“When there is no freedom, there is no creativity.” – Jordan Writers Association President, Soud Qbeilat, on the jailing of 27-year-old Jordanian poet Islam Samhan, who has been charged with insulting Islam and the Koran as well as violating the Press and Publications Law for incorporating Koranic verses in to his love poems. If found guilty he could face up to three years in jail and pay a maximum fine of 20,000JDs. However, Samhan has bigger problems. A fatwa issued by the Kingdom’s top religious authority has labeled the poet as a Kafir, or infidel. [source]
I just don’t know anymore. Journalists seem to get charged all the time, but it feels so abnormal when a poet faces jail time. It’s like a rare occurrence in the universe of free speech persecutions. It conjures up images of Arthur Miller at a McCarthy hearing. There’s just something utterly wrong about it. In the article, Qbeilat goes on to say that this really tarnishes the image of the country. Well, I doubt this will get picked up by anyone on the outside and there are worse things taking priority when it comes to image tarnishing, but it doesn’t help. It kind of makes us sound like China.
Moreover, this guy is still an up-and-coming poet in Jordan. He’s young and talented and it’s disheartening to his generation to see him face criminal charges for writing poetry, especially so early in his career.
I do hope these idotic charges are dropped. Ibrahim Nasrallah, another Jordanian poet who faced charges not too long ago, said it best:
in a courtyard full of grass
all things sing
and everyone dances
He said: Go ask that filly to dance
I was shy
He said: If poets lose
the world will not gain”