In the United States, a wayward tweet may cost the offender a friendship or even a job, but it’s unlikely to land anyone in prison. Not so in Kuwait, where Musab Shamsah was sentenced to five years for a single Twitter post on the Islamic religion.
Shamsah was convicted on Monday in a Kuwaiti court, which deemed that his tweet about differences between Shia and Sunni theology was offensive. The defendant claims that prosecutors took his message, which was about Mohammed’s grandsons, the wrong way. Shamsah reportedly deleted it within 10 minutes of posting, and followed up with tweets explaining what he meant.
“It’s an insult to all Kuwaitis for the government to give itself the authority to decide what’s insulting to religion, and to jail Kuwaitis for it,” stated Sarah Leah Whitson, who is the Middle East director for the humanitarian group Human Rights Watch. “Let each Kuwaiti decide what he or she finds insulting, and as simple as clicking ‘unfollow,’ decide whether they want to see or hear a message.”