JEDDAH, 14 November 2005 — The controversial case of Muhammad Al-Harbi, a Saudi high school teacher accused of mocking religion, came to a surprising end on Saturday. Al-Harbi was sentenced to three years in prison and 750 lashes — 50 lashes per week for 15 weeks. The lashes are to be given in the public market in the town of Al-Bikeriya in Al-Qassim.
Deeply disturbed by the explosions at the Al-Hamra Compound in Riyadh in 2003, Al-Harbi felt it his duty as an educator to enlighten his students and warn them of terrorism and its consequences. He went to great lengths by talking to students, hanging anti-terrorism signs around the school and speaking against terrorism.
“The Ministry of Education has recently ordered all schools to lecture students on the dangers of extremism and terrorism in general, but I was a step ahead of their decision,” said Al-Harbi.
Apparently Al-Harbi’s actions and comments against terrorism upset a number of Islamic studies teachers known for their fundamentalist beliefs. After the Al-Hamra blast in Riyadh, Al-Harbi copied an article, “Cavemen Go to Hell” written by Saudi columnist Hammad Al-Salmi in Al-Jazirah newspaper, attacking terrorists and extremists. Al-Harbi posted the article on the school bulletin board but it was ripped off and torn to pieces.