|Known for||His arrest by the Palestinian Authority for allegedly blaspheming against Islam|
Waleed Al-Husseini (alternatively spelled Waleed Hasayen) (Arabic: وليد الحسيني) is a Palestinian blogger. In October 2010, the Palestinian Authority arrested him for allegedly blaspheming against Islam on Facebook and in blog posts. His arrest garnered international attention.
The New York Times writes that "The case has drawn attention to thorny issues like freedom of expression in the Palestinian Authority, for which insulting religion is considered illegal, and the cultural collision between a conservative society and the Internet."
Husayen, aged 26 as of early 2015, is from the West Bank city of Qalqilyah. As a university student, he studied computer science but remained unemployed and instead helped out a few hours a day at his father's one-chair barber shop. Acquaintances described him as an "ordinary guy" who regularly prayed at the mosque on Fridays.
The Qalqilyah resident also spent much of his time on the Internet. After his mother discovered articles on atheism on his computer, she canceled his Internet connection, hoping he would reject such views. Instead, Husayen began frequenting a local Internet cafe where he spent up to seven hours a day in a corner booth.
Blogging and Facebook activities
Allegedly writing under the pseudonym Waleed Husayen in Facebook and on his personal blog, Husayen, according to The New York Times, "angered the Muslim cyberworld by promoting atheism, composing spoofs of Koranic verses, skewering the lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad and chatting online using the sarcastic Web name God Almighty."
In an essay entitled "Why I Left Islam" on his blog Noor al-Aqel (Enlightenment of Reason), Husayin wrote that Muslims "believe anyone who leaves Islam is an agent or a spy for a Western State, namely the Jewish State... They actually don’t get that people are free to think and believe in whatever suits them." Husayin emphasized that he was not implying that Christianity or Judaism were better than Islam, and that in his opinion, all religions were "a bunch of mind-blowing legends and a pile of nonsense that compete with each other in terms of stupidity". Husayin rejected claims that Islam was a religion of tolerance, equality, and social justicice. He also criticized Islam's treatment of women, its suppression of human creativity, and the allegations that the Koran contained scientific miracles. The Facebook groups he allegedly created elicited hundreds of angry comments, death threats and the formation of more than a dozen Facebook groups against him. At its peak, Husayin's Arabic-language blog had more than 70,000 visitors. He also posted English language translations of his essays in the blog "Proud Atheist."
Arrest and imprisonment
Husayen spent several months at the Qalqilyah Internet cafe. The cafe's owner, Ahmed Abu Asab, found his activities suspicious: "Sometimes he was in here until after midnight for over eight hours a day, always sitting in the corner. He was very secretive. He never wanted you to see his screen." Using software to check on what his client was doing, Abu Asab discovered Husayin's sacrilegious Facebook writings. Abu Asab said he and three friends knew of Husayin's actions and that "maybe somebody" informed the authorities.
After Palestinian Authority (PA) intelligence was tipped off, intelligence officials monitored him for several weeks. On October 31, 2010, Husayen was arrested as he sat in the cafe. In November 2010, the Ma'an News Agency filed the first report on the arrest of the "controversial blogger whose postings on Facebook had infuriated Muslims."
The PA did not give any explanation as to why Husayen has been arrested. According to a Palestinian human rights expert, if Husayen would be tried, it would be according to a 1960 Jordanian law against defaming religion which is still in force in the West Bank. Tayseer Tamimi, the former chief Islamic judge in the area, said that Husayin is the first person to be arrested in the West Bank for their religious views.
In December 2010, a Palestinian security source said Husayen would continue to be kept in jail for his own protection: "It is impossible to release him because we are afraid he will be killed by his family." Human Rights Watch has urged the PA to release or charge him, citing that holding him without charge for more than 72 hours violates Palestinian law.
After ten months of imprisonment, Husayen was released on bail, but was sometimes arrested and held by PA security agents for days at a time. During one of those times, he was tortured. PA security officials also smashed his two computers and demanded he stop posting his views on the Internet.
In his autobiography published in January 2015, Blasphémateur (Blasphemer), Al-Husseini describes how, fearing for his life because of the negative reactions to himself in his community, he took an emotional leave from his his siblings and aunt and from his parents who he says did not understand his atheism but still supported him as their son. He describes how he went to Jordan to take refuge in the French embassy there, having discovered that France had exerted some diplomatic pressure, which he believes may have led to him being released from prison pending trial. He describes how he was granted asylum in Paris, where he has lived since 2010. He states in the book he later found he was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in his absence.
Activities in 2015
In early 2015 Al-Husseini has made several appearances on current affairs programmes on French television and has had an opinion piece (on the need to reform Islam) published on the website of French daily newspaper Le Monde. He was also the subject of a four-page piece in the national French news magazine Marianne. In January he published, with Editions Grasset, an autobiography about how he came to reject Islam through his studies of Islamic literature and history and he recounts his blogging, his arrest (alleging that he was tortured in prison) and subsequent flight to France. In his media appearances and book he makes calls in defence of the French principles of secularism and states his belief that there must be more debate on what he considers to be the violent content of parts of the Islamic texts, especially in the wake of the massacres at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Jewish Hyper Casher supermarket in Paris in early 2015.
