Connect to share and comment
Islam Samhan — found guilty of apostasy — jokes that his wife is to blame.
How Samhan came onto the radar of Islamists was a matter of chance. While he’s respected among Jordanian poets and artists, like contemporary poets anywhere in the world, he’s not exactly a public figure.
However, a local blogger, without any official background in poetry, came across Samhan’s work and wrote that the collection of poems was an affront to Islam. Shortly thereafter, a local radio station was interviewing the Mufti, Jordan’s spiritual leader, and the host asked for his opinion about the blogger’s interpretation of Samhan’s work.
“The Mufti said I was a kafir and against religion, and that I should be punished the way religion punishes kafirs, which is death,” recounts Samhan.
From that moment on, Samhan says his life forever changed.
He was briefly arrested before being let out on bail. His newspaper temporarily fired him, but allowed him to return on the condition that all his work was published without a byline. The harassment and threats started immediately, and his mentor at the paper told coworkers to stay away from Samhan because he was potentially violent and dangerous.
Still, Samhan was optimistic that he could win in court and clear his name. However, the court decided against him, and although he is now in the process of appealing the decision he has little hope things will work out in his favor.
“In the beginning I was against trying to seek asylum, but now I want to do it,” says Samhan, grimly joking that he would even go to Darfur or Somalia to get out of a Jordanian jail term. “I would do anything not to go to prison, because I have to support my family.”
But without any official offers for asylum, Samhan is resigned to the fact that he will likely go to prison. As the sole supporter of his wife, two children and extended family, he worries how they will survive.
“They destroyed so many things with their verdict,” says his wife, Nada, also a published poet. “They destroyed Islam and they destroyed the people around him.”
Samhan says that whatever happens, he won’t give up writing. “I will continue fighting against these dark forces and I will keep on loving life. These dark forces hate life and they want to spread darkness into white hearts,” he says.