09/26/2016, 09.31
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Amman, Jordanian intellectual and journalist killed over anti-jihadist cartoon

Nahed Hattar was gunned down at the court entrance. He was on trial after spending two weeks in jail. His assassin is a well-known local imam, and he acted to "avenge the insult to God", already known to security forces as an extremist element. Muslim intellectual: "Terrorism is genetic in most of the Arab-Muslims".

Amman (AsiaNews) - The murderer of the writer and political activist Nahed Hattar, killed yesterday morning in front of Amman court, is Riad Abdullah, a local imam offended by the cartoon shared by Hattar and for which he had ended up in court.

Jordanian police sources say a witness described Abdullah as having a long beard and wearing a long dress, widespread practice among conservative Muslims in the Hashemite kingdom. The murder has caused deep shock and commotion in the capital, not only among activists and intellectuals but also among the civilian population.

Nahed Hattar had spent two weeks in prison and was recently released on payment of bail. He had ended up in jail in August for sharing an image on Facebook which, according to the governor of Amman, was disparaging of the "Divine Essence" and "instigation to inter-sectarian division."

The Muslim intellectual K.A. (who has asked that we publish only his initials for fear of retaliation) told AsiaNews that Nahed Hattar had undertaken "a war against Islamic extremists in the Arab world" and there were "millions of Muslims who demanded his death. "Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] is among us - he adds - and I have the impression that terrorism has become genetic in the majority of Arab-Muslims”.

Hattar was gunned down before the court, in the Abdali district in Amman. He was about to appear in  court, accompanied by some family members, to present his defense and related documents. The caricature, published last month, was not the work of Hattar and it had been deleted from his profile, as soon as controversy was aroused. It depicted a bearded man in bed with a woman, who asked for a figure believed to be the Creator to bring them wine and cashew nuts.

During interrogation the writer defended himself by saying that the caricature was nothing offensive to the "essence" of the Creator; on the contrary, it wanted to reflect on the abuse that is made of the divine by takfiri jihadists, who use the sacred to justify the demonic.

Hattar writer was a bitter enemy of jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (IS), al Qaeda and affiliates of all kinds. He was also a string critic of Saudi Wahhabis.

The Jordanian authorities have now said they had identified, arrested and interrogated the murderer. He is Riad Ismaeel Abdullah, 49 year-old Jordanian resident of the area east of Amman. He was known to Jordanian security forces as an extremist element.

According to preliminary police information reported by Jordanian press, the murderer had acted to "avenge the insult to God" inherent in the caricature.

The relatives of the writer refused to receive Hattar’s body for burial. They are crying out for justice and demand that first his killer be brought to trial, holding the government responsible. The murder has caused a sensation in among Amman’s politicians and intellectuals, many of whom believe that his anti-Saudi positions sparked his murder.

According to Khalil Harb, a Lebanese journalist with the daily As Safir, "Nahed (Hattar) is a martyr of journalism and freedom of thought. He was a sworn enemy of extremist thinking prevalent in the region and Wahabbi the movement, which legalizes – claiming to be based on the Koran - the bloodshed of Muslims around the world”.

For the Lebanese journalist "Nahed and all his colleagues are subjected to threats and campaigns in our world and are accused of being infidels because of their positions contrary to Saudi Arabia and the United States in the region". People close to Hattar report that the writer and activist had received death threats while he was in prison.

With his death, Jordan and the Muslim world have lost an enemy of terrorist and extremist Islam; an enemy of the genocide and violence committed in the name of Islam. A brave man who dared to openly criticize anyone and any country supporter of Takfiri groups. With him another voice of truth has been silenced. For many analysts it is a clear warning for those who dare to raise their voice against what is considered another form of terrorism: terror to externalize thoughts that may be different from the pack that follow the jihadists. (PB)

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