Waleed Husayen's family disowned his actions. His father, Khaled, said this his son was in treatment and had been "bewitched" by a Tunisian woman he had met via Facebook. According to Husayen's cousins, his mother wants him to be sentenced to life in prison, both to restore the family's honor and to protect her son from vigilantes.
Qalqilyah and the Palestinian Territories
In conservative Qalqilyah, there appears to be universal criticism of his actions as well as calls for his death. One 35-year-old resident said "he should be burned to death" in public "to be an example to others."
Palestinian human rights groups have remained largely silent on his arrest. A lawyer with Al Haq, a Ramallah-based human rights organization said, " I respect Mr Husayen's right to have these beliefs but he also has to respect the law, there are limits to freedom of speech." He said that Husayen probably faces a sentence of between three months and three years for the offence.
Husayen's cause has won support abroad with a Facebook group and several online petitions forming in solidarity. The Jordan-based Arabic-speaking Irreligious Coalition was one organization to circulate a petition calling for his release. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for Husayen's release. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, stated, "The Palestinian judiciary should demonstrate its integrity by protecting the right to free expression and ordering Hasayen's release and his safety." The French foreign ministry has expressed concern over his arrest, stating, "France is concerned by the risks of damage to fundamental freedoms and in particular the freedom of expression, contained in the 'crime of blasphemy.'"
In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Bret Stephens wrote that "if Palestinians cannot abide a single free-thinker in their midst, they cannot be free in any meaningful sense of the word. And if the U.S. can't speak up on his behalf, then neither, in the long run, can we." In regards to the case, a Los Angeles Times editorial questioned, "Will the new [Palestinian] country move toward fundamentalist values and Islamic law, as many followers of Hamas would like, or will it opt to be a more open, democratic society?"
Diaa Hadid of the Associated Press notes that the "Western-backed Palestinian Authority is among the more religiously liberal Arab governments in the region. It is dominated by secular elites and has frequently cracked down on hardline Muslims and activists connected to its conservative Islamic rival, Hamas." Hadid suggests that the anger toward Walid "reflects the feeling in the Muslim world that their faith is under mounting attack in the West". According to the Palestinian Ma'an news agency, while secular political beliefs are "not uncommon" in Palestinian society, "the expression of views seen as hostile to the dominant religions is viewed by many as incitement rather than free speech."
In early December 2010, Husayen posted a letter to his family on his blog in which he apologized for offending Muslims and sought forgiveness for what he called his "stupidity". A friend, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Husayen posted the letter in hopes of winning release from prison. Al-Husseini states in his 2015 autobiography Blasphémateur he did not write it, but discovered it on leaving custody and trying to visit his blog."...it was with a stab of disappointment that I visited by blog of which the only content was now some words published by the Palestinian Authority, which presented my apologies and asked for forgiveness in my name, for having blasphemed Islam. Five years of work and more than two million visitors down the drain".
Creating the CEMF (Council of Ex- Muslims in France)
July 6, 2013, Waleed Al -Husseini and thirty other former Muslims founded the Council of Ex- Muslims of France. The Council presents itself as "composed of atheists, free thinkers, humanists and ex -Muslims who take a stand to promote reason, universal rights and secularism ." He opposes "any discrimination and all abuse" that would justify "respect for religion" requires "freedom to criticize religions" and "the prohibition of customs, rules, ceremonies or religious activities that are incompatible with or violate the rights and freedoms of the people." It also boasts "the prohibition of any cultural or religious practice that hinders or opposes the autonomy of women, their will and equality." The CEMF condemns "any interference by any authority, family or parental or official authorities in the private lives of women and men in their emotional and sexual relationships, and sexuality ". A Facebook page devoted to the activity of CEMF. In this regard, Waleed Al -Husseini was invited by France Inter under the title "They change the world"
- Human rights in the Palestinian National Authority
- Freedom of religion in the Palestinian territories
- Isabel Kershner (16 November 2010). "Palestinian Blogger Angers West Bank Muslims". The New York Times.
- Diaa Hadid (11 November 2010). "Palestinian held for Facebook criticism of Islam". MSNBC. Associated Press. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- Why I left Islam
- Jon Donnison (23 November 2010). "Palestinian blogger facing prison for Islam 'insults'". BBC News.
- "PA detains controversial blogger". Ma'an News Agency. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "'Atheist' Palestinian jailed 'for his own safety'". AFP. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
- al-Husseini, Waleed (8 December 2014). "What It’s Like to Be an Atheist in Palestine". The Daily Beast.
- "When Muslims renounce their faith". Deutsche Welle.
- "Climate of intolerance in West Bank, activists say". Associated Press. 29 January 2012.
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- "West Bank: Free Suspected Blogger". Human Rights Watch. 5 December 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
- "France 'concerned' at Palestinian jailed for blasphemy blog". AFP. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- Bret Stephens (23 November 2010). "Free Palestine!". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
- "West Bank heretic". The Los Angeles Times. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
- Diaa Hadid (6 December 2010). "Jailed Palestinian atheist sorry". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
- Le Figaro and Agence France Press (6 July 2013). "Création du conseil des ex-musulmans". Le Figaro. Agence France Presse. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Bernard Schalscha (10 July 2013). "Le Conseil des ex-musulmans de France est né". Agence France Presse. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Waleed Al-Husseini. date=6 July 2013 "Conseil des Ex Musulmans de France (CEMF)". Retrieved 25 October 2013.