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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jordanian poet arrested for apostasy

That moderate Arab friend of ours, Jordan, has just arrested a poet for "apostasy" two weeks after Jordan's Grand Mufti declared the artist as an "enemy of Islam."

The poet, 27-year old Islam Samhan, published a collection of his poems eight months ago. Only recently has this been noticed by the Grand Mufti, and Jordan now says that this publication was "illegal" as every published work must be registered with Jordan's Press and Publication Department. Samhan claims that it was registered.
All this comes as something of a surprise to Samhan, whose book, In a Slim Shadow, published eight months ago, is a collection of his best work over the past decade. The ministry of culture even bought 50 copies.

The offensive poems include:

One that compares the poet's loneliness to that of the biblical Joseph, called Yusuf in the Quran. (This one is the one that caught the Mufti's attention.)

In a second, Samhan has a character address God, which his critics say personifies God.

In another the woman is talking to God while lying beneath a see-through sheet. Samhan said he was referring to the gods of Greek mythology.

Again, this is not Saudi Arabia or Iran. This is the Jordan that is often described in the Western media as "cosmopolitan" with a thriving nightlife - and a plethora of massage parlors.

It is instructive that the Mufti made his accusations weeks ago, on literature published months ago, after the author has publicly read from his works to acclaim. Jordan's authorities clearly felt pressure from the religious establishment to cave to 7th century theocratic mores.