We still live in a world where if you belong to a certain culture and you write certain words, your life will be in danger. After tweeting a contentious perspective on Mohammed, a Saudian Arabian blogger soon discovered his life to be spiralling out of control:
Twitter quickly flooded with responses to Kashgari, registering more than 30,000 within a day. He was accused of blasphemy, and enraged Saudis called for his death. By the time he removed the tweets and issued a long apology, backtracking on his comments and begging for forgiveness, the danger had already expanded beyond the Web. Someone posted Kashgari’s home address in a YouTube video, and, his friends say, vigilantes came looking for him at his local mosque. The Saudi information minister banned Kashgari’s local newspaper column and barred outlets across the country from publishing his work. Nasser al-Omar, an influential cleric, called for him to be tried in a Sharia court for apostasy, which is punishable by death. Other leading clerics decried Kashgari on their own, and Saudi Arabia’s council of senior scholars issued a rare and harshly worded communiqué condemning him and his tweets and demanding that he be put on trial. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s leading news site, SABQ, reported that the king himself had issued a warrant for Kashgari’s arrest.
It’s easy to respond that this is distinctly Saudi extremism, but I see no reason to presume the hostility to freedom of expression is peculiar to that nation, and not a product of Islamic intolerance more broadly. Without a substantive argument to the contrary, this seems to simply confirm what we already knew: Fukuyama was wrong, and still is. And Huntington, in a sense, was right. I see no way to render consistent a religion so sensitive to any offense, and a social ethos which stands up and says No, it is not fucking alright to think it legitimate to kill someone on the grounds that they had certain thoughts and expressed them. If you sincerely believe that, you’re the enemy of everything reasonable in this fragile, still oh-so bad world.