Encounters with Islam, Part 3: 1975-80

Al Khobar 2

Old town, al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, 1978

Dead_Iranian_generals

Executed Iranian generals, 1979

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Old City, Lahore, Pakistan, 1978

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Shalimar gardens, Lahore Pakistan, 1978

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Mughal fort, Lahore, Pakistan 1978

Ghost_Dance_at_Pine_Ridge

Plains Indians Ghost Dancers, 1880s

(Read part One here, and Part 2 here)

It was late 1978. I pulled my truck up on an embankment to watch the spectacle. For three days, white C-130s with the Iranian tricolor had been roaring in to the American airbase at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Every fifteen minutes, one came in, and another took off, heading back north. The Shah was tottering, and this was a sure sign of the end. Scuttlebutt was that these planes were clearing out technical assets from CIA listening stations in Iran. Iran had been a bulwark in CENTO (Central Treaty Organization), an arc extending from Turkey to Pakistan. A few months before, on the recommendation of a coworker, I and some buddies had bought tickets for Shiraz in Iran. They had Israeli beer, a few discos, the ruins of Persepolis, beautiful ancient mosques and gardens. Iran Air went on strike and Saudia was full, so we didn’t go. I got my money back, and given a last-minute choice between Oktoberfest in Munich, and Pakistan.  I’d been to Munich as a child, so I went to Lahore on  the recommendation of my Pakistani travel agent.  There, one could – with a police permit – have a drink, and explore a city that combined a jumble of slums, markets, the British cantonment, and some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture anywhere.  It beat Saudi all hollow. The change in Iran was spectacularly swift. And yet, although the old regime fell to the Ayotollah, the events were still couched in the familiar vocabulary of nationalism and Cold War alignments. Pundits ascribed the anti –Americanism to memories of the coup against Mossadegh, hence the prominent role of the Tudeh(Iranian Communists) in supporting the Revolution, and some geo-strategists saw it as a wash. While Iranian leftists were celebrating the end of American influence, it was unlikely the Ayatollah would align with the godless Soviets. The Tudeh, of course, are long gone, mostly murdered by the regime. At the time, I did see a little beyond this, thinking and writing that this was in a sense, “Ghost Dancing,” in that just as the Plains Indians on the verge of defeat and near extinction had put their faith in spirits, so here was Islam, lashing back at Modernism, in a violent death throe. I still think I was right, but at the time I would never have thought such issues would still be foremost in discourse today.

POster

Indonesian movie poster from the 70s

My road to Saudi Arabia had led through Indonesia. In 1975, the San Francisco based construction company for which I worked won a contract for an LNG project on the east Coast of Kalimantan(Borneo) My background put me up on the shortlist of candidates for an open position in logistics, and May of that year found me back In Indonesia after an absence of five years. Soekarno was gone, a general ruled, and for our reposes here, I could almost elide these years, as Islam, while present, was not ascendant. It was the 70s, and bell bottoms, short skirts, and big hair were as popular in here as anywhere else. There was still only one television station, state-owned, black and white, and it broadcast a prayer call in the evenings, but the local cinema ground out comedies that were thinly plotted efforts on which to hang chicks in short skirts and showcase local rock bands.

Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta 1974.  Photo: Thomas J. Strei

Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta 1974. Photo: Thomas J. Strei

Jakarta was a roaring town. Oil and gas ruled. There were slot machines in the bars, and there were a lot of bars. Along the new thoroughfares, high rises went up, but from the roof top lounges, one still looked out over a vast, poorly lit sea of shanty towns. There was far more going on than I imagined. (V.S.Naipaul describes repressed Islamist sentiment in 1970s Indonesia in his “Among the Believers.”) Indonesia then, as now, was a supremely religious country. Nor were questions we would find cultural offensive of the table. “How old are you” “What is your religion?” I had long since taken up agnosticism, but I knew better than to answer that I had no religion. After 1965, Communism, and the entire left, by extension had been discredited and were beyond the pale, but this was not due to matters of economic policy or political organization, but rather the atheism considered fundamental to Marxism. So I answered, simply, Catholic, as I had been raised, and of which there were quite a few in the country, with the national Cathedral in Jakarta just across from the National Mosque. With the Indonesians with whom I associated, religion was hardly an issue. I was young, and so were they. Mostly we talked about the job, and of course, girls. A group might meet in a Chinese restaurant, where the westerners and Chinese Indonesians had pork, the Muslims chicken, and we all drank the excellent local beer ( now sadly diminished as successive hikes in the excise tax have forced the brewers to lower the alcohol content.)

