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Palestinian Man Faces Life Sentence for Declaring Himself 'God' on Facebook

internet cafe in bethlehem
The Palestinian Authority has arrested a 26-year-old West Bank blogger for calling himself "God" on Facebook. The suspect, Walid Husayin, works as a barber in the conservative town of Qalqilya, where the locals describe him as a devout family man. When he surfs the Web, though, Husayin apparently takes on an entirely different persona.

As the AP reports, Husayin is now facing a sentence of life in prison for posting anti-Islamic rants all over the Internet. He espouses atheism in many of the posts, and, in one, calls Islam a "blind faith that grows and takes over people's minds where there is irrationality and ignorance." The God of the Koran, according to another of Husayin's posts, has the mental capacities of a "primitive Bedouin." Police have also accused Husayin of creating three different Facebook groups, in which he allegedly declared himself God, and, through spoofed Koran verses, urged his followers to smoke marijuana.

Palestinian officials first caught wind of Husayin's alleged heresy when they were tipped off by the owner of a local Internet cafe, Ahmed Abu-Asal. After the blogger's mom discovered Husayin's articles on atheism, she cut off his Internet connection in hopes that he would change his ways. Instead, Husayin went to Abu-Asal's cafe, where he would often spend up to seven hours a day. Abu-Asal thought the activity was suspicious, and ordered one of his employees to take a screenshot of Husayin's Facebook page. The shots were then delivered to Palestinian Authority officials, who, after monitoring him for several weeks, finally arrested Husayin on October 31st.

Spending your life in prison for "insulting the divine essence" on Facebook certainly seems a bit extreme, but many residents in Qalqilya, including some of Husayin's own family members, actually support the punishment. "He should be burned to death," said 35-year-old local Abdul-Latif Dahoud. Dahoud added that the execution should be held publicly as "an example to others."

The Palestinian Authority, as with many other Middle Eastern governments, apparently makes a habit of monitoring its citizens via Facebook. According to activists, investigators often create fake Facebook profiles, in order to befriend and keep tabs on West Bank citizens. In September, authorities arrested a reporter for a Hamas-friendly news station after she was tagged in a photo that ridiculed the Palestinian president. And, although the Authority is widely known as one of the most liberal in the region, Husayin had apparently become too high-profile for investigators to ignore. It's definitely not the approach we would take to free speech, but, then again, it's not our regime to run, either.

Tags: anti-Islam, atheism, censorship, facebook, FreeSpeech, islam, Israel, Palestine, PalestinianAuthority, politics, SocialNetworking, top