June 12, 2006

Zarqawi, Israel, and Freedom of Expression in Jordan

The Jordanian blogosphere has been up in arms over the actions of a few parliamentarians who are members of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front (IAF) party. The four men visited the family of Zarqawi and mourned his death, calling him a "martyr." Since then they have been attacked by many people in Jordan who believe that showing such public support for a known enemy of Jordan, the man who was behind the Nov. 11th terrorist attacks, is disrespectful and even treasonous. The response has been quick, which resulted in the arrest of the 4 MP's for investigation and possibly facing serious charges.

Today, a protest was held in front of that Parliament headquarters to denounce the actions of those MP's. Fellow blogger Roba is angered by the lack of diversity, large turnout, and organization at the protest.

The death of Zarqawi and the recent Israeli attack on a Palestinian beach goers has dominated the headlines in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Many people in the Arab world found it hard to deal with both events. They lashed out against Israel for the recent atrocity, which they believe could only happen with the support of the US. The killing of Zarqawi was hailed by the US as a huge achievement, but many in the Middle East are hesitant to express their support for US actions in Iraq.

While they may agree that Zarqawi is a cold-blooded murderer, they feel that supporting his capture would indicate support for the US occupation and denouncement of any resistance to such occupation. The latter is a sentiment few in the Muslim world want to express. With all the suffering faced by their fellow Iraqis, the US occupation has become the enemy, and resistance to such occupation is sometimes glorified despite reservations about Iraqi civilians being the target of these "resistance movements".

So what does this have to do with the IAF and freedom of expression in Jordan?

I believe that these spiraling events are connected in a complex web in the Arab and Muslim mind, as well as in the actions of the governments of the Middle East.

Jordanian officials have allowed a protest to be held for citizens to express their anger at a certain event, the IAF fiasco. There is no doubt that the Jordanian government benefits from such public sentiments against the largest Islamic party which also happens to be the main opposition party in parliament. Just because the government benefits from this fiasco, however, I am in no way indicating that there is a government *conspiracy* to make the party look bad. The MP's apparently have no PR skills whatsoever, and do not seem to care that their actions reflect on the whole party, whether the latter agrees or not. And that they are representatives of the people, and not just their party, so their actions are always scrutinized.

Nevertheless, the fact that the government has nurtured this public outcry and allowed the protest would seem to be a positive step in regards to freedom of expression and assembly in Jordan...right?

Not quite.

The government reaction to this outcry appears to be exceptional and exclusive in nature. One would imagine that any other public outcry against any other government action would be welcomed as well, but that is truly not the case. One would imagine that the public is always allowed to express concern over members of government who appear to be supporting a known enemy of the state and the people. But again, that is not the case.

In the aftermath of the Amman hotel bombings, for which Zarqawi claimed responsibility, he has surely become a known enemy of the state of Jordan and the people of Jordan (ideally). Coincidentally, the people of Jordan also consider Israel an enemy, despite the fact that the government does not. Jordanians consider Sharon and Olmert enemies, despite the fact that the government provides them with the red carpet treatment and official state visits.

In a democratic environment, the people would be allowed to protest both of their enemies and anyone who supports those enemies. They would be allowed to protest in front of the Israeli embassy without being attacked by dogs, water pumps, and riot police. They would allowed to have a referendum on peace with Israel. Their consideration of Israel as an enemy would be implemented by law, and their representatives would be able to truly express the sentiments of their constituents. Of course I realize that Jordan is not a democracy, but it is considered one of the more open and reform minded countries in the Middle East.

My concern is not that people who attack Zarqawi should also attack Israel. That is their personal choice. I don't want to connect the Palestinian-Israeli issue to every other issue in the Middle East (although I could). I simply want to point out that all these issues which mean so much to people in the Arab and Muslim world are continuously exploited in various ways by individuals officially in power or others who have a significant amount of influence on the population. A citizen feels anger or happiness, but he cannot express those feelings unless the government agrees with him. Otherwise, any such expression will result in repression.

I want Jordanians and all other Arabs and Muslims to be able to protest the actions of government officials who support an individual, or party, or state that most consider their enemy. No exceptions.

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16 Comments:

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Nas said...

i agree with you to an extent. there must be a realization that there is a difference between a state and a person. zarqawi has committed treason by blowing up his own people, Israel has not attacked Jordan since the peace treaty (long before then).

Jordan has a vested interest in preserving and striving for diplomatic relations with Israel. It is there whether people like it or not and it must be dealt with instead of ignored.

That being said people should have the right to protest them.