Me with local staff, Balikpapan, 1977. One of these ladies was Muslim, the other Christian.  Which was which wasn't obvious back then.

Me with local staff, Balikpapan, 1977. One of these ladies was Muslim, the other Christian. Which was which wasn’t obvious back then.

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Big hair and bell bottoms, Palu, Central Sulawesi, 1977. For the last twenty years this area has been a hotbed of Islamist violence, with may gruesome murders, inter communal mayhem, and volunteers going off to fight jihad abroad.

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Muslim Malay villagers, Sengatta, East Kalimantan, 1977.

After some months, the project build took off and I moved up to Balikpapan, an oil town not far from the job site, and later, towards the end of the project to the site itself. In all this time, working with local staff, no one ever broke off from his duties saying he had to go and pray. No doubt many managed to meet their devotional obligations, but it was never an issue. At evening one heard the call for prayer from the old town below the oil company compound, but as it had been in Sumatra for me, years before, it was a pleasant reminder that I had gotten out in the world and was someplace different, and exciting. At the site, the mess hall provided both Western and Indonesian food. There were separate lines, but all came from the same kitchen. The chef was German, and there was pork. And I was utterly delighted when as the operational team formed for the plant start-up but who should show up but Abu Bakar, from Sungai Gerong, famous for his wild boar barbecues. He was soon off in the forest banging away and put on a great pig roast for all, and as before, while not eating the porker, happily swigged on the bourbon that was his secret barbecue sauce ingredient. We had Sundays off, access to speed boats and free fuel, so we ranged up and down the coast, exploring the rivers and estuaries, stopping at small towns little changed from Conrad’s time( he had mucked about these parts)

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Bugis settlers, from across the strait of Makassar. Renowned as sailors and traders, the Bugis have been Muslim for many centuries, but here, in 1978, no head scarves.

These were Muslim settlements, each with its tin-domed mosque, but there were no head covers on the women and if we had run out, it was easy to find more warm beer to throw in the igloo coolers. There were thousands of Muslim workers on site, but no prayer times, and work continued through the fasting month, with no acknowledgment. When the work was done, and the plant dedicated, oil industry grandees, along with the President of the Republic, General Suharto showed up . It was quite a party. Two major headliners from Jakarta, stars of stage and screen. The late Benyamin S. the still revered Muslim son of West Sumatra, and Grace Simon, a Christian from North Sulawesi (Celebes) put on a show, singing duets half way to dawn, at a well lubricated party.

CyberViewX v5.11.00 Model Code=58 F/W Version=1.12When it was time to go a couple of months later, I joined a buddy and I embarked on a long-planned trip across the interior of Kalimantan and into Malaysia. This was an epic in itself, but has little bearing on this narrative other than that we were surprised at how far up the river the reach of Islam extended. It was week and more before we came ashore at a long house settlement of the native Dayak people, and finally a town, without a mosque. Months later, we stumbled across the border into Malaysia and made our way to Singapore. So,I left Southeast Asia, and returned to California, where I stayed only briefly. I had left a girlfriend in Jakarta. It was far too early to make a commitment, but I needed time and money to go back and forth to Indonesia.

Dayak longhouse, Long Pahangnai, East Kalimantan, 1977.  Dayaks are largely Christian, but many remain animist.  Those that enter Islam must perforce leave all their traditions behind.

