Saudi Writer Turki al-Hamad Released from Jail

Popular Saudi writer Turki al-Hamad has been released after five months in detention. Al-Hamad, like Saudi poet Hamza Kashgari, was ostensibly detained for a series of tweets:

twitterAl-Hamad — unlike Kashgari — is now freed from jail, according to Ahmed al-Omran’s Riyadh Bureau. Al-Hamad’s release was also confirmed by activist Abdulla al-Alami on Twitter.

The tweets in question were published on Dec. 22, 2012, and call for a re-examination of Islam and certain Islamist movements. Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker, who wrote about the arrest on his blog, translated a few of the most controversial as:

“The Prophet came with a humanitarian religion but some changed it into anti-human religion.”

“All religions call for love … practices and rituals do not mean what is going on in the heart.”

“Our Prophet came to rectify the faith of Abraham, and now is a time when we need someone to rectify the faith of Mohammed.”

“Neo-Nazism is on the rise in the Arab world in the guise of Islamism. But the time of Nazism is over and the sun will shine again.”

The arrest of al-Hamad, best-known for his coming-of-age trilogy, Phantoms of the Deserted Alley, followed that of Kashgari, who was taken in February 2012 after tweeting an imaginary conversation with Prophet Muhammad.

Al-Hamad was jailed in his youth for political activism before moving to the US for graduate school. His big novels have not been well-received by critics, but they certainly stirred readership and controversy in the KSA. Several religious rulings have been issued against al-Hamad as a result of his work, but he had continued to live in Riyadh, telling the Daily Star that the fatwas were “more of a nuisance than anything else.”


The Riyadh Bureau: The Arrest of Turki al-Hamad and the Liberation of Symbols

The Riyadh Bureau: Saudi Writer Turki Al-Hamad Released from Jail