Norwegian publisher barely survived an attack and Rushdie still travels with police protection in many countries.
On January 20, Rushdie was forced to pull out of the Indian Jaipur literary festival, which he spoke at in 2007, due to continuing assassination threats.
This raised the issue of free speech once more and engaging the debate between the role of dominant religious faiths and the secularity of the government.
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons in 2005, illustrating yet another example of the simple intolerance that more radical Islamists have for the notion of a law that is not their own.
The Jyllands-Posten case can be contrasted with examples like Rushdie's and now Kashgari's, due to their perceived isolation and by nature of their individualism: one man is easier to track down and persecute than an entire newspaper.
This reason, nor any other, should not be given any more glimpse of thought as an excuse for violence.
The correlation between the right to free expression and the very modern idea of 'hate speech' laws is one wracked with problems.
The forum in which the debate could take place is currently filled with those so determined to undermine the values of other nations simply because they believe their mandate to be from a higher power.
The floor, the talking stick, and the microphone are all being feverishly grabbed-for by those who are simply unable to conduct a controlled discussion.
The figure, the man, or the power sitting at the top of this argument, regarding Islam, secularism or any number of faiths should not be the belief in an omniscient being, no matter how it is manifested by humans, but the laws and government of a nation, and we must draw distinct lines between those central pillars of society, and the freedom to exercise opinion, religiously motivated or otherwise, freely.
The moment when this opinion crosses that slowly diminishing line in to out-and-out violence, or the threat thereof, then the law of a nation absolutely must come in to play, exerting a punishment on the perpetrators of such threats not because of their religious faith, but simply because they have broken a law by threatening, or executing, violence against another human being, such as incitement to murder.
They key in the Kashgari case is whether Interpol strayed outside the rules of its protocol and issued a notice requiring Kashgari to be detained, and whether this action was carried out at the whim of the Saudis.
Kashgari has certainly committed no crime under international law, nor under the law of many other nations, and yet by his status as a Saudi, he is subject to sharia law and the rhetoric that it implies.
Therefore one cannot criticise whatever action they do choose to take in their own kingdom, no matter how abhorrent one may find it, but the possibility for critique and calls for solidarity can be voiced when an independent investigative force bound by rules that disavow the pursuit of cases with a outright and distinct political or religious standpoint defies that self-same position.In an imagined world, it would be interesting to see just how the New Zealand government, given no real precedent or mandate in the past, would engage in the debate, should Hamza Kashgari have ever made it here under the banner of political asylum.
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