Palestine’s ‘Atheist blogger’ behind bars

Waleed Al-Husseini has been making waves and offending religious sensibilities in the Middle East for years. A committed atheist, the 26 year-old resident of the occupied West Bank is known for a prolific online presence — much of which centres on criticisms of all major religions.

Here’s a good example of his writing from his blog The Light of Reason. The headline loosely translates as “The personification of God and the lack of logic in his creation of the universe.” Al-Husseini even created a Facebook page claiming to speak in the name of God, and used his excellent command of Arabic to write altered versions of verses from the Koran.

So perhaps it was no surprise that Al-Husseini’s work infuriated both Muslims and Christians, and only a matter time before he ran afoul of the authorities. He disappeared at the end of October, and finally last week came the official confirmation that Al-Husseini had been arrested. Palestine’s semi-official Maan News Agency reported that security services had “pursued the man for more than two months” before catching up with him in an internet cafe in the West Bank of Qualqiya.

Numerous online defences of Al-Husseini have sprung up, in Arabic and English, demanding his release, and lobbying foreign governments to offer him asylum. Prominent regional blogger Marwa Rakha, who has met Al-Husseini, issued a passionate defence of his right to express himself regardless of whether anyone agrees or disagrees with his beliefs, writing

Waleed did not record his ideas on tapes and force you to listen to them in public transportation… Waleed did not stop you in the street for wearing a veil or for having a beard and force-feed you his arguments. Why are you afraid of him? Is your faith that fragile? Are your religious beliefs that vulnerable?

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