Jordan: When Poetry Is "Illegal"

Jordan’s image in the Western world is one of moderation and modernism, especially compared to other Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia. It is, after all, a country with a King who is a friend to America and Europe and a glamorous wife who champions charitable causes around the world.

So it is difficult to reconcile that image with the news that Jordanian police today arrested a poet. His crime? Incorporating verses of the Koran into his love poetry.

Officials reportedly said Islam Samhan’s work insults Islam’s holy book and that he published his collection of poems, “Grace like a Shadow,” without the approval of the Jordanian government.

According to the Associated Press, 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.”

The 27-year old poet could face up to three years in jail.

But this is not the first time Jordanian authorities have interpreted the country’s publication laws to imprison authors.

More from AP:

“More than two years ago, the court convicted the editors of two weekly newspapers of insulting Islam and sentenced them to two months in prison after they reprinted Danish newspaper caricatures of Muhammad.

Jordanian writers and artists urged the government in a collective petition to immediately release the poet, saying the arrest is a “retreat in the freedom of expression,” and called for an end to the “oppression of freedom and intimidation practiced against intellectuals.”

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