Jordanian Poet Charged of Renouncing Islam Pleads not Guilty

Published June 16th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

By Nazih Abu Nidal 

Amman -- 


A Jordanian poet who allegedly wrote blasphemous poems has appeared in court on charges of “ridda” -- renouncing Islam, where he pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, he faces a forced divorce from his wife, and his assets confiscated among other punishments. 

Poet and Journalist Moussa Hawamdeh told Friday that he was arrested at his house in Amman Thursday morning, and taken to a Sharia (Islamic Law) court in Marka, east of Amman, where Judge Mustafa Mufti read the indictment 

The public prosecutor referred Hawamdeh the court following protests against the publication in 1999 of his poetry collection "My Trees are Taller." 

The accusation of apostasy is based on verses in a poem called "Joseph" in which Hawamdeh says the wife of the “Aziz” of Egypt (prime minister at the Pharaohs’ time), who according to the Quran tried to seduce Joseph, "never in fact laid eyes on him." 

He said an Egyptian lady wouldn’t have fallen of love with an Israeli boy “who worked as baker and a guard.” 

According to Hawamdeh's poem, Joseph "imagined that the queen loved him although she was purer than him" and believed that "Egyptian women sleep with Israelis and adore Mossad men" -- Israeli secret agents. 

Some religious leaders branded the poet an "apostate" when the book was published and called for his death, prompting the government to withdraw the book in March and warn people not to take the law into their own hands, said AFP. 

The Jordanian law punishes abusing Islam with up to three years, and no less than six months in prison and a fine, unless the defendant retracts his/her blasphemy. Hawamdeh told the judge he saw no reason to retract something he did not say. 

“This charge is baseless,” the poet said he told the court, “because poetry is built on metaphors. I am a Muslim and a believer in the Quran and the prophets. He added that, in his poem, he used “the new Joseph” as the symbol of the Zionists.  

By Zulaikha, the premier’s wife, he was alluding to the Arab nation victimized by the Zionists, who are not true descendents of the prophet, the poet said.  

The next court session will take place Sunday. If convicted, Hawamdeh, who is out on bail, can take his case to the Sharia court of appeal – 


© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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