Monday 21 August 2017

Writer's murder has sent chill through already tense Jordan

Relatives and activists cry during the funeral of the Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, who was shot dead, in the town of Al-Fuheis near Amman, Jordan,
Relatives and activists cry during the funeral of the Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, who was shot dead, in the town of Al-Fuheis near Amman, Jordan,

Mary Fitzgerald

The tiny desert kingdom of Jordan rarely makes headlines but it did briefly this week with the killing of a prominent writer gunned down as he showed up at court to face charges of insulting Islam. With Jordanians already anxious about the spill-over effect from the five-year war that rages over the border in Syria, the murder was an uneasy reminder of radical elements within.

Nahed Hattar (56) - an activist from the country's Christian minority who wrote columns for a Lebanese newspaper reflecting his secular, leftist views - had received numerous death threats in recent weeks after he shared a satirical cartoon on Facebook with the caption "God of Daesh" - an Arabic acronym for Isil considered by its militants as derogatory. The controversial caricature shows a bearded man in heaven who summons God to bring him wine and snacks as he lies in bed with two women. After the cartoon prompted a storm of protest on social media, Hattar quickly deleted it, shut down his Facebook account, and apologised, saying he did not mean to offend anyone.

As many accused him of insulting Islam - a crime punishable under Jordan's anti-blasphemy laws - Hattar countered that his intention was not to insult Islam but to highlight the hypocrisy of Isil. He argued that the cartoon "mocks Isil terrorists and their concept of heaven."

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