Cartoons and Muslim countries have a long and troubling history, including the Danish cartoons that led to a global spasm of violence where Muslims killed Christians and burned churches in retaliation of an insult to Mohammad. The fact that cartoons are satire or that this is an exercise of free speech has little meaning in countries that punish blasphemy and many which follow medieval Sharia law. Many view Jordan as one of the more progressive Arab countries, but that reputation has been severely undermined by a ridiculous and abusive arrest of Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar for merely sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Muslims. Notably, the cartoon actually mocked terrorists and their expectations of virgins and heavenly rewards for murdering people. Mocking the terrorists over such beliefs was deemed as a criminal insult to Islam.
The creator of the cartoon is unknown but it shows a fighter from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) sitting next to two women and asking God to bring him a drink. That would seem an insult to the extremists and terrorists who are routinely denounced by Muslims as betraying their religion. However, Muslims in Jordan were outraged and demanded the arrest of Hattar for simply sharing the cartoon on social media.
Hattar tried to explain his motive in exposing the hypocrisy of Islamic terrorists but that did not help.
Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood called for his arrest. Weirdly, fellow writer Fahad al Khitan is quoted as saying “This whole controversy was politically motivated by Hattar and his opponents who took advantage of this issue to take revenge against him for his controversial and often offensive political stances.” Really, he just shared a cartoon and exercised free speech. How is his actions in using free speech equivalent to the government and the Muslim Brotherhood criminalizing speech? Yet, that point was also missed by Reem al Jazi, a well-known Jordanian civic activist, who said that “Hattar is a racist and bigoted individual,” and that he had caused offence to “everyone, not just Muslims”. She noted that he is a “nonbeliever.” I find Jazi far more offensive in her views as basic civil liberties. Whether Hattar is a “nonbeliever” or not, it is clear that many leading Jordanian writers are nonbelievers in free speech.