Jordan has stood out for its relative stability and religious tolerance in a region roiled by conflict. But the murder on Sunday of Nahed Hattar, a prominent secular writer, is an alarming sign that Jordan’s laws on defamation of religion encourage violent extremism.
Mr. Hattar was shot three times as he prepared to enter a court in Amman to face criminal charges related to a cartoon he had posted on Facebook. Riad Abdullah, a former imam known for his extremist views, was arrested and charged with premeditated murder. Mr. Hattar’s family is outraged, saying the government failed to protect the writer, despite being alerted of multiple death threats.
The cartoon, which depicted a bearded man, presumably in heaven, in bed with two women asking God to bring him wine and cashews, provoked an uproar in Jordan, where many saw the image as blasphemous. Though Mr. Hattar quickly removed the cartoon, deactivated his Facebook account and apologized, Jordanian authorities charged him with the crimes of “inciting sectarian strife” and insulting “other people’s religious feelings.” [NYTimes.com] Read more