- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

AMMAN, Jordan, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Three Jordanian journalists accused of slandering Prophet Mohammad and Islamic values were remanded to custody Sunday and their weekly publication was closed indefinitely.

Sources at Al Hilal weekly said the chief editor, managing editor and a writer of the article were expected to be released on bail as defense lawyers were "trying to work out a deal" with the State Security Court prosecution to secure their freedom.

Authorities also detained the chairman of the weekly but released him on bail Thursday after the press syndicate intervened on his behalf.

The military prosecution accused the editors of insulting Islam in an article in its latest issue discussing one of Prophet Mohammad's wives, Aisha. The article, "Aisha — God divinely prevented flies from landing on her body," was deemed offensive.

The prosecution charged Al Hilal and its editors with "insulting the family of the prophets," in reference to a detailed article taken from a book on Prophet Mohammad.

They were also charged with "publishing an article disparaging the dignity and reputation of the state, harming the dignity of individuals, and shaking the basic principles of society through spreading false rumors."

Al Hilal, which describes itself as an independent Arab newspaper, was founded less than a year ago by a group of veteran Jordanian, pro-establishment journalists.

Publishing sources said the article on Aisha was an edited excerpt of a book by the writer of the article, Belkassem Ahmad. They said the book was in Jordan's open market.

Referring to Islamic scholars, the article discussed the private life of Prophet Mohammad with his youngest wife.

In an editor's note introducing the article, Al Hilal wrote: "Why was the prophet less sexual in his first marriage, and why did that change when he married the young woman and had the sexual vigor of 40 men?"

Sub-headlines read: "A new reading in the sexual mythology in Islam" and "Aisha was different (than his other wives) in her virginity."

The article argued that, unlike the prophet's other wives, Aisha's virginity when she wed Mohammad had given her an edge in sexual relations with her husband, as it did the eventual political power she enjoyed during his life and after his death.

Although the writer referred to writings of historical Islamic scholars, publicly discussing the issue of the prophet's sexuality has generally been deemed as disdainful in Muslim societies.

An independent Muslim scholar in Amman said a public debate of "such a private matter regarding Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, have always been controversial, if only because these allegations have never been accurately verified."

But the prosecution's charges against the newspaper for "harming the dignity of the state" and "publishing rumors" stemmed from another article in the same issue titled "The revolution of citizenship."

The commentary criticized the "old guard" surrounding King Abdullah II and reported that the monarch intended on changing his senior palace aides to move forward with reforms that provide equality to all Jordan's citizens.

Written by "the political editor," the writer said the "revolution led by the king for the sake of citizenship can only succeed, and all those who obstruct the royal revolution in the Jordanian administration will jump off the boat of change."

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