Palestinian poet's death sentence in Saudi Arabia for renouncing Islam and promoting atheism


GUARDIAN: Hundreds of writers including Irvine Welsh, Ruth Padel and AL Kennedy are taking part in a worldwide reading in support of the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia after being accused of renouncing Islam.

The readings of Fayadh’s poetry at 122 events in 44 countries on Thursday are part of a campaign organised by the International literature festival Berlin calling on the UK and US governments to halt his beheading and to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record.

The action comes ahead of Fayadh’s appeal hearing next week in which his lawyer will contest that the poet’s conviction for apostasy is seriously flawed and based on false and uncorroborated allegations.

Poems being read at the worldwide event include a selection from Fayadh’s 2008 book, Instructions Within, which his accuser claimed promoted atheism, a charge the poet has denied.


AL Kennedy, who is participating in a reading organised by PEN England at the Mosaic Rooms in west London, said Fayadh’s persecution was “very obviously unjust and morally repellent”.

Calling on the Saudi authorities to show mercy and wisdom, the novelist also offered the poet her “admiration for his courage and his devotion to truth and justice” and hoped that the international show of solidarity would “provide a measure of comfort in what must be a horrifying situation”.

Irvine Welsh, who will read at the Two Hearted Queen coffee shop in Chicago, said he hoped the campaign would put “pressure on governments who espouse democracy and freedom to consider their actions in dealing with [Saudi Arabia]”.

The Trainspotting author added: “I have distaste for all clerical regimes. I believe that people should be free to practice and renounce any religion they see fit. If you believe in human rights and are anti-fundamentalist terrorism, then isolate the regime in Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, you are guilty by association.”


Earlier this month, organisers of the Berlin festival sent a letter, signed by 350 writers’ associations and authors, including Nobel laureates Orhan Pamuk and Mario Vargas Llosa, to Barack Obama, David Cameron and the German foreign ministry calling on them to intervene in the imprisoned poet’s case.

The letter also demanded that the United Nations suspend Saudi Arabia from its Human Rights Council until the country’s “abysmal record on upholding civil liberties improves”.


The more things change the more they remain the same.

Poets seemed to have been a prime target for the followers of Muhammad from the inception of Islam, beginning with ‘Asma’ bint Marwan, Abu 'Afak and Al Nadr ibn al-Harith.


Pray for all who are in captivity. :signofcross:


If he’s Palestinian, why is he subject to Saudi authorities? Is he living in Saudi Arabia?

This is really appalling.


His parents moved there as refugees, he was born there.


It is my theory that we will see a lot of this. Islam does not respect human reason as a real gift from God and deep thinkers will be forced into making a choice between reason and Islam. Very few move directly from Islam to Christianity, but many will reject Islam first, and then investigate what other faith can explain the world and the longings or every human.

Islam is very threatened by people who see a world that operates according to the perfect reason of the Creator and has always reacted violently against them. A reasoned debate is not in their playbook.


I think it has everything to do with Wahhabism, and not with Islam in general. Remember, Saudi Arabia is the center of the jihadist movement. It’s managed to export those elements all over the world, but Saudi Arabia itself is at the heart of all the craziness within Islam. I mean, look at all the Sufi poets that are so popular - they say Rumi is the most popular poet in America, and has been for decades. He’s never been properly translated into English, but that’s another story. Anyway, they certainly seem to have a very high regard for mystic poets, as far as I can tell.:shrug: Also, I have a giant stack of the old Studies in Comparative Religion journals, and those things are filled to overflowing with Islamic intellectuals, people who could more than hold their own with anyone the West has ever produced. I understand what you’re saying, but there also seem to be tolerant and free-thinking elements within Islam; they’re just not Saudi Arabian or Wahhabist, is all. Of course, the extremely intelligent people within Islam also seem to go out of their way to be circumspect around mobs of the unintelligent people within Islam…


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