KEEP IN MIND HOWEVER. that before the 11/9 protests...the biggest protests in the kingdom were by far and large those which were anti-Israel during the 2nd intifada. I was one of thousands and thousands who protested outside the parliament. They even drove us there in school buses during school hours. the country shut down for anti-Israeli protests when mohammad was murdered by the IOF.

in 2002 there were protests against the Jenin Masacre. and before any of these dates there have been many anti-Israeli protests that I can recall.

thanks

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous urdunieh said...

hey Moi, excellent post.. i completely agree..freedom of expression for everyone. i recall when some members of the IAF and other citizens wanted to protest the increase in gas prices they were not given a permit to protest because the govt didnt want any sort of opposing opinions publicly expressed. I really like the way you took a look at this issue from a different angle. good job!

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the reasons IAF-sponsored protests often face government resistance/pressure/closure is simply because often IAF sponsored protests speak of -- either implicitly or explicitly -- of the downfall of the Jordanian government. The protests Nas describes do show that people in Jordan can protest against things other than what the government explicitly wants -- the gov't with Israel vs. the people against Israel scenario. But when those protests might veer into territory that threatens the state, such as IAF sponsored events, the state is hesitant to allow them and unlikely to provide open support. As you note, Jordan is not a democracy. Even in a full-blown democracy, it makes people a bit uneasy to call for the downfall of the government (however that "downfall" may be described). But in Jordan, where things are at best "shaky," it should come as no surprise that IAF/Brotherhood actions are not welcomed. It'd be like welcoming a knife in the back. Many might've argued against this logic prior to these most recent events, believing in their hearts that the IAF had the good of the kingdom foremost on their minds. It should be much clearer now that the IAF does NOT have Jordan's interests at heart -- a thought worth noting when considering the recent Hamas debacle. ~ The Informer

 
At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Since "Black September" days Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan exists solely due to Israeli protection garanties, explicitly given by then Prime Minister Golda Meir. You may like it or not, bit THIS makes you subject of your king, and not to some crazy Baathist fuherer in Bagdad or Damascus. Now go, get permission and demonstrate to your heart desire.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger guess who said...

Andy, What are you trying to accomplish by suggesting PM Golda Meir was/is a saviour of Jordan? Can you please direct me to the document that King Hussain and PM signed that explicitly state such arrangement? Or is it that you heard it or read it "somewhere". Besides, when did you started believing that "subjects" are dieing for His Majesty! Even if we were to believe what you stated that again goes on to show that it is israel's and US policy to keep those in power who serve their interests no matter what "subjects" think of them. If you want solution, let people decide for themselves who they want to elect and what form of Govt. they want! Israel and US have to stop their dirty politics in Mid East. How can Qaddafi become Mr Good all of a sudden and where is that axis of evil? So stop your BS now. I strongly urge moi to block him because he is only here to annoy and BS around.

 
At 12:33 AM, Blogger Fatima said...

Well said, moil.

 
At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Jameel said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be hinting that since both Zarqawi and Israel are cold-blooded murderers and since the Jordanian government is having diplomatic relations with Israel then it is all right for the IAF and Hamas to mourn Zarqawi.
This seems (to me) to be the point you are indirectly trying to make.
One more thing, Zarqawi is not just the enemy of Jordan; he is the enemy of Muslims and Arabs. He is a cold-blooded murderer not better than Ariel Sharon.

 
At 9:56 AM, Blogger moi said...

Nas--I realize that there is a difference between a state and an individual, but what I'm saying is that since both are considered enemies of the people, the public should be allowed to express dissent at certain government policies. Bin Laden hasn't directly killed Jordanian citizens, does that mean he's not our enemy? He did, however, plan attacks that killed thousands of other human beings, like Israel. Despite the fact that Israel has not attacked Jordan, Jordanians consider it an enemy because it has caused death and misery for their Palestinian brethren. My concern is not with the advantages of making peace with Israel.
Finally, yes, Jordanian officials do allow some protests when things reach a boiling point, but only then. You are aware of the tight security during the JU elections so as to prevent any protests, and even now, most Jordanians would not consider holding a protest over recent actions because it's simply a risk that might cause loss of limb, life, or freedom. Thanks for your input.

urdunieh--Exactly, my point is that people should be allowed to voice their concerns about any issue, economic, social or political. Thanks for your kind words.

Anonymous--My focus is not only on the IAF. I'm sure that many other Jordanians who are not affiliated with the IAF would like to protest Israeli atrocities. They can be secularists, communists, socialists, or what have you, and they also should be allowed to voice their concerns. Are you going to tell me that even these individuals or anyone supporting the Palestinian struggle cannot be considered a patriotic Jordanian who does have Jordan's interests in mind?
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security" -B. Franklin.

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger moi said...

Andy--I'm not sure I understand your point.

guess who-- I agree with your point regarding the US keeping dictators in power as long as they serve their interests. This is one the root causes of instability and lack of democracy in the region. I don't block commentators, but I do delete comments that include personal attacks or obscenities. Thanks for your comment.

Fatima--thanks.