Dayak longhouse, Long Pahangnai, East Kalimantan, 1977. Dayaks are largely Christian, but many remain animist. Those that enter Islam must perforce leave all their traditions behind.

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia 1978

Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia 1978

There was work in Saudi Arabia. So it was that in May 1978, from 25,000 feet, I looked out into the night and saw as far as the eye could see, the gas flares of the Saudi fields. It was as a small cog in the vast Aramco effort to capture those flared resources that I was employed. Saudi Arabia. No women, no whiskey, but so what, I thought. I had known Muslims the better part of my life. No problem. I bought Lawrence’s “Seen Pillars of Wisdom,” Douty’s “Arabia Deserta,” and “Thesigers “Arabian Sands.” These famous men had found adventure and fulfillment there; so might I. Arabia!! Like China and India, one of those fanciful lands from childhood tales.

In the event, Saudi was, as you might expect, awful. The visible population was overwhelmingly male. The Aramco television station showed “Love Boat” Reruns, which we watched assiduously, just for the pool scenes. There were some echoes of the sleepy kingdom in those slides my father’s friend had shown us back in the 50’s In downtown Al_Khobar , where the old whitewashed houses had jalousies in the upper stores, from which women might look out. Down the road was the town of Qatif, with winding alleys, a mud-walled Ottoman fort, and dhows at the quayside.

Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia,1978

Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia,1978

The strange and anti-human segregation of the sexes was difficult, indeed, for me, impossible to adjust to. Friends of mine in Riyadh told me of getting random phone calls from women, who passed around expatriate telephone numbers among themselves. They would talk yearningly, for hours, but never meet.

A Safeway opened in Dhahran, and it was soon thronged by veiled women who made a great show of examining produce and reading ingredients on cans. For this they had to throw back the veil over their faces, and one saw, as they glanced away from the lettuce, towards you, great dark eyes, perfectly made up, deep pools in which hid shadowed souls. It was here that I saw what remains the single most erotic vision in my life. Late one day driving along a road crowded on both sides with mid-rise apartments, the street empty, and the sun sinking in the east filled the corridor with orange light. Then a woman, all in black, but clearly young, for the light pierced her dark cloak and illuminated the full curves of her body, as if she were naked., She was faceless, and magnificent.

There was a train line from Dammam to Riyadh, and once I rode with some friends as a lark. Sitting opposite us was a jolly fellow, in his thobe and dishdasha.  He was a trader of some sort, had traveled extensively, and spoke his own variety of expressive and quite amusing English. As he regaled us with stories of his travels, he continuously cracked a variety of nuts, and passed the meats s around. A stand up guy. Next to him was , I presume, his wife, all in black and with a leather mask, something one saw among the Bedouin. She might as well have been a piece of uninteresting luggage. Yet, while I knew this was a consequence of Islam, I saw it as Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. I was not at all ready to write off Muslims in general, or even Saudis, although I learned they weren’t all that popular among Arabs.

There were still those touching human interactions that are part, or even the main reason, that some people seek out time in other cultures. The kind of contact that says, yes, we are, in the end all just people, and such differences as we have,are worthwhile in themselves. Shortly after I arrived in Kingdom, I realized I was going the wrong way while out working one day, pulled off a very a narrow road and got bogged down on a deceivingly solid shoulder. A Caprice slowed down and stopped. The locals loved these behemoths: they were hardy and up to all the crap the desert could throw at them. A portly fellow in Arab dress got out, smiled, pointed to the tow hitch on the back of his car, hitched me up and pulled me back to the road. Then he gave me a cake. An enormous chocolate wonder in one of those pink cardboard boxes. His card said he was a baker, from Kuwait. We shook hands and he took off.

Then there were the middle-aged and elderly merchants who dealt from their stores in the old towns, while their MBA sons ran huge warehouses on the outskirts. It was a pleasure to sit with them, exchange intricate pleasantries, and sip tea and coffee, before getting down to business. One of these guys was a cat fancier. Islam prohibits dogs

Old commercial district, Al-Khobar, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, 1978

Old commercial district, Al-Khobar, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, 1978

but the human love of companion animals will out. He would had me a cup of cardamon infused coffee and – a cat. While exchanging praises to god for he good weather and our fine health we would sip our drinks and pet our purring friends.

