Nouakchott — A young journalist in Mauritania faces a possible death sentence after being convicted of apostasy for an article criticising the prophet Mohammed, AFP reported Monday (January 6th).
Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed was arrested January 2nd in Nouadhibou and "was convicted of lack of respect for the prophet", a judicial source told AFP.
In Nouadhibou, a businessman even offered up money to anyone willing to kill Ould Mohamed.
In describing the January 3rd incident, Nouadhibou-based journalist Mostafa el-Sayed told Magharebia that "businessman and preacher Abi Ould Ali, a resident of Nouadhibou, said during a protest against the offending article that he was willing to pay 4,000 euros to anyone who killed the young author, unless he announced his repentance within three days."
Yet many who denounced the article were angered by the businessman's incitement to murder, saying it pushed society towards terrorism.
"Incitement to murder is a bad pattern and a negative way of thinking," artist Khaled Moulay Idriss said.
Sahara Media journalist Cheikh Mohammed Horma agreed, noting: "The call made by the businessman is a clear incitement to kill and he is legally responsible for what the young man may suffer."
Punishment falls under the responsibility of the judiciary and the state, he added.
"Those who incite to murder want to terrorise us," young researcher Salihy Ould Ab said. They are just a group of salafists and Islamists who want us to erase our minds and refrain from thinking and criticism."
"They are inciting people to kill a young man just because he wrote an analytical article in which he referred to some of the positions of the Prophet Mohammed. This means that Mauritania is on the verge of entering an era of terrorism," Ould Ab wrote on his Facebook page.
Boone Ould Doff, a famous cartoonist, told Magharebia that the threat was "the language of the mafia".
"I am totally against it," he continued. "The sinner or criminal should have been brought to justice so that justice takes its course. That is where the final decision or final judgment should be made. I understand that dealing with sacred issues can prompt reactions from the faithful, those might be right or wrong."
Meanwhile, Mauritanian Muslim thinker Mohamed Ould Mokhtar Changuiti said that there was no evidence of executing apostates in Islam. He considered the journalist's matter a personal one.
Mohamed Mahdi Ould Mohamed Bashir, a researcher in traditional sciences and Islamic law, also noted that thinkers such as Ibrahim Nakha'i, Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltout, Dr Hassan al-Turabi, Dr Taha Jabir al-Alwani and Imam al-Baji considered apostasy a sin between a person and God.