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In 140 characters or less former columnist Hazma Kashgari has become a living example of repression in Saudi Arabia.

By Gavriel Queenann

2/20/2012 Saudi Arabia (Arutz Sheva) – Saudi Arabia’s leading mufti is demanding former columnist Hazma Kashgari be tried in a religious court for a series of ‘blasphemous’ tweets he made on February 7.

“We are in a Muslim country and we have a fair justice system,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Al Sheikh told the local Arabic daily al-Watan. “All matters related to justice should be reviewed by Shariah courts as God the Almighty said in the Holy Quran.”

“The justice system in Saudi Arabia is fair,” he added.

His rejection of moving Kashgari’s case to a secular court was in response to growing domestic pressure from young people in Saudi Arabia seeking social and legal reform in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

“I advise young people to follow God’s teachings and to preserve religious values and avoid bad words and expressions that they might regret later,” the mufti said.

Analysts say Kashgari’s impending trial is not just about the content of his tweets, but stem from broader tensions in Riyadh where the monarchy has pushed back on the more conservative religious establishment.

However, in the wake of Islamist parties sweeping the polls following the Arab Spring uprsiings, the Saudi monarchy is trying to shore up support among hardliners who oppose social change.

“Certainly since the upheavals, there’s been even more concern on the part of the regime to appeal to religious constituencies,” political scientist F. Gregory Gause, author of “Saudi Arabia in the New Middle East,” told Gulf News.

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