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Hundreds gather for funeral of murdered Jordanian writer

Nahed Hattar, a Jordanian writer whose murder outside an Amman court sparked public outcry in Jordan, was laid to rest on Wednesday as hundreds of mourners gathered to bid him goodbye.
Relatives and activists carry the body of Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, who was shot dead, during his funeral in the town of Al-uheis near Amman, Jordan, September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Relatives and activists carry the body of Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, who was shot dead, during his funeral in the town of Al-uheis near Amman, Jordan, September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

FUHEIS // Nahed Hattar, a Jordanian writer whose murder outside an Amman court sparked public outcry in Jordan, was laid to rest on Wednesday as hundreds of mourners gathered to bid him goodbye.

His brother Majed stood in front of the open wooden casket at a Catholic church in Fuheis, a predominantly Christian town near Amman. The building was packed full with family members, friends, former officials and supporters, and many mourners were forced to sit outside.

Hattar, 56, an outspoken leftist and secular writer from a Christian family, was shot dead on Sunday as he arrived at court to face charges after sharing a cartoon on Facebook last month deemed offensive to Islam.

“Differences are discussed through a dialogue, not through bloodshed,” said the priest conducting the funeral. “May his soul rest in peace in the kingdom [of God] where there is freedom, where there is love.”

Hattar’s casket was draped with a three-metre-long Jordanian flag before family members carried it inside the church.

“His funeral was a national event and he was buried like a statesman,” said Saad Hattar, 55, a cousin. “I hope [his death] will be a wake up call for the government to combat the radicals and their hate speech.”

Nahed Hattar was detained last month and charged with offending Islam, insulting religion and inciting sectarian strife and racism after he shared a cartoon on Facebook that depicted God and heaven. The cartoon was intended to lampoon how ISIL perceives the afterlife but sparked anger in the kingdom. Before Wednesday Hattar’s family, who blame the government for his death, had been refusing to collect his body in protest. They accuse the government of not providing Hattar with protection, despite the fact he had received numerous death threats, and say prime minister Hani Mulki should never have ordered an investigation into the writer’s sharing of the cartoon.

Hattar’s relatives finally agreed to collect his body just three hours before the funeral, after the government agreed to go after those who had called for his death.

Known for his critical views on Jordanians of Palestinian origin and a staunch supporter of the Assad regime in Syria, Hattar was a controversial figure even before sharing the cartoon, and had many enemies.

Some of his relatives believe he was killed, not because of the cartoon, but because he spoke openly against Jordan being an alternative homeland for Palestinians, as well as government corruption.

“He is a martyr,” said Mary Hattar, 58, another cousin who attended the funeral. “The caricature was only used as means to incite people against him ... it was settling political scores.”

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: September 29, 2016 04:00 AM

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