Jordanian Christian Writer Shot to Death Over Cartoon Said To Offend Islam

A prominent Jordanian Christian writer was fatally shot Sunday in Amman while entering the courthouse to face trial.
A relative of the Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar holds his picture during a sit-in in the town of Al-Fuheis near Amman, Jordan, 25 September 2016 Reuters

A prominent Jordanian writer, who was also a Christian, was fatally shot Sunday in Amman while entering the courthouse to face trial.

Political activist Nahed Hattar died from three bullet wounds, state-run news agency Petra reported.

Hattar was arrested last month for posting a cartoon on Facebook that many Muslims found offensive because they believed it was an insult to the god of Islam.

The cartoon supposedly depicted a man in paradise, smoking in bed with two women beside him and talking to Allah who asked, “Do you need anything?,” to which the man replied, “Yes, Lord, bring me wine, cashews and an immortal servant to come clean the floor.”

The image was titled “the god of Daesh.”

When the cartoon gained negative reaction, Hattar deleted it and explained it wasn’t an insult to the god of Islam. Instead, he said, it was meant to show the wrong beliefs of the extremist group ISIS. However, many Muslims, including the government, was offended by the post.

The 56-year-old writer was supposed to attend a hearing in court when he was shot dead. Hattar was rushed to a hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after, according to Petra.

A witness who didn’t want to be identified told the Associated Press the shooter was “standing at a short distance of about one meter (yard) in front of Nahed on the stairs of the Supreme Court."

The shooter, according to the witness, had long beard and wore a long grey robe typically worn by conservative Muslims.

"This killer drew his weapon from his briefcase, or the bag he was holding, and shot Nahed Hattar’s chest, causing Hattar to fall to the ground. He then shot at him again, a second, third … ,” another witness, Mohammad Jughbeir, said, according to Reuters. Jughbeir was standing near Hattar when the crime was committed.

Local media said officials who refused to be named identified the shooter as 49-year-old Riad Abdullah, a former imam from Hashmi.

Authorities have not confirmed the shooter’s identity but said he has already confessed to the crime. He reportedly shot Hattar out of anger over the cartoon the writer posted on social media. The shooter said he acted alone and was not working with any group.

The shooter was charged with premeditated murder, possession of an unlicensed firearm and committing a deadly terrorist act. Authorities said investigations are going on, and the shooter will remain in custory for 15 days while waiting for the case to be turned over to the State Security Court.

Hattar was a known anti-Islamist activist. The Shi’ite Hezbollah group from Lebanon considered him as a “brave and vocal voice” against the Takfiris, a derogatory term used to refer to Sunni fundamentalists like Daesh.

Hattar’s family condemned Jordanian government for inciting the public against him.

“Many fanatics wrote on social media calling for his killing and lynching, and the government did nothing against them,” they said in a statement.

Government spokesperson Mohammad Momani said the government will not allow anyone to use the recent killing to further incite hatred among the people.

"The government will strike with an iron hand all those who exploit this crime to broadcast speeches of hatred to our community," he said.

PEN International, a worldwide group of writers, condemned the killing of Hattar and called for an immediate repeal of religious insult laws.

"Use of these laws is making targets of writers, cartoonists, journalists and others who are merely exercising their right to freedom of expression,” Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee, said in a statement.

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