How to Respond to Fire; Asserting the Self while Avoiding Hypocrisy

"In Remembrance," by Alosh Bennett; CC-by-2.0

It is difficult to overcome the shock generated by the brutal assassination of Lt. Moath Kasasbeh. Indeed in many ways, I—and many like me—have yet to do so. Throughout the ordeal which was brought some closure by the awful news Tuesday, Jordanians, Arabs, and Muslims alike were of many minds. From anger towards ISIS to self-questioning of the country’s role in in the anti-ISIS coalition; from a proportionally cruel response to a calculated power-play, or a pragmatic non-response; from an impulse to double-down on the offense to withdrawing from intervention; we have felt it all, thought it all, and wanted it all.

The need to bring retribution onto those who are too cruel to even respect the last moment of another human is eating at all of us. How could one possibly bring appropriate retribution onto inhumane organizations without descending to proportional inhumanity? How do we resist blood thirsty revenge while still asserting that we—the honorable, peace-loving people of the world—exit, that we have might, that we have true red-lines that cannot be crossed? How does one assert anything when up against a force that it itself uses violence and terror?

Reclaiming Culture and Religion as a Duty

Certainly, the answer our response cannot be nothing. Nothing is not on the table. Our religions, culture, and region are too close to our heart to let them by hijacked by thought that promotes violence and barbarism. We must do something; something to reclaim our religions of peace, to reclaim our culture who—not too long ago—was known as a culture of hospitality and generosity.

The continued existence of the so-called “Islamic State” puts those things we hold near and dear in jeopardy. ISIS is not merely transforming the borders, bureaucracies, and institutions of neighboring countries; it is transforming the Arab culture I love and cherish, it is projecting a new radicalized Islam that is tipping scales, shifting spectra, and redefining what it means to moderate.

By participating in the anti-ISIS coalition, we are not intervening in an external matter, we are simply taking charge of our destiny. A continued, strong participation in the efforts against ISIS (both militarily and intellectually) is a matter of sovereignty and self-determination; we must reclaim our culture and religion from extremist radical thought.

Resisting Revenge

Yet, as we respond—militarily and otherwise—it remains imperative not to become the enemy. As the impulse for proportional retribution eats at each and every one of us, some have felt inclined to call for mass-bombings, burning, even gassing and chemical attacks as appropriate responses in moments of anger. Those should likely be off the table, when it comes to the list of appropriate responses. But what is left on?

A shorthand is to realize that actions with no utility cannot be on the table. Refining this shorthand further, we can say that destructive action whose only utility is to gratify our need for revenge and retribution is not permissible.

Indeed, framing a response in terms of its utility, the positive outcomes it generates, is a powerful first step in the healing process after having faced injustice. A proportional response should be of some benefit. This benefit can lie on many axes and is important to consider such axes individually.

In the international sphere and global balance of power, establishing steadfastness is disproportionately effective. Steadfastness is equally important in the global PR battle for the minds of young Muslims to prevent their radicalization. Steadfastness taking a public stance on ISIS and the radicalization of Islam, and taking action—some action—against those in our custody who directly support and promote such radicalization.

It is also important to realize the existence of a radicalization problem and to own it. The society that birthed these individuals who commit actions I find unfathomable is my own—it is our own. Every mom and pop can own this as a problem from within, not some external plot we have no control over, and take charge of deradicalizing the people around them.

Internationally, we must continue to promote reason and moderation, and must do so while avoiding hypocrisy (tempting as it may be).

A Reasonable, Escalated Military Intervention

If left untouched, ISIS is not going anywhere. It is a state-like organization that is armed, militarily entrenched, and active. Though unrecognized and condemned internationally, ISIS continues to create facts on the ground locally, creating bureaucracies and institutions that further reaffirms their presence and reality, leaving as many marks as it can on society. While it exists, ISIS will continue to brainwash youth locally and internationally. After its eventual demise, ISIS’s impact of society will proportional to the duration it remained active and embedded. Continue reading “How to Respond to Fire; Asserting the Self while Avoiding Hypocrisy”

Jordan in Numbers

In Jordan, hard facts are not commonly used, unfortunately. As I described at an earlier post, Jordan has a big social problem of bigotry and over-confidence is politics.  Many statements are given about the deteriorating status of living, which is true and sad in many cases, but are often expanded and generalized to say that nothing good has come out of the establishment. This is not true. Jordan has real problems: We have political problems, from the external climate of the Middle East, to internal marginalization. We have social problems, and problems in education, and problems in corruption, and a poor economic situation, etc. But things are getting better, and to say that the establishment has not done anything would be an injustice.

