Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jordan: Poet accused of being enemy of Islam and arrested

Jordanian police arrested a local writer Tuesday for incorporating verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, into his love poetry, a judicial official said.

The poet, Islam Samhan, published his collection of poems, "Grace like a Shadow," without the approval of the Jordanian government, and authorities say it insults the holy book, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Samhan was charged with harming the Islamic faith and violating the press and publication law for combining the sacred words of the Quran with sexual themes.

Read more at Roanoke Times

This is an update on the following story...

AMMAN // When Islam Samhan recited his poetry about love, loneliness and life in front of a crowd at a culture club four months ago, he was given a standing ovation. But now, Samhan, 27, who is also a journalist, has been accused of apostasy, a crime that can carry the death sentence in the Islamic world.
Last week, Jordan’s grand mufti, Noah Alqdah Samas, the kingdom’s highest religious authority, called Samhan an enemy of religion for his poetry, some of which included lines comparing his loneliness to that of the prophet Yusuf in the Quran.
Now there are calls for the poet to be detained, his collection of poetry banned and the publishing house penalised. He is even receiving threatening phone calls to his private mobile number.
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.
He dismisses claims that he defamed or insulted the prophet or religion with his poems, but acknowledges that some of his verses may sound similar to the Quran because they were in Arabic.
“The Quran is in Arabic and I am influenced by my language and its rich terminology. Where I grew up, the Quran was sung and its music is still playing in my ears. I have read the Quran, and the Arabic language is that of the Quran.”
Defaming religion in Jordan, as in many Arab and Muslim countries, is a line that cannot be crossed. Although citing Quranic verses in poetry or literature is not forbidden, how they are used is what can cause problems.
In one poem, Samhan has his beloved 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.
The state-run Press and Publication Department has transferred Samhan’s case to court to decide if his book violates the law.


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