Activists protest indictment of poet
By Mohammad Ghazal
AMMAN - The Jordanian Writers Association (JWA) strongly criticised on Tuesday the indictment of poet Islam Samhan for allegedly insulting Islam after incorporating verses from the Holy Koran into his love poetry.
The writer was referred to the court by the Press and Publications Department (PPD) early this week for violating articles in the Press and Publications Law after he published his first poem collection “Grace Like a Shadow”.
“The prosecutor general of a magistrate’s court in Amman charged Islam Samhan with insulting Islam and the Koran as well as violating the Press and Publications Law,” Zeina Karadsheh, his lawyer, told Agence France- Presse.
But 27-year-old Samhan, who was arrested and detained on Sunday, denied the charges, saying that he did not mean to insult Islam or the holy book, according to the lawyer.
If convicted, Samhan faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of JD20,000, according to the news agency.
JWA President Soud Qbeilat voiced disappointment over the indictment of the young poet, who also works as a journalist at Al Arab Al Yawm newspaper.
“This is a strange decision and is a serious development. Such a measure is likely to suppress freedom and creativity,” the head of the some 650-member association told The Jordan Times in a telephone interview yesterday.
He noted that the language poets use is “metaphoric and has its unique characteristics. It is not like the ordinary Arabic that is used by ordinary people”.
“When there is no freedom, there is no creativity,” he said.
Qbeilat also protested a fatwa issued by the Kingdom’s mufti, the top religious authority, labelling Samhan as an infidel and describing the incorporation of Koranic verses in his poem collection as an act of blasphemy.
“They cannot charge Samhan on the basis on an opinion of a religious authority that is not specialised in poetry and literature. They should have consulted experts from the same domain. It is the first time that a religious authority interferes in interpreting the meanings of poetry. This will tarnish the image of Jordan,” Qbeilat added.
The JWA president said: “Our solidarity with Samhan is not that we agree or disagree with him. It is all about the freedom of expression.”
The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists also issued a statement Tuesday calling for the immediate release of Samhan.
Nabil Momani, director general of the PPD, said there was more than one reason behind the referral of Samhan to the prosecutor’s office.
The book was printed by an unlicensed press and thus the writer violated Article 35 of the Press and Publications Law, which stipulates that the writer or publisher of any book that is printed or published in the Kingdom should submit an advanced copy to the PPD, Momani said.
He added the case was referred to the legal authorities following a thorough examination by experts and specialists, who agreed there was a violation to Article 38 of the said law.
Article 38 stipulates that it is prohibited to publish any material that entails libel, slander or insult to any religion, in line with the Constitution.
The PPD chief said that the judiciary has the exclusive authority of imposing a ban or confiscating books under the 2006 Press and Publications Law, adding: “Our job is not to suppress freedoms, but when there is an infringement to the law, it is our duty to refer the case to the judiciary. We support Jordanian writers.”
“The issue is in the hands of the judiciary and we accept whatever ruling the court issues,” said Momani.
from the Jordan Times
Oct. 22, 2008