The assassination of a Jordanian writer who was under investigation for allegedly sharing a cartoon mocking the Islamic State has some very real lessons for American policy makers and the fight against global jihadism.
A prominent Jordanian writer facing charges for sharing a “blasphemous” anti-ISIS cartoon that outraged Muslim groups was fatally shot in Amman on Sunday, state news agency Petra reported.
Nahed Hattar, a member of the country’s Christian minority, was shot three times outside a courthouse in the capital where charges against him were being heard.
Public Security Department personnel, who were near the scene of the attack, rushed Hattar to a nearby hospital, but he died from his injuries, Petra reported.
Hattar was brought up on charges for sharing a cartoon that depicted a jihadist in bed with two naked women demanding that God bring him refreshments (thereby mocking ISIS members’ view of heaven). Hattar was charged with “inciting sectarian strife” for having shared an image that was “abusive to the divine entity,” according to state media reports.
Local authorities have arrested the attacker and an investigation is underway, but the attack would appear to be motivated by the high-profile case against Hattar.
The assassination itself is a tragedy — one that evokes painful memories of other extrajudicial Islamist killings in other Mideast regimes (which will be discussed later). But it also offers three very important lessons for those of us in the West.
1. Our allies still have Islamism problems, and that’s a problem for us
First, the fact that this happened in Jordan shows us that even our allies in the Middle East exhibit the same root problems that lead to the formation of jihadist terror organizations.
“Our challenge in the Middle East is that sharia supremacism fills all vacuums. It was this ideology that created ISIS long before President Obama came along,” writes Andy McCarthy at National Review. “And if ISIS were to disappear tomorrow, sharia supremacism would still be our challenge.”
Jordan has been one of the anti-ISIS coalition’s most visible and important players, but the weekend’s courthouse murder suggests that even the Hashemite monarchy run by King Abdullah II (and the beloved Queen Rania) isn’t free from the societal trends that feed the problem of Islamist supremacism.
“America needs to finally wake up,” says Dr. Zhudi Jasser, the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
Dr. Jasser is a prominent Muslim reformist, former U.S. religious freedom commissioner, and author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith.” The Muslim Reform movement, which he co-founded, names the “separation of Mosque and state” as a core tenet of its beliefs.
“Hattar was assassinated only after he was formally charged with the same kind of crime for which ISIS executes people on a daily basis,” said Jasser in an interview with Conservative Review Monday. “The only difference between countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia and ISIS is that the former two are corporate Sharia states … but they’re all drinking from the same ideology.”
When the United States refuses to acknowledge these trends in its foreign policy, it has the effect of “treating arsonists like firefighters,” he added.
That cases like Nahed Hattar’s persistently happen outside ISIS lines and beyond the control of the Iranian mullahs ought to show Americans that real peace in the Middle East won’t be achieved by balancing the region out with America-friendly, Sharia-based regimes, says Jasser. Rather, it’s going to take a much more stringent litmus test.
“When we realized that the Soviet Union has ideological, imperialist goals that involved spreading communism to every corner of the globe, we didn’t try to work with ‘moderate’ communists elsewhere in the world” to moderate the threat, Jasser explains, saying that American foreign policy should exhibit a similar commitment to only ally itself with regimes that do not function as Sharia states.
“This problem is not going to go away until we raise the bar for our allies,” he said. “It may seem far-fetched or quixotic, but there is no other alternative.”
2. This is bigger than one assassination
Second, Hattar was also a victim of one of one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world right now: blasphemy laws. The simple fact that Hattar was even facing charges for something as simple as a Facebook post speaks to a global attack on free speech that goes by several names. In several Muslim-majority nations, this trend takes the form of blasphemy laws, which carry heavy penalties — in many cases, death.
“The reason Nahed’s death is more shocking than others who have been executed under Draconian blasphemy laws is because Nahed simply shared the drawing — he didn’t even draw it himself. It shows us the depth of intolerance in regressive Muslim communities, even if that community is Jordan — a country hailed as being one of the few beacons of the Muslim world,” reads an emailed statement from CounterJihad.com’s Shireen Qudosi, who testified before congress last week.
“However,” she adds, “no society is truly progressive, stable, or capable of taking on the tide of Radical Islam unless it can champion free speech.”
Elsewhere in the world, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, has marked her seventh year on death row in Pakistan for having the audacity to drink water from the same glass as her Muslim co-workers, then subsequently refusing to convert to Islam in front of her co-workers. While Asia Bibi may be the world’s most visible symbol of the tyranny of blasphemy laws, she’s far from alone, as her case has also claimed the lives of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer, Pakistani politicians who were assassinated for daring to speak out on her behalf.
3. America isn’t that different from Jordan or Pakistan when it comes to free speech
Thirdly, sadly, as I have pointed out before, this is a problem outside the Muslim-majority world. In multiculturalist — or what R.R. Reno would more aptly call “non-judgementalist” — Europe, the anti-free speech phenomenon takes the form of so-called “hate speech” laws, where people have even been subjected to jail time for such offenses as giving a sermon about sexuality and marriage, or drunkenly speculating on the sexuality of a policeman’s horse.
Yes, an Oxford student was actually arrested for “hate speech” against a horse.
Meanwhile, the trend in the United States’ is to enact“non-discrimination” laws that prohibit any form of public dissent against the newest government-imposed view of marriage or human biology are taking root from coast to coast. Additionally, Qudosi tells CR, “countless critical thinkers in Islam — including Muslim Reformers like myself — are shamed, harassed, and threatened for the Constitutional values we espouse.”
The trends and laws that led to Nahed Hattar’s death in Jordan represent an egregious violence against basic human freedom. But those in a society dominated by political correctness need to remember that the only difference between these laws and the ones gaining ground in the West are the prevailing ideology and the degree of punishment — for now, at least.
“As long as America allows speech to be censored under a manipulation of the First Amendment and under the illusion of tolerance, America is not that different from Jordan in the challenges it faces,” CounterJihad’s Shireen Qudosi concludes. “American can no longer rally the Muslim world toward liberty and democracy, and not identify the cracks within its own walls.”
Hattar died a martyr to free speech, but he need not have died in vain, so long as freedom-loving countries and policy makers take heed of the lessons his death offered.