Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.
Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.”
More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”.
Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.
Kashgari’s detention has triggered criticism by human rights groups of Malaysia’s decision to arrest the journalist and of Interpol’s cooperation in the process.
Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said: “Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.
“If an Interpol red notice is the reason for his arrest and detention it would be a serious abuse of this powerful international body that is supposed to respect basic human rights (including to peaceful free speech) and to be barred from any involvement in religious or political cases.”
He called on Interpol to stand by its obligations to fundamental human rights and “to comply with its obligation not to play any part in this case, which is clearly of a religious nature”.
Interpol, which has 190 member countries, has a series of coloured notice systems that police forces around the world use to pass on requests for help. Contacted at its headquarters in Lyon, France, the organisation did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the Kashgari case.
In response to past criticisms of the red notice system, it has said: “There are safeguards in place. The subject of a red notice can challenge it through an independent body, the commission for the control of Interpol’s files (CCF).”
Last year Interpol was accused by Fair Trials International of allowing the system to be abused for political purposes when it issued a red notice for the arrest of the Oxford-based leader of an Asian separatist movement, Benny Wenda, who has been granted asylum and has lived in the UK since 2003.
From Bukhari vol. 7, #65:
“Narrated Aisha that the prophet wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: “I have been informed that Aisha remained with the prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).””
From the Hadith of Sahih Muslim, Vol 2, #3309
Aisha reported: Allah’s Messenger married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine….
From Abu Dawud, Vol. 2, #2116:
“Aisha said, “The Apostle of Allah married me when I was seven years old.” (The narrator Sulaiman said: “Or six years.”). “He had intercourse with me when I was 9 years old.”
From Tabari, volume 9, page 131
“Then the men and women got up and left. The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old. Neither a camel nor a sheep was slaughtered on behalf of me”.
It seems that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is under investigation by Pakistani legal authorities for violation of that country’s anti-blasphemy laws surrounding the recent Draw Muhammed contest.
The penalty for violating the Pakistani anti-blasphemy law can be death.
Section 295-C of the Pakistani penal code reads: “Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.”
The Draw Muhammed Contest was started in response, in part, to Comedy Central’s censoring of an episode of “South Park” that dealt with violent Muslim reaction over the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed in the West. A Danish newspaper and cartoonist have also been under violent threat because of a cartoon depicting Mohammed with an exploding turban.
The idea of the Draw Muhammed Contest was that it would be a response to violent, Islamic extremists to show that freedom of expression in the West applies to everyone and every subject. Muslims do not get to tell non-Muslims what to do and what to say.
It appears that Pakistani law enforcement disagrees with this sentiment. The Pakistanis actually expect Interpol to arrange for the arrest of Mark Zuckerberg and his handing over to the Pakistani authorities for trial and presumed punishment. A complaint to the UN General Assembly is also being contemplated.
The situation seems to derive in large part from cultural insensitivity on the part of Pakistanis and many other Muslims. Muslims may feel somewhat sensitive about depictions of their Prophet, especially unflattering ones. This has been known since the Salman Rushdie affair. On the other hand, Muslims need to realize that the right to express oneself, on any subject, with any point of view, is held as sacred in the West as Islam is considered in their own countries. Religion and the religious are scrutinized, criticized, and ridiculed frequently. This applies to all religions, not just Islam.
The difference is that Christians, Jews, and so on seem to be secure enough in their particular faiths that any assaults on them get relatively mild complaints in response. Not so with Muslims. It seems that many Muslims just want to kill people for disdaining Islam. This not only demonstrates a somewhat shaky religious faith, but also tends to reinforce the image of the Muslims as violent extremists.
Coddling or giving into this attitude, as Comedy Central did, is somewhat counter-productive. Self-censorship only enables violent extremists and ensures that the threats of violence will continue.
Thanks to JT Hundley for the link
Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who in 2007 sparked controversy with a drawing of Prophet Mohammed, has been reinvited to speak at Uppsala University, where he was attacked two weeks ago.
“The department (of philosophy) has reached a wise decision. Lars Vilks must be allowed to hold his lecture,” Uppsala University vice-chancellor Anders Hallberg said in a statement Tuesday.
“Violence and threats of violence cannot be allowed to silence people, not on campus or elsewhere,” the university added in the statement.
On May 11, Vilks was holding a lecture at Uppsala University’s philosophy department, when he was head-butted by a man while others shouted and attempted to attack him.
Police evacuated the lecture hall but some demonstrators resisted forcing officers to use tear gas. Two people were arrested.
Vilks’ attack occurred as he was showing a film by an Iranian filmmaker, depicting two homosexuals disguised as Mohammed, Swedish media reported.
Uppsala Univeristy was criticised in many Swedish newspapers for not showing enough support to Vilks after the attack and for initially refusing to reinvite him.
The university said Tuesday Vilks had accepted the invitation and that it would hold a new security assessment before holding the lecture.
Four days after he was attacked at the university, Vilks’ house in the south of Sweden was targeted in an arson attack.
In 2007, Swedish regional daily Nerikes Allehanda published Vilks’ satirical sketch to illustrate an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.
The drawing prompted protests by Muslims in the town of Oerebro, west of Stockholm, where the newspaper is based, while Egypt, Iran and Pakistan made formal complaints.
A court in Pakistan has ordered the authorities temporarily to block the Facebook social networking site.
The order came when a petition was filed after the site held a competition featuring caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
The petition, filed by a lawyers’ group called the Islamic Lawyers’ Movement, said the contest was “blasphemous”.
A message on the competition’s information page said it was not “trying to slander the average Muslim”.
“We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions that we’re not afraid of them,” a statement on the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” said.
“They can’t take away our right to freedom of speech by trying to scare us into silence.”
The information section of the page said that it was set up by a Seattle-based cartoonist, Molly Norris.
It contains caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and characters from other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity, as well as comments both critical and supportive of Islam.
Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked angry protests in Muslim countries – five people were killed in Pakistan.
Already the Pakistani press has reported protests against Facebook on Wednesday by journalists outside parliament in Islamabad, while various Islamic parties are also reported to be organising demonstrations.
Correspondents say that the internet is uncensored in Pakistan but the government monitors content by routing all traffic through a central exchange.
Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court ordered the department of communications to block the website until 31 May, and to submit a written reply to the petition by that date.
An official told the court that parts of the website that were holding the competition had been blocked, reports the BBC Urdu service’s Abdul Haq in Lahore.
But the petitioner said a partial blockade of a website was not possible and that the entire link had to be blocked.
The lawyers’ group says Pakistan is an Islamic country and its laws do not allow activities that are “un-Islamic” or “blasphemous”.
The judge also directed Pakistan’s foreign ministry to raise the issue at international level.
In the past, Pakistan has often blocked access to pornographic sites and sites with anti-Islamic content.
It has deemed such material as offensive to the political and security establishment of the country, says the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad.
In 2007, the government banned the YouTube site, allegedly to block material offensive to the government of Pervez Musharraf.
The action led to widespread disruption of access to the site for several hours. The ban was later lifted.