Dubai: A Saudi columnist has come under intense attack after wading into a Twitter controversy.

Commenting about unemployment and the status of women, Mohammad Al Shaikh posted a remark about Saudi women and prostitution in a neighbouring country.

The remark sparked strong criticism within the blogosphere and beyond and several people called for stringent action, including capital punishment, against Al Shaikh — who has a column in the local Arabic daily Al Jazeera — for insulting Saudi women.

“Slandering a single Muslim woman without evidence warrants strict punishment,” Shaikh Nasser Al Amr, a religious figure, said. “So you can imagine the punishment for slandering the chaste women of a whole country. These chaste women should demand justice to protect their honour while, at the same time, all competent authorities should move to punish him and people who think like him,” he said in remarks published by news site Sabq.

Abdul Aziz Arab, a member of the Muslim Scholars League, urged Saudi women to sue Al Shaikh. “I wish that every chaste woman sue Mohammad Al Shaikh for slandering,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Several Saudi journalists also harshly criticised Al Shaikh for his “insulting” remarks, saying that they were “highly inappropriate and totally erroneous”.

Other Gulf nationals, mainly from the UAE, joined in the debate, offering testimonies about the modesty of Saudi women and attacking the Saudi columnist who has more than 76,000 followers.

Earlier this year, the Saudi blogosphere witnessed a heated debate about a blogger who posted remarks that were deemed offensive to Prophet Mohammad [Peace Be Upon Him].

Hamza Kashgari was accused of blasphemy, apostasy, and atheism for his tweets in which he irreverently addressed Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] on his birthday. Thousands of bloggers called for his execution.

The blogger fled the country, but was eventually arrested in Malaysia and repatriated following a request from the Saudi authorities.