Jordanians protest after killing of prominent writer

World Today

A man holds a picture of Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar during a sit-in in the town of Al-Fuheis, near Amman, Jordan, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Hattar was shot dead Sunday, in front of the courthouse where he was on trial for sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Almost 200 protesters gathered in front of the Prime Ministry in Amman on Monday, speaking out against violence and extremism after a prominent writer was shot dead.

The writer, Nahed Hatter, was killed on Sunday outside the court where he was to stand trial on charges of contempt of religion after sharing on social media a caricature seen as insulting Islam, witnesses and state media said.

The gunman was arrested at the scene, state news agency Petra said. A security source said he was a 39-year-old Muslim preacher in a mosque in the capital.

Protesters held up pictures of Hattar and signs that read, no to violence, no to extremism.

Lawyer and activist at the protest, Omar Atout, said Hattar did not commit any crimes.

“Freedom of speech is absolute, as long as you have committed no crimes. Nahed Hattar did not draw the caricature, he only shared it. This cartoon refers to the god of Daesh, not to the God of muslims, so I do not think he committed a crime by sharing this caricature,” he said.

Hattar, a Christian and an anti-Islamist activist, was arrested last month after sharing on social media a caricature depicting a bearded man in heaven smoking in bed with women and asking God to bring him wine and clear his dishes.

A woman at the protest said that freedom of speech must be protected.

“The purpose of us being here is to prove that the voice of freedom must remain alive, the Jordanian voice of freedom. Regardless of sects or beliefs or sex or any other considerations, the voice of Jordanians must reign free, without assassinations,” said Nany Shahateet.

Many of Jordan’s conservative Muslims considered Hattar’s move deeply offensive. Still, such politically motivated assassinations are rare in the U.S.-backed Arab kingdom, whose relative stability has distinguished it from war-ravaged neighbors such as Syria and Iraq.

Two witnesses said the gunman was wearing a traditional Arab dishashada, worn by ultra-conservative Sunni Salafis who adhere to a puritanical version of Islam and shun Western lifestyles.

While many Jordanians thought Hattar had crossed a red line with the caricature, some of his secular and liberal supporters said his arrest was a breach of freedom of speech.

Hattar had apologized on social media and said he did not mean to insult God but had shared the cartoon to mock fundamentalist Sunni radicals and what he said was their vision of God and heaven. He had accused his Islamist opponents of using the cartoon to settle scores with him.

Story by Reuters.