Telegraph, by Sept. 25, 2016:
Aprominent Jordanian writer was shot dead by a suspected Islamist gunman on Sunday outside the courtroom where he was due to stand trial for offending Islam by sharing a cartoon on Facebook.
Nahed Hattar, a 56-year-old intellectual from Jordan’s Christian minority, was gunned down on the steps of a courthouse in Amman in what appeared to be a religiously motivated attack.
The gunman was arrested at the scene and a Jordanian security source identified him as Riyad Ismail Abdullah, a 49-year-old imam who was wearing traditional Islamic robes at the time of the shooting.
The alleged shooter recently returned from making the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the source said. The gunman is believed to have acted alone rather than as part of an organised group.
The high-profile murder is a fresh blow to Jordan’s image as a bastion of stability amid the sectarian violence that is wracking much of the Middle East and the latest in a long string of killings across the world linked to cartoons about Islam.
Mr Hattar was arrested in August for sharing a cartoon on his Facebook page which showed a jihadist smoking in bed with two women while Allah waits attentively at the window for him.
The jihadist orders Allah to fetch him some wine and take away the dirty plates while demanding the archangel Gabriel get him some cashew nuts.
Mr Hattar said the cartoon was intended to mock jihadists and their twisted interpretation of Islam but Jordan’s government charged him with insulting the faith and “provoking sectarian rifts”.
The writer rejected the charges and planned to fight the case. If convicted, he could have faced up to three years in prison.
“I am mocking the terrorists and their conception of hell and heaven,” Mr Hattar wrote shortly before his death. “I’m not insulting the supreme Allah, at all, on the contrary, I’m against the type of God that the terrorists worship.
Mr Hattar’s family immediately blamed Jordan’s government for failing to protect the writer, saying the decision to publicly charge him with offending Islam had made him a target for Muslim extremists.
“We hold the Ministry of Interior responsible,” said Jamal Attar, a cousin. “This is the first assassination in Jordan that targets a person over nothing but his opinion, for freedom of speech.”
Jordan’s government condemned his murder, calling it an “ugly crime” and promised “investigating the incident and holding the criminal accountable for his offense”.
Christians make up only around 4 per cent of Jordan’s 8 million residents but they live in relative affluence and usually in peace with country’ Muslim majority.
Nine seats in the 130-seat parliament are reserved for them and they hold prominent positions in the business sector and Jordan, a key Western ally, presents itself as a staunch defender of minority groups.
During his speech to the United Nations last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah said: “Every citizen is guaranteed the state’s protection for their lives, families, properties, honour, privacy, and freedom of religion and thought.”
But many diplomats and analysts worry that that the Jordanian government’s tolerant rhetoric is at odds with wide swathes of religious extremism in the country.
“Jordan’s leaders are reticent to acknowledge domestic radicalisation, including self-radicalisation,” the US State Department said in a report in June.
Around 2,000 Jordanians crossed the border to fight in Syria in 2015, according to the Soufan Group, making Jordan one of the largest per capita sources of foreign fighters.
Mr Hattar was a regular columnist for al-Akhbar, a pan-Arab newspaper based in Lebanon, where he wrote regularly against Islamic extremism.
The Left-wing writer was also a staunch supporter of the Assad regime in Syria. Most of the Jordanian public opposes the Assad regime and supports the opposition and armed rebel groups. He was arrested several times in Jordan in the 1970s for his outspoken criticism of the Jordanian government.
On a Facebook group formed after his death, some people compared him to other recent artists and intellectuals who fell victim to violent extremism, for example the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo who were killed by gunmen in January 2015.
Others spoke critically of the decision to bring charges against him in the first place.
“The Jordanian authorities who charged Nahed Hattar with ‘insulting Islam’ and the social media storm aroused by the cartoon he shared may not have murdered him but they provided his killers with the ideological ammo to shoot him,” wrote Khaled Diab, an Egyptian-Belgian writer.
Here is the offending cartoon:
- Election Success for Jordan’s Islamists: Cause for Concern? (clarionproject.org)