Jordan Times, June 16, 2012
A debate erupted between two ladies on one of Facebook’s private political discussion groups after one lauded a writer for attacking the reform movement.
The writer had made quite credible remarks about the performance of the youth reform movement, which clearly struck a cord with one of the ladies who — as she clearly explained in many earlier comments — had had enough of the level of “indiscriminate criticism” of the system.
But in her rush to thank the writer, she plugged in a sentence about his integrity and clear allegiance and loyalty to Jordan since he “refused job offers abroad that would have given him thousands and thousands of JDs above his salary here”.
She felt that his rejection of those job offers was a clear sign of his love for his country, unlike those others — i.e., youth and other activists — who are constantly criticising the country. She was perhaps only one word short of calling the self-proclaimed reformists “riffraff”.
Several group members took offence at her categorisation and conclusions about allegiance to the country and Jordanian nationalism, but none more than another lady who immediately highlighted the misconception that anyone who leaves the country for a job abroad is somehow less Jordanian or less loving of Jordan.
This debate dredged up a quiet but critical discussion that had underlined the whole debate on reform in Jordan.
What is the proof of allegiance to King and country? What evidence can a citizen produce to underline his or her absolute love for this country and his/her concern over its stability, prosperity, advancement, etc.?
What hard verification support or documentation does a citizen need to produce to ward off questioning of his or her belonging to Jordan?
The democratic debate that we witnessed over the past year or so in Jordan has highlighted a dichotomy among citizens over what would place someone outside this “loyal Jordanian” circle.
The fact that someone somewhere decided early on in the “reform era” to organise some Jordanians in popular counter-activities under the heading of “wala and intimaa” or “belonging and allegiance” immediately placed reformists in the non-belonging and disloyal camp. This escalated and multiplied until it turned into an unacceptable — in my opinion — narrative of political approval and inclusion or exclusion.
This dividing narrative is also feeding into — and is being fed by — the hesitation by the government (and Parliament) to adopt a credible elections law that would embrace all Jordanians as equal citizens and give them not only an equal voice in the running of the country but also an opportunity to conduct democratic dialogue and negotiation through legitimate and wholly Jordanian political tools, i.e., homegrown political parties.
The first benefit of allowing Jordanians to organise themselves and be elected based on home-relevant political, economic and social platforms will be the elimination of this destructive categorisation of citizens into premier loyalists versus disruptive and disloyal elements.
Jordan needs us all to come together, with all our differences in origin, beliefs, opinions, work plans and priorities, and plug in all this wealth of knowledge and commitment for the collective benefit of the country and all its citizens.
The onus is on the government to lead the process of reunification of Jordanians under the banner and protection of a forward-thinking elections law. The one-man, one-vote law is a law that will continue to build divisions.
What we need now is an elections law that will build national bridges among political institutions that represent all citizens.