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      Saudi Arabia's Twitter Apostasy Crisis Widens

      A Christian blogger in Saudi Arabia known as the "Mecca Pastor" has joined Hazma Kashgari in the spotlight for 'blasphemous' Tweets.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 2/22/2012, 7:06 PM

      The Saudi Faithful
      The Saudi Faithful
      Reuters

      Another Saudi national has waded into controversy after he insulted the Prophet Mohammad via his Twitter account on Wednesday.

      Hamoud Saleh Al Amri is a self-described convert to Christianity who lives in Mecca and calls himself the "Mecca Pastor."

      Al Amri's tweets sparked a flood of condemnations from social network users who called for his arrest and trial. Some suggested death as "the only way" to silence those who "dared to insult God and His prophet."

      There were also complaints that the tweets were “disturbingly profane and extremely shocking.”

      The offending Tweets were a part of an ongoing debate Al Amri and Saudi criticsseeking to convince him to "return to Islam," on February 20 and 21.

      In one Tweet, he wrote, "I say about Muhammad... anyone who has read his biography knows that his words contain a great deal of shabbiness."

      "Muhammad permitted vile abuse of non-Muslims and infidels, and killing even Muslims, insofar as it resulted in victory for Islam," he wrote in another.

      "I discovered that corruption and nepotism under the yoke of the Saudi regime is due to Muhammad," he wrote in another Tweet. "Failing to acknowledge that Muhammad's teachings are criminal, impious and intrusive makes it impossible to mend our circumstances."

      He also tweeted that he “loved Muslims,” but added “any Muslim who wrote the same things I have written about Jesus would not be charged in court.”

      Al Amri has been imprisoned before for "attacks on Islam," according to the Saudi daily Sabq. His first arrest was in 2004.  He also waded into controversy in Saudi Arabia's blogsphere in 2009 with similar comments.

      Al Amri's lastest Internet fusillade at Islam and the Saudi regime comes on the heels of the arrest of former al-Biad columnist Hazma Kashgari, 23, for a series of "blasphemous" tweets he made in honor of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

      Kashgari recanted his tweets amid calls for his death and fled to Malaysia, but was arrested by authorities there and returned to Saudi Arabia, where he remains in custody awaiting a trial for blasphemy by Riyad's religious courts.

      Described as a "poetic soul with philosophical ideas" who "never wrote about controversial religious subjects," by his editor, Kashgari was was fired when his story broke in the world media, pursuant to a ban being issued by the Interior Ministry forbidding his employment as a journalist. Al-Biad issued a statement saying his views were too “deficient” for the paper to continue employing him.

      Kashgari's family told reporters he had "repented," but religious authorities appear determined to make an example of him – and his supporters – in court. Those tried for blasphemy or apostasy under Saudi Arabia's extreme Wahabbist interpretation of Sharia can face death by beheading in the reactionary country.

      The Kashgari case has garnered international attention and underscored the deep divisions in the ultraconservative Kingdom between reactionary clerics and those seeking greater freedoms.

      In recent years, the Saudi monarchy had pushed back against religious authorities due to popular pressure. However, in the wake of Islamist parties sweeping the polls following the Arab Spring uprisings, the Saudi monarchy is trying to shore up support among hardliners who oppose social change.