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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Latest on Islam Samhan - the young Jordanian poet now arrested and his work banned

October 23, 2008

by Suzan Abrams

For an earlier entry to this post as to why 27 year old Jordanian poet, Islam Samhan was arrested in Amman and his poetry collection called Grace like a Shadow, promptly banned by the Jordanian Government a couple of days ago, please see the entry below, over HERE or refer to my right sidebar.


The Jordanian Writers Association (JWA) together with The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists in Amman today came out in full force, to demonstrate a protective and blanketed defence over the arrest of young poet Islam Samhan who was alleged to have insulted Islam after throwing in verses from the Koran into his romantic poetry. Both associations demanded to stand behind the writer in full solidarity and support.

Apparently, if convicted, 27-year old Samhan who himself worked as a newspaper journalist faces an imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of JD20,000. I believe that the newspaper has now terminated his contract.

The 650-member association told the Jordan Times that Samhan's arrest was a worrying development as it signalled the curtailment of freedom and creativity in Jordan. The association also said that poets relied on a metaphoric language with unique characteristics about it and did not write Arabic in the ordinary way that most people do. For instance, Samhan had pleaded in court that he had used the word gods which had nothing to do with the Arabic but everything to do with Greek mythology. It was only a metaphor.

In another case, some of the poet's lines spoke of loneliness and compared its similarity to the prophet Yusuf in the Koran.

Unfortunately, one highly-powerful man became furious over the read and saw different.

The fatwa was issued by the Kingdom's mufti and top religious authority, Noah Alqdah, who labelled the poetry an act of blasphemy and Samhan, an infidel, although the association denies that the authority in question holds any specialised knowledge in poetry or literature and stood merely as one man's opinion.

Perhaps then a case of relative notion propelled to dangerous misgivings. This is the first time a religious authority has interfered with any form of a written, printed and published poetic expression in Jordan and the episode has caused feverish anxiety among writers in the country.

Samhan has denied he meant any harm. It did not help matters that his book was printed by an unlicensed press which makes him directly involved with an infringement of the law. His wife Nadia is pregnant. The deadly love poetry so passionately inscribed, were dedicated to her. They also have a 2 year old son, Ward. Islam Samhan's lawyer is Zeina Karadsheh.

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