And this I shall never forget.

Salim was the proprietor of a busy machine shop.  Black, he had been born into slavery, and when slavery ended in the kingdom, he had gotten work in the oilfields and eventually set up on his own. His crew was also black, from similar backgrounds One day, I was dropping off some drawings, when a commotion broke out.  A worker had been injured – I don’t remember how exactly –  but as his crew gathered around anxiously around for the ambulance to come, Salim cradled the moaning man cooing to him,  and kissing his shaven skull.  Salim was an excellent and reliable supplier, and he was also a good man.

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Bahrein, 1979

Saudi Arabia was full of foreigners, from high paid executives to laborers, and many of them were Muslims .. I hung out with French-speaking Tunisians who made their own wine, and Pakistani guys who cooked up amazing curries and biryanis in their quarters. While I spent most of my leaves in Jakarta, I did see a little of the Middle East. Bahrain had alcohol, old British hotels, and souks filled with Arabs, Europeans and Indians. Syria, while under the thumb of Assad Pere,

Palmyra, Syyria, 1979

Palmyra, , 1979

was nevertheless a wonderful place to visit, Damascus a jumble of classical ruins, stunning mosques from the first Caliphate and an Oktoberfest at the Hilton. Jordan was a friendly, open place, with television in Arabic, English, French and Hebrew. Like Saudi Arabia, these were Muslim lands, but there the similarity ended.

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Damascus, 1980. This engine was part of the order to Krupp for the Baghdad-Berlin railway. Lawrence blew some of them up in the Hijaz.

Looking back, it’s bemusing – and discouraging -to see forerunners of today’s strife in the area. The Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized by rebels who thought the royal family corrupt and un-Islamic, and there were uprisings in the majority Shia Eastern Province where I was. The Press was tightly controlled and we learned the truth of such things via letters from abroad, although rumors and unease abounded in 1979.

One night I was driving home after a day visiting friends up north. Suddenly the light traffic piled up. The Army was checking everyone. Some vehicles were waved though after brief conversations, others searched. I had a load of homemade wine stashed behind the seat, and I thought I was in big trouble. Fortunately, my night class in Arabic paid off, as I was able to understand a demand for my license, and produce it with the usual polite pleasantries.

Old city center, Homs, Syria. Now almost completely destroyed.

Old city center, Homs, Syria. Now almost completely destroyed.

As the soldier and I talked, I heard distant fire, and looking back as I drove on, saw flashes of light to the East. Months later, I learned that gunships had been putting down a revolt in Qatif.

Plus ca change.

Jerash, Jordan, 1980

Jerash, Jordan, 1980

I was in the Kingdom for a little over two years( Well, two years, there months and six days. If you took extra days off to travel, without pay, it was added to your sentence, erhm, contract) I often took extra time, because I was going back and forth to Jakarta. The girlfriend and I decided to marry. She was a secretary at one of the UN affiliated international organizations in town, had friends among the embassies and foundations, and also knew quite a few people in music and film. Jakarta was in a certain way, a small town back them. In short, she was quite sophisticated for the time and place. We had never at all discussed religion. I had met her sister who was married to a hotel manager in a nearby city, but her father was a distant figure. She had always said they didn’t get along. My fiance’s mother had been his first wife, and had died young. He had had quite a few since then.