This is not to say that all is well: we are a long way to go, and we should obviously demand more from the establishment. We should also demand less marginalization, and to be included in the process. But to fool ourselves and say that we are living in a system where the Establishment is trying to keep is weak and poor would be an unjust, unfounded, and disheartening act.

This is a look at the last ten years King Abdullah II’s reign as the Kingdom’s head of state.

Can some of these developments be associated to the potential positive sum nature of the world, technology, etc.? Yes. But take a look at the data, collected from a number of sources, and decide for yourself if it shows the possibility of a benign, well-intentioned establishment.

Information is taken from the CIA Factbook (referenced CIA for short), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Ministry of Finance of Jordan (MOF). Currencies are either in dollar ($ / USD), or in Jordanian Dinars (JD / JOD), and are indicated.

Nor all numbers are necessarily useful; GDP for instance is often criticized for not being a good metric of a country’s economic situation. Keep this in mind while viewing.

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According to Abdullah II’s book, Jordan exports to the US shot up from “virually nothing to $18 million in 1998”. Under Abdullah’s negotiations, this number rose to $1 billion in 2009.

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Debt as a percentage of the GDP continues to drop. After it reached below 60% of the GDP around 2008, a new policy was adopted that indicated that public debt shall never go above 60%. Initial reports indicate that we are about to hit that mark now, a very concerning sign. But people forget we are in a global recession; things are indeed very concerning, but some people assume that the establishment has worsened our situation. Looking back at 2002, where public debts’ percentage of the GDP was in the high 90s, it puts things in perspective.

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Public and External debts in Jordan shown as an absolute number in JOD. These numbers are contemporary and not adjusted for inflation. As such, if adjusted for inflation, one would probably see a more level Public Debt graph up to 2011, and slowly declining external debts.

 

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Continue reading “Jordan in Numbers”

Let Me Speak My Mind: a Trend of Political Bigotry in Jordan?

I have not written anything in this blog in a long time. I have tried to start writing many times, but I never could finish. I have been, for the past few months, increasingly frustrated with the stiuation in Jordan; while the government is doing some right moves, politically, I became largely frustrated with the wave of bigotry that has swept our society off its feet. Bigotry in politics is almost deeply enthralled in the hearts and minds of many Jordanians, across classes, political views, roles, and perspectives.

Pro-Government protesters are bigoted against Pro-Reform protesters, considering them unthankful, unpatriotic “scum”.

Pro-Reform protesters are themselves bigoted against Pro-Government protesters, thinking they are government-funded thugs who want ot beat them.

Pro-Government media is bigoted agaisnt many political movements, consdiering them outside-fundedp lots against our security.

Anti-Government media is even more bigoted: against the government, police, and their supporters. Every policy is an evil plot, every anti-Government journalist is a hero, every incident is an attack, every violence is targetting thme, and every politician is corrupt.

Events are blown out of proportion at times, and are silenced at others. Every Jordanian reads the news they agree with, and stop: never the opposite perspectives. Our opponents’ political view does not exist. Our opponents’ perspectives are always unfounded. Our rivals are always bigoted, nonsensical, idiots, and fools–never us.

We need a national dialogue, yet all we do is push each other around. Videos of our protests are sad scenes of people yelling at people, fighting with others, and never listening. Never mind that some are reporters and other are policemen, neverm ind that some are politicians and others are activists, all act the same: Like the stereotypical impulsive man, violent, angry, bigoted, and never listens.

I try to go both ways, sometimes criticize the government, and at others support it, depending on what I think (though recently I admit I am doing more support than criticize, but I’m convinced I’m still rational about it). Yet, whenever I criticize, or express the need for a reform, I am called naive by some, and anti-Jordanian by others. And when I express that I don’t think the government was wrong in X, or that the government is doing the right thing in Y, I am either uneducated or have some sort of interest.

After debates with some, I often hear that people are surprised how there is someone smart who thinks differently. So let me be very clear:

People subscribe to all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, and views. Some views might be better than others, but all are debatable. Nothing is obviously true, and very little is obviously false. Most of those who subscribe to views possess a well-thought, legitimate reason, and many philosophical arguments, that lead them to possess a view. No view, belief, or side is exclusively more intelligent or just. My view can still be better than yours, and I will continue to defend it with confidence, but never condescension.

Political reform is essential, but the society must also rise up. We need a new atmosphere where one is not ridiculed for speaking his mind.

Cyberspace Crime Law: Concerns, Reassurances, and Thoughts

Jordan’s ICT Ministry published the text of the latest Cyberspace Crime Law recently, introducing some regulation, but also protection and possible restrictions to the largely unregulated IT sector in Jordan. The law is a major step forward for privacy and security, creating punishments for unauthorized access of all types, as well as unauthorized modification of data, etc. But the text of the law at certain articles is vague, providing multiple possibilities of interpretation and thus some concerns.

