When I was 23 years old, I drew a hooded white figure on posters that advertised a special lecture at my university. It was to be delivered by an up and coming leader, starting a new federal political party. I had read the leader had ties to racist groups in Alberta.
I defaced the posters wherever I found them on campus.
If I had been caught, would I have been beheaded?
Such may be the fate of 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi writer who messaged via Twitter an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Muhammad a week ago, around the time of Prophet Muhammad's birthday.
Hamza said of the Prophet, "I admire some qualities you have but not all" and "I will not pray for you."
In reference to a Hadith (or so-called saying of the Prophet Muhammad), circulated widely by the rigid Wahabist sect in Saudi Arabia that states that "the fires of hell shall be filled with women" (the authenticity of which is disputed by many Muslims), Hamza said, "Why should Saudi women go to hell twice?"
Implicit in the statement was his condemnation of gender apartheid propagated by the male guardianship system under which Saudi women are forced to live.
Thirteen-thousand tweets later, made by so-called Muslims in the Kingdom upset by what they claimed to be an insult upon the Prophet, an order for Hamza's arrest was pronounced by none other than King Abdullah himself.
The crime? Apostasy.
The possible sentence? Death.
Hamza messaged via Twitter his repentance, apologized, and then fled to Malaysia.
He was promptly arrested there and a Malaysian judge -- in a place obviously not as moderate as some Muslims like to imagine -- ordered him extradited back home to Saudi Arabia, where he now is in custody awaiting trial and awaiting death.
Is this Islam?
What about the Islam where Prophet Muhammad's patience is a cornerstone of his strength, as told in this story:
Every morning for several months, a woman in Mecca who hated the Prophet Muhammad threw feces at his door. She never suffered any penalty or backlash for doing so. One day after several months, the Prophet opened his door to find it was clean. No feces had been thrown at it that morning.
The Prophet remarked, "Where is the woman that throws feces on my door every morning? I hope she is not sick."
Such was the Prophet's capacity for patience and mercy. It is the example we Muslims must follow.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has obviously not circulated this story in its Wahhabist teachings.
No -- the Islam of Saudi Arabia appears to be a completely different faith, one where no churches, synagogues, or temples are allowed, where women are crushed through the oppression of gender apartheid, and where people who express dissent are in jail or dead.
Founded by Saudi ruler al-Wahhab in the early 18th century, surviving with the demise of the Ottoman Empire, thriving amidst neo-colonialism and its disdain for anything western (including human rights), spread by petro dollars and fed by Western allies who turn a blind eye at the crimes of their rich Saudi friends, Wahhabism has become so predominant in the Muslim world -- notwithstanding its links to terrorism -- that some progressives and activists there now only know enough about Islam to call themselves agnostics or atheists.
But when it is dark God lights a path for us.
While Wahhabism continues its plague, the mystical treasure of Sufi Islam, its antithesis, has begun to make a modern day revival and take on progressive values.
Impoverished for decades, teachings of the Islamic traditions of kindness and love, handed down from grandparent to grandchild, documented in archives that were all but forgotten, are now springing up in the universities of the west, where freedom of expression is allowed.
And it is this freedom of expression -- so precious -- which allows our scholars to rediscover our faith and find hidden translations of our scriptures where women are equal, religious minorities are respected, dissent is welcome, and where the greatest jihad is -- according to the Prophet Muhammad -- to speak the truth to a tyrant.
And in comparing this version of Islam, with Wahhabism, we find that the greatest tyrant facing Islam today is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
So to the King of Saudi Arabia I say this: Our Holy Prophet Muhammad, if alive today, would surely be sobbing tears of despair if he witnessed the tyranny you impose on your people falsely in the name of what you call Islam.
The corporate shares your Prince has bought in Twitter, along with the arms used by your military and police to silence your citizens, has been bought with the blood of those you have beheaded falsely in the name of Allah.
And the Holy Quran appears to mention you where it says: "Blame attaches but to those who oppress other people and behave outrageously on earth, offending against all right: for them there is grievous suffering in store" (42:42).
Are you going to arrest me King Abdullah?
May God save 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari.
Please read our statement and take action to save Hamza Kashgari.