Palestinian arrested for atheism

The extraordinary tale of Walid Husayin, a quiet barber from the West Bank who dutifully went with his family to the mosque every Friday – while secretly posting atheist rants on Facebook – is reported by various news websites this morning, including al-Arabiya.

Among other things, he is said to have posted spoof Qur'anic verses urging people to smoke marijuana, and to have written that the God worshipped by Muslims has the attributes of a "primitive Bedouin".

His postings on Faccebook are said to have attracted 70,000 followers – mainly from Arab countries.

When his mother found out, she cancelled his internet subscription but Husayin, 26, continued his atheist postings from an internet cafe where he would sometimes spend seven hours a day – which is how he got caught.

He is now in the hands of the Palestinian Authority who will presumably be dithering over what to do with him, since this is thought to be the first case of its kind in the West Bank. 

Husayin's family have reportedly disowned him, saying he should spend the rest of his life behind bars. Others think prison is too good for him:

"He should be burned to death," said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public "to be an example to others," he added.

The old cliché about sledgehammers and nuts comes to mind. Don't the Palestinians have bigger things to worry about? Apparently not. According to the reports, officials spent several weeks monitoring his activities in the internet cafe before finally arresting him.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 12 November 2010.