Note that I translated all relevant snippets from Arabic to English myself, and I am by no means qualified to give a proper legal translation or correct legal terminology. It is only done for the sole purpose of giving context to non-Arabic readers and not to be taken seriously as correct technical interpretations.

Concerns

Article 8 is probably the greatest possible concern, stating:

المادة8- كل من قام قصداً بإرسال أو نشر بيانات أو معلومات عن طريق الشبكة المعلوماتية أو أي نظام معلومات تنطوي على ذم أو قدح أو تحقير أي شخص يعاقب بغرامة لا تقل عن (100) مائة دينار ولا تزيد على (2000) ألفي دينار.

Translated:

Article 8- Any person who has, on purpose, sent or published figures or information via the Web or any other network to vilify or slander or insult any person is punished by a fine no less that one hundred Jordanian Dinars and no more than two thousand Jordanian Dinars.

In theoretical terms, the article is actually healthy, as it legitimizes the Internet as a normal continuation of a physical world, where accountability and responsibility still exists, and where the author or creator of information is still responsible for one’s words, just as one is in the physical world. The problem, however, is two-fold:

  1. The first problem is the general nature of the offense. While the article appears to target libel, slander, and defamation, however, the final (أو تحقير = or insult) is concerning as it might generalize the article to include all insults/attacks, as opposed to defamation/libel. A common requirement for defamation is that the claim is non-factual and communicated to those other than the defamed individual. The vague and general final term to describe the offense, might be interpreted to render these requirements moot. For instance, if an individual blogs about a government figure and sharply criticizes him with correct information, making valid corruption allegations, it is an insult in general but not libel/defamation. The lack of a specific meaning to the term used makes this concerning.
  2. The second problem, which is greater, is that it provides no context-requirement. For instance, the article doesn’t address articles only, or publications, or blogs, but “any communication”. I personally agree with subjecting online publications, articles, and even blogs to such article. I’d also agree with subjecting mass e-mails, or perhaps hall e-mails (i.e. person A sending e-mail to businessman B, slandering potential client/partner/employee C) (side not: provided no external monitoring by the government). However, when it comes to blog comments, online forums, chat websites, etc. I think such article becomes a violation of freedom of expression.

What do you think?

Article 9 also uses general terminology which I found open to much interpretation. Subsection (a) of Article 9 states:

المادة 9- أ- كل من أرسل أو نشر عن طريق نظام معلومات أو الشبكة المعلوماتية قصداً كل ما هو مسموع أو مقروء أو مرئي مناف للحياء موجه إلى أو يمس شخصا لم يبلغ الثامنة عشرة من العمر يعاقب بالحبس مدة لا تقل عن ثلاثة اشهر وبغرامة لا تقل عن (300) ثلاثمائة دينار ولا تزيد على (5000) خمسة ألاف دينار.

The article basically prohibits “indecent” materials that targets (or is accessible to) those below age of 18, as well as indecent material that affects those below age 18. The article supposedly refers to sexually indecent material, whether in writing, imagery, or video. The problem however is the social meaning for indecent may also be open to interpretation. Would it include an insult on religion? Would it include a religious debate? Someone claiming that Religion A is a fairy tale? Certainly by standards of our society these are considered indecent. Is that possible? I don’t think its a serious concern, but certainly more concise terminology (as achieved by sub-section B of the very same article) can help.

Article 13b+c are another concern, perhaps more valid than the previous one. 13b goes to state (truncated):

… يجوز لموظفي الضابطة العدلية ضبط الأجهزة والأدوات والبرامج والأنظمة والوسائل المستخدمة في ارتكاب أي من الجرائم المنصوص عليها أو يشملها هذا القانون والأموال المتحصلة منها والتحفظ على المعلومات والبيانات المتعلقة بارتكاب أي منها.

Basically stating that authorities have the right to possess or confiscate any equipment or tools or software or systems and “methods”  used to commit any of the mentioned offenses and retaining related information and data.

Sub-section c goes further:

ج- للمحكمة المختصة الحكم بمصادرة الأجهزة و الأدوات والوسائل وتوقيف أو تعطيل عمل أي نظام معلومات أو موقع الكتروني مستخدم في ارتكاب أي من الجرائم المنصوص عليها أو يشملها هذا القانون ومصادرة الأموال المتحصلة من تلك الجرائم والحكم بإزالة المخالفة على نفقة مرتكب الجريمة.

Translated:

c- Respective courts have the right to rule to confiscate equipment, tools, and methods