Amidst the furore among Malaysian activists caused by the deportation of Saudi jounalist Hamza Kashgari, the Western media has widely reported a negative picture of the government.
The issue was that the Saudi citizen had tweeted a contradicting statement on Prophet Muhammad SAW during Maulidurrasul last week. An excerpt of the tweets quoted from the Dailybeast were as following;
On your birthday, I will say that I loved the rebel in you, which always inspired me. But I didn’t like the aura of holiness, I will not bless you.
On your birthday, I see you in my face everywhere I turn. I will say that I loved some things in you, hated some things, and I did not understand many other things.
On your birthday, I will not bow to you. I won’t kiss your hands. I will shake hands with you as an equal, and smile at you like you smile at me, and talk to you only as a friend, nothing more.
Kashgari has deleted those tweets. However, the initial statement has already gotten him into trouble with the strict Islamic state. The contents of those tweets reflect contradictory beliefs towards the Prophet and it is seen as challenging the sanctity of Islam. Such ideas may probably encourage a misguiding belief for his tweet readers. Even in any religion, condemnation of its highly revered figures is never tolerable.
Saudi Arabian Law
Kashgari was arrested immediately at the the immigration of the Malaysian airport. Which means that the arrest was made based on intelligence information by the Saudi authorities relayed beforehand. It also meant that he had committed the offense while he was in Saudi and not in Malaysia.
The Saudi government has the right to reclaim Kashgari because; 1- He has committed a crime that is against the doctrine of the Islamic state within its territory 2- He holds a Saudi passport so he is bound by the country’s laws
In terms of the detrimental punishment that he possibly faces when he returns to his country, it is truly harrowing. Maybe rather than execution, the Saudi government could consider on rehabilitation to rectify the blogger’s views on Prophet Muhammad. Whatever the Saudi government’s decision is, we must understand the situation from the Islamic state’s legal point of view and not only from our beliefs of freedom or human rights. The first Article of its constitution is;
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution, Arabic is its language and Riyadh is its capital
Of course, having this as its first and foremost principle of its law reminds us of how serious it is if anyone were to make a mockery out of it.
Deportation by Malaysian Government
Another question that should be asked is why did he tweeted so in the first place?
Malaysia cannot protect a man when he has openly committed an offense that is against the Saudi law. Although Kashgari says that he is a ‘scapecoat for a larger conflict’, his tweets do not put him in favour of his claims. The proof of the offence is conspicuous. Especially when it had garnered thousands of responses on the micro-blogging platform.
If the Malaysian government refuses to deport Kashgari, to some extent it will threaten its diplomatic relations with the Saudi government. The possible conflict will jeopardise numerous diplomatic agreements that in the end will affect citizens of both countries themselves, especially the Muslims in Malaysia. For example, privileges of performing umrah and Hajj in Mecca. The duty to perform Hajj is the fifth pillar in Islam that is bound upon every Muslim. Like it or not, Mecca IS within the Saudi Arabian territory.
Human Rights VS Diplomatic Relations
Based on the assessment on the Western media and views of Malaysian activists, the immediate arrest and deportation of Hamza Kashgari is against human rights as he might be severely punished once he is deported to Saudi. They strongly believe that even though he had made such tweet posts, severe punishment and death should not be inflicted upon him. Moreover, he has apologized for making the statement on Twitter.
Nevertheless, the Saudi government has the responsibility of upholding the sovereignty of their constitution for the sake of religious sanctity and political order. Whereas the Malaysian government has the obligation to conform to fulfill the request of their ally in order to maintain the goodwill of their bilateral relations. This is also to protect the interests of the Malaysian citizens from the aspect of religion and economy.
Some queried the consistency of the Malaysian government in the practice of deportation of wanted individuals. This is not the first time the country has deported a foreigner. Previously, there have been cases of deportation of known and unknown figures. One high profiled case was the deportation of Singaporean Muslim known as Mas Selamat. He was requested to be returned by the Singaporean government on the charges of planning terrorist activities within its territories.
It is true that Malaysia has not been consistent in decisions of deportation. In 2005, the Malaysian government had refused to deport more than a hundred of Southern Thai Muslims who sought refuge after the bloodied Tak Bai tragedy. It was recorded that 85 Muslims were killed by the Thai military in the incident. Should the Malaysian government have then ‘consistently’ deported innocent Muslims who feared for their lives and religion?
Due to this decision on the case, the western media labelled Malaysia practicing ‘religious favouritism’. Why did they not label Malaysia as ‘ the good samaritan’ or ‘an angel in disguise’ or even ‘the great saviour’ for this humanitarian effort?
Hence, it is imperative that we think before blindly accepting any facts reported in the news and also on the internet. An issue must be assessed by taking into consideration a few different perspectives.
The Malaysian opposition along with local human rights activists have vehemently condemned the Malaysian government’s action of immediate arrest and deportation of Kashgari. This depicted Malaysia as being ruled by an authoritarian government practicing Draconian laws of detaining without question. The handling of the issue is also not any helpful to image of the Minister of Home Affairs since the wave of the BERSIH demonstration last year.
However, this situation provides a great political opportunity for the opposition’s de facto leader to boost the coalition’s image and his own credibility. If Anwar Ibrahim can make use of his Middle Eastern cables to convince the Saudi authorities to go soft on Kashgari, he might be able to rally the supporters and sympathizers of human rights with Pakatan Rakyat for the 13th General Election. In a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Anwar has met with numerous key Middle Eastern figures such as Yusuf Qardhawi, the Imam of the Holy Mosque in Mecca and Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al just to name a few. These meetings show that this effort is indeed feasible in some way.
Question is; will Anwar have the courage to meddle with Saudi’s constitutional laws and the angst of extreme defenders of Islam?
Well, the ball is in his court.