Indian national arrested for blasphemous Facebook post

Updated 05 March 2015
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Indian national arrested for blasphemous Facebook post

The arrest of an Indian national in Jeddah, for allegedly posting a blasphemous image of the Kaaba on his Facebook page, has seen experts warn that such content violates the country’s cyber laws and can mean jail time and heavy fines.
Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak confirmed that the Indian national has been jailed for violating the Kingdom’s cyber laws.
“This happened a month ago in Jeddah and the Saudi law enforcement authorities are currently conducting an investigation,” he told Arab News on Wednesday. “We are trying to help him in the best possible way,” he said.
According to legal experts, once the investigations are over, judgment would be pronounced and only then would the consulate be able to enter a plea on his behalf. The public prosecutor, according to a report in a local newspaper, is calling on the courts to punish the man severely for allegedly posting the blasphemous material.
Under the Kingdom’s cyber laws, anyone involved in the transmission or storage of material violating religious values and public morals, can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to SR3 million.
The image displayed on Facebook showed the Holy Kaaba plastered with Hindu deities. The image had created a furor in many Indian cities last year. The report said a Saudi national, shocked by the image, alerted the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia), and an investigation was launched.
The Indian expat was arrested by the police at the airport. He admitted that the Facebook page was his, but said that he had seen a link to the picture on another account and that he had to click “Like” to enable him to see it. The picture was automatically loaded onto his account for his followers to see, he said.
However, investigators decided that he was guilty of breaking the Kingdom’s cyber law by publishing an offensive picture. The Indian man is said to have been in the Kingdom for only two years and was working for a catering company in Jeddah.
Social media experts said people need to be very careful about posts on Facebook and Twitter.
“These are serious issues,” said Adnan Akram, a consultant with an online security firm. “You should never click on anything automatically. It can create havoc as in the case of this young man.”
Nadira Hussain, a mother of three and an enthusiastic user of Facebook, said she was horrified at one stage when her Facebook wall was plastered with nude images. “I didn’t know what to do. My children and close relatives were all horrified but it was some kind of virus. Even then, it left quite a scar on me and I stopped using Facebook altogether,” she said.
She said children should be educated about online behavior. “They may do something innocently, but the repercussions of their acts can be devastating,” she added.


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.