I find it baffling how many of the extremely religious can believe (on the one hand) that god is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omni-most-everything-else, and (on the other) that mild criticism will be enough to cause god's kingdom to topple like a house of cards.
Our most recent example of this bizarre self-contradiction comes from Saudi Arabia, where a young writer is facing probable execution for criticizing Muhammad.
Last week was the anniversary of Muhammad's birth, and a 23-year-old writer, Hamza Kashgari, was reflecting on Muhammad's role in Islam, and sent out a few posts on Twitter that could not possibly be construed as anything but gentle questioning. "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," he wrote in one tweet.
"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," he wrote in another, and in a third, "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.”
Well. You'd have thought he'd recommended setting off a nuclear weapon in Mecca, or something, from the outcry that ensued. Within a day, he had more than 30,000 responses, many of them calling for his death. Alarmed, Kashgari posted a long apology, but it was too late; someone had posted his address online, with a recommendation to go and kill him, and he fled for his life. He got as far as Malaysia, but in a stunning overreach of their authority, he was arrested by agents from Interpol and returned to Saudi Arabia, where the king himself is recommending that he be tried for apostasy -- which is punishable by death by beheading. (Sources: here and here)
Okay, come on now. Either your god is powerful, or else he isn't. If he isn't, why do you worship him? And if he is, surely he can withstand a few pointed questions. You should take a look at the video in the first source, wherein Sheikh Nasser al-Omar openly weeps while describing the blasphemy Kashgari has committed -- a spectacle that would be funny if it weren't so deadly serious. Apparently this guy really, honestly believes that a 23-year-old writing that he won't pray for Muhammad on his birthday is worthy of death because he has "annoyed Allah." Oh, and after the guy's dead, Allah has "prepared a humiliating punishment" for him.
I guess Allah has a remarkably low tolerance for annoyance, then. You have to wonder how any of us escape "humiliating punishments."
My conclusion -- besides the fact that Sheikh Nasser al-Omar is a bloodthirsty old geezer -- is that if a belief system is that fragile, and its god that subject to "annoyance," there must not be much to recommend it. You'd think that it would take more than three posts on Twitter to accomplish all that, wouldn't you?
You'd be wrong. "I fear that Allah will send a swift punishment upon us," al-Omar said, in between bouts of sniffling into his beard, "for our complacency in regards to the rights of Allah and his prophet."
Please. If your religion was all you claim it is, there should be people flocking to it, converting to Islam because of the sheer force of its appeal. Instead, you have to behead people for asking questions -- which surely identifies it for what it is, which is a morally bankrupt system whose rules only exist to maintain the current power structure, and prevent any scrap of free thought. It is a belief system whose prime weapon is compulsion through fear.
And I can only hope that the news of Kashgari's arrest will trigger people across the Middle East to ask a lot more questions -- if they have not already been terrified, and brainwashed, into forever keeping silence.