Jameel--I will correct you, because I might not have been clear enough in my post :) I am in no way supporting the actions of the IAF members, nor saying that we should have relations with Zarqawi or his cronies. I'm saying that since the government has allowed Jordanians to protest the actions of the IAF members, it should also allow them to protest the actions of Israel. If the Jordanian people have been offended by the IAF members who supported an enemy of the Jordanian people, then the public should also be allowed to protest other public officials who support another enemy of the Jordanian people, Israel. And if it wasn't clear to you in this post that I consider Zarqawi and the like enemies of Muslims worldwide, then please refer to this previous post . I hope that clarifies my argument.

 
At 6:19 PM, Anonymous hasan said...

zarqawi, bin laden and any muslims killing and destrotying unjustly is a bigger enemy to muslims more than a million sharons.

Its because we muslims are like this today, that god has punished us by our own making. Who in their right mind today would expect god to give us any sort of help?

The 67 war was a perfect replica of the 1st crusdades when some muslim amirs would ally with some frankish kings against other muslim amirs. No wonder the muslims lost all of syria, palestine and jordan in the 11th century.

They were busy getting drunk and fighting each other, murdering and plundering.

When will we learn that its not the enemy that is causing our demise, its our own mistakes.

I say we stop blaming the other sides mistakes and start by fixing ours. As for the other side, God will deal with them fairly on the day of judgment.

We are hostages of our own deeds.

 
At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Jameel said...

Thank you for the clarification. Now that I finally get it, I totally agree with you on the right of people to demonstrate and protest ANYTHING, whether it is Israeli brutality, government corruption or even the new World Cup Ball. As for the double standards of the Jordanian Government, I can only say that this is the least of their many faults.
One more thing, condemning the actions of the IAF and Hamas should not be taken by anyone as an approval of the Jordanian Government or it’s credibility (like in the Hamas arms case for example), just because one side is at fault does not mean the other is not.

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger moi said...

Hasan--I totally agree with your first sentence.

Jameel--No problem :)
On your final point, I completely agree as well and made this comment on other blogs but not in this post. I noticed that the protesters were carrying pictures of the king and chanting their support for the government. What does that have to do with the actions of the IAF? This just makes the protesters look like government mouthpieces. Just because one opposes the actions of the MP's, shouldn't necessarily mean that he/she is an "agent" of the government or that he/she is in full agreement with the government.

The root cause of this problem, I think, is that the current political situation in Jordan shows that there are only two sides to any debate, the IAF one and the government one. No other party/tribe/individual has the following or organizational skills that these two possess. I don't, however, believe that this is an accurate representation of the Jordanian population.

 
At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

My respect to Hasan. I also have no problem with Arabs. I see (more or less) what they want - Middle East without Israel. No problem with this - let's see who has more staying power. My problem is with my fellow Israelis. I cannot possibly see what our present government wants. Also, you've got some sort of stability (the Hashemis), while we're in constant turmoil of (pseudo)democratic elections. We can have our king also, of course, but the candidate must go LONG WAY proving his descent from King David (peace be on him). The Jews will have no other..:)

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous DEA said...

Hey Moi!
Here is a cool website I recommend for you about a woman under occupation in gaza, born and raised in the states, I think you\ll like it:-
http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com

fe amanillah

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger moi said...

DEA--I'm a big fan of Laila's blog. I have her listed on my blogroll on the right. Thanks anyway, and welcome to my blog :)

 
At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Hasan said...

The reason the Islamic empire prosperd from its birth until the 12th centurey is because the Islamic leaders followed the Quran and the citizins in turn left no chance for any corrupt khaleefah, ameer, and commander to stay in power after his mistakes.

Even Omar ibn Al Khattab, the khalifa that destroyed the persian might, and pushed Heraculos of Byzantia out of Syria, who was feared by all muslims and non muslims alike, but trusted him with justice, when he asked muslims what would they would do if he decided to turn his head away from right, one man stood up amongst the men and shouted that the sword will straighten his head if he did so.

Leaders like Omar, Abu Baker, Othman, followed the Quran, lived by right, and not by wrong, were pushed to great achievments and victories by God. Because God will only help us when we listen to him.

Muslims lost Jeruslem for the 1st time not because the Crusdaders were stronger or numerous. Muslims didn;t lose Spain because the european christians were stronger or more in number...They lost because they were living even more corrupt than today. But when victorious, muslims never fought with numbers or weapons, they fought with their religion, their good deeds, their rightious lives. Thats how a muslim army of 30,000 can beat an army of 160,000 persians in al qadisyeh battle.

All the achievments in science and medicne were a result of humans dedicating their lives to whats good, benificial to everyone, not just to them selves.

Face it, we are not perfect. God made an example of us back then for us today to learn from it.

All we have to do when we wonder why is that god is not helping us is, look around us and see how we are living.

I seriously recommend that we read our own history 1st so we can understand why we are in this situation today, and also how we can bring our selves out of it.

 

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