Continue reading Manufacturing Heresy: How the Mildest Muslim Liberalism is Turned into a Capital Punishment Offense
By Barry Rubin
“A merchant in Baghdad…sent his servant to market….The servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace…I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me….Lend me your horse, and…I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse…and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. The merchant went down to the marketplace and saw [Death] standing in the crowd. He asked, Why did you make a threating gesture to my servant…? [Death replied]…I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
— W. Somerset Maugham, “The Appointment in Samarra” (1933)
Nageeb Kashgari is a young man in a lot of trouble. The 23-year-old Saudi has been spirited back to his country from Malaysia in a manner reminiscent of a kidnapping to be put on trial for his life.
His crime? To write three Tweets that Saudi clerics have deemed to be heretical. The lynch mob is baying for his blood. Nobody in the world is helping him. Kashgari might well be doomed, despite his quick apology and erasure of the Tweets.
For details on his case and situation click here.
Even if Kashgari were an atheist or someone who renounced Islam or did indeed violated its precepts his freedom of speech and religion should be defended. But what is most interesting about his case is that he did not really do any of these things. He merely expressed a liberal, modernist-style interpretation of Islam, the kind of thing that developed in Christianity—and was sometimes punished then–about 250 years ago and became very common 150 years ago.
Nothing tells us more about the profound difficulty of reforming Islam, the totalitarian threat of Islamism, and the danger of Sharia law—to Muslims above all—than does the Kashgari case.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reports, and now on his new blog, Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media
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