When freedom of speech bites
In early 2012 I was in a bit of trouble with the FA and the Attorney General for comments I made about John Terry. There was a lot of press about the possibility of me getting sent down for contempt of court. At the time I tweeted that I was willing to go to jail for a month in the name of free speech. If I remember correctly, I also dared them to make a martyr of me. I’ve also got warnings in the past from the FA for giving my opinion on the possible results of upcoming matches.
All silly little infringements of my freedom of expression and my right to free speech, but those episodes got me thinking about those people whose public expression of their beliefs and opinions have really landed them in hot water. One of them was a Saudi poet called Hamza Kashgari who was facing extradition from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia for writing a ‘blasphemous’ poem and posting it Twitter.
I’m not a religious person, though it’s a thoughtful poem, talking about his relationship with Mohammed as a man rather than a prophet sent by God…
On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.
On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.
On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.
Unfortunately he’s already been deported to Saudi, and he’s in custody awaiting trial. Amnesty are still monitoring the situation and hopefully the international pressure and media spotlight that’s been created will make the Saudi authorities think twice about what sentence they hand down.
Surely there’s no way a man can lose his life for writing a love poem to the Prophet?