One day he showed up in Jakarta, on a mission. If we were to marry, I must become Muslim. So this man, in his floppy trousers and Muslim skull-cap, was the father of my fiancée, who had excellent English, some French and Dutch, and was an accomplished stenographer. He was from West Java,and his native language was Sundanese, but of course he spoke Indonesian. Nevertheless, I had great difficulty understanding him, at least in regards to the matter at hand, since a good deal of what he was saying was Arabic. This was a bombshell. I had not attachment to the religion I had been raised in, and had gleefully stopped going to church as soon as nobody made me do so. Nevertheless, I didn’t like anyone telling me what to do, and Islam, the religion of those difficult raghead over in the Sand Box, was not at all something I wanted to take up. I said no, and there was an enormous scene. I called the movers to pack up my stuff, Then, I backed down. I had sent out the invitations, liked the idea of being married, and well love and all that stuff. I went back to Dhahran with an Indonesian language booklet on Islam that told me how to pronounce the Shahada(the Islamic profession of faith), how to pray and so on. I chanted the payers until I knew them, and in the end not so resentfully. Just anther cultural exploration, I thought. So it was, on my next leave from Saudi, I went down to the mosque and recited the Shahada. First I had had to go tot a doctor, drop trou, and show that my junk was regulation. Wen I was born, circumcision was seen nearly universally as a hygienic necessity. ‘Nice work.” said the doc. The imam congratulated me,and we all exchanged a lot of “Alhamdullah,” Arabic for Praise the Lord. I was then able to marry in the Islamic rite. Then I shredded the conversion certificate, and no doubt the mice have since eaten the carbons. Some months after the religious wedding, we married at the civil registry and had a big reception with enormous amounts of booze: I returned to Saudi to finish out my contract. At the Jakarta airport,there were a large number of young Indonesians, dressed in a manner I had never seen before, the boys in skull caps and thobes, and tho women in white, faces visible,  hair covered. They were boarding a Saudi flight, and they told me they were on the way to the Kingdom for religious education. I thought then, what kind of ideas will they bring back?

(To continue to Part 4, go here )

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The Increasing Reach of Sharia Law

Does anyone remember Ahmad Kashgari, the young Saudi journalist and  blogger, returned by Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, after a red notice issued by Interpol at the Kingdom’s request?  Mr. Kashgari had expressed some mild doubts, and not disbelief in, as to the character of Islam’s prophet, Mohammed. Thousands called for his death.  He has recanted, but is still imprisoned. Even if released, it is unlikely that he will ever know freedom, and will live out his life in that desert prison nation.

The greater scandal was that Interpol, headed by an American, headquartered in Lyon, France,cooperated in a depriving a man of his freedom for violation of ancient religious law.  Now it appears that Interpol may be at it again, this time with the cooperation of Sweden, a country that touts itself as a bastion of tolerance and liberal values, but which has abased itself to multiculturalism, opened its borders, and subjected its people to assaults on their persons, as well as their  ancient values and freedoms.

As reported  2 September 2012, in the English language Saudi Gazette:

Efforts on to bring back ‘Al-Khobar girl’ from Sweden

AL-KHOBAR — The Al-Khobar girl who fled the Kingdom after allegedly converting to Christianity will be brought home from Sweden in a matter of few days, Al-Yaum newspaper reported Saturday quoting informed sources.

The(sic) Interpol is coordinating with the Saudi Embassy in Stockholm and Swedish authorities to return the girl to her homeland before her “kidnappers” move her to another country, the sources said.

This story started showing up a few days ago on conservative, Christian, and anti-jihad sites.  “Al Khobar girl” is a telling trm, aimed at leading readers to think we are dealing with a minor whose parents have her best interests at heart.  No age is given, and this is significant: in Islam, women are not considered autonomous indivuals, and never achieve majority, remaining children, and chattels, throughout their lives.

It is intereting that the Gazette gave both “Al Khobar Girl, in the headline, and “kidnappers” in the body, quotation marks, which, given the climate in the Kingdom, is a subtle but still gutsy note of skepticism.

That skepticism is warranted is demonstrated by this statement:

Sources said it is highly likely that a global human trafficking network was involved in the kidnapping of the girl, who was persuaded by her Lebanese manager to embrace Christianity and leave the country without the knowledge of her family.

Human Trafficking?  Really?  Have the pervs become so jaded that they are no longer satisfied with Russians, Romanian, Kazakh, Moldavan, and Mainland Cinese women – all of which operate here in Indonesia, where I live, especially in Jakarta’s Chinatown, where these working girls pull down a grand a night or more – that traffickers are looking for novelty in Saudi Arabian hookers?

I doubt it.

That the young woman embraced Christianity, fled and is now being sought by the Saudi and Swedish authorities, facilitated by Interpol, I’ll take as true, until any of these deny it.  Whether Western media decide to pursue this story remains to be seen, but I’m certainly not expecting women’s rights organization to take up the Saudi “girl’s” defense.

In the United states, those who warn about the influenced of Sharia law are routinely derided as bigots and nuts.  Lost  in the politically correct white noise is that the anti- shariah movement does  not posit that the the Supreme court will one day be staffed with bearded, turbaned kadis, but that U.S. case law might be decided with reference to the shariah, and without regard to basic constitutional principles.  In fact, this has already happened. The anti Islamic law movement has morphed into a ant iforeign law movement, which is gaining momentum despite denigration by media and government voices.

Those, generally on the left, who deride these efforts as at worse “islamophobic bigotry,” and at best frivolous, should reflect on Mr. Kashgari, who was returned from Malaysia en route to New Zealand, in response to Interpol’s red notice, to Saudi Arabia, were the penalty for his offece is ofcially, death, as it is for that of the “al-Khobar girl.”

Malaysia is an Islamic country but now we may have Western  authorities colluding to return a Muslim to face punishment for something that is not an offense in any Western legal tradition.

How long before a Westerner suffers rendition for an offense to Islam?

Never happen?

Really?

Hamza Kashgari Returned to Saudi Arabia: Where the 7th Century and 1984 Converge in the 21st Century

Malaysian authorities have deported a Saudi journalist accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a tweet. –BBC(12 February 2012)

In typical Beeb style, this is a rather measured statement of what actually happened.  And that is this: A young man exercising speech rights enshrined in the U.N. human rights convention, but not recognized anywhere  in the Islamic world, was seized while in lawful transit en route to a third country,  by Malaysia’s “soft” theocratic state, and turned over to agents of world’s most repressive religious regime for rendition to Saudi Arabia, with the collusion of an international policing agency answerable to no one.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia's glittering gateway. I plan on staying away.

And now Hamza Kashgari, journalist and blogger from Jeddah, awaits retribution for his thought crime. It is interesting to not that Kashgari means “of Kashgar” a city in Southwest China, once known as a great caravan terminus in Chinese Turkestan. There has been great diversity within Islam, but the Wahhabi/Salafi/Muslim Brotherhood assault is bent on destroying these differences in the name of the  suffocating orthodoxy challenged by the young Saudi.

Malaysia acted in response to a “red notice” issued by Interpol at tthe request of Saudis.

The Guardian notes :

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).”

One can only imagine the cost of the legal resources that would need to be brought to bear to achieve any result.  Mr. Kashgari will not have the benefit of civil society organizations that would be able to help in some societies.

These “safeguards” were of no avail to the 22 year old Saudi. It makes me want to weep.  Can you imagine how this boy felt, his young life in ruins behind him, but still with hope before him, as he flew east?

Then he lands in  KLIA (Kuala Lumpur), transiting to New Zealand, and the  grim face of Islamism greets him.  Perhaps his hope continued to flicker for the few hours he was held, hoping that a world outcry would save him.

Human rights organizations did shout his case out to a largely heedless world, but those who could have helped, the foreign offices of Europe, and the  United States State Department were, and of this writing, still are, silent.

How he felt on the flight “home” is too awful to contemplate.

I spit on “moderate Malaysia.”

This is the face Malaysia presents to the world. Not a hijab in sight when, in fact, most Malaysian Muslim women have taken up the head scarf since the 1980s.

Mr. Kashgari’s remarks would

Malasian Pas(Islamist Party) members demonstrate. This is more representative of current developments in Malaysia.

seem innocuous to those unfamiliar with the parameters defining blasphemy in Islamic jurisprudence:

In the first, Kashgari declared “I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me,” but then added: “I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.” He followed that with a second tweet, “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

In a third, Kashgari said: “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.”

Reminiscent of one seeking a personal relationship with Jesus, but given the unquestioning regard of Muslim believers for the Islamic prophet, which only misses being fairly termed  idolatry in that images of this “Perfect Man” are forbidden, the Saudi blogger’s tweets were enough to bring the wrath of the entire Kingdom, from royals to ordinary citizens.

The twats at Twitter should say something about it, but don’t count on it, as they have picked up a stack of Saudi Petrodollars recently

The Red Notice system has been the subject of abuse before, as in this 2004 Congressional Record discussion of bogus notices issued by Uzbekistan. What we have here is a system that allows repressive governments to pursue their nationals for crimes that would not be offenses in free countries, to suppress dissent, and purse their rulers’ personal vendettas..

During World War II, Interpol, then headquartered in Vienna, was headed by such SS luminaries as as Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Reinhard Heydrich.  Now based in Lyon, France,  it is headed by Ronald K. Noble, Clinton era U.S. Justice Department Undersecretary for Enforcement, and head of the Department’s “Waco Administrative Review Team.”  In other words, there is more than a whiff of sympathy for coercive statism in the agency’s history.

And it is this  that made Kashgari’s apprehension possible, even certain.

He fled his native country with thousands quite literally calling for his head.accusing him of apostasy.  This is no surprise as, although the Koran itself does not state a temporal punishment for the crime, a widely accepted  hadith (saying of Islam’s prophet Muhmmad) does:

Whoever changed his (Islamic) religion, then kill him” Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:84:57

Muhammad himslef was no mean axeman, at least by proxy, as the story of the Jewish Banu Qurayza, among other traditions,  will attest.

While Mr.Kashgari did not deny Muhammad as Allah’s messenger,  mere mockery of Allah or the prophet can constitute apostasy. The journalist is in jeopardy of great harm, not the least of which is time in a Saudi jail.  Yet, I do not think his life will be taken.  The case  does have some visibility, and the suave spokesmen the Saudis send to the West will, one

Adel A. Al-Jubeir, current Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

hopes,counsel moderation for the sake of good PR.

A Saudi beheading. A regular Friday crowd pelaser at "Chop Square" in Riyadh. Plenty more where this came from: perennial favorites on YouTube

Rather, Hamza Kashgari’s fate will recall that of Winston  Smith in 1984  Some schools of Islamic jurisprudence allow the apostate to recant and thus avoid death.  This is the line taken against Christians accused of apostasy from Islam by Iran.  Remember how in Orwell’s book, Winston, after his torture and breaking, was allowed his physical freedom, for a while.

One can almost wonder is Kashgari’s flight towards the western world was like the way the Inner Party played with its victims, before erasing them. Kashgari, too will learn to love Big Brother, or at least to convince all around that he does so.  Islam is more merciful than Ingsoc, in that it requires only outward submission for survival in this world, leaving damnation for the secret denier to the next.

Nevertheless, the end result is the same: “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

 

What you can do:

Contact your foreign office.

Contact the Saudi Embassy in your country.

Express your anger to Malaysian representation in your country.

Contact Tourism Malaysia and let them know you will not be visiting Malaysia as a result of their country’s complicity in the Kashgari affair.  This page provides contact information for Malaysian tourism promotion offices in various countries.

For the U.S.  go here to email Secretary Clinton

or call: 202-647-4000

Email Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington

Telephone: (202) 342-3800

Information/Press Office: (202) 337-4076

Malaysian Embassy, Washington

Email: malwashdc@kln.gov.my

Telephone (202) 342-3800

Sign on line petitions.  Here is one, and there are many more.

Tweet and Facebook Kashgari’s story.  Use the links in this piece, or find your own, but spread the news.  Talk to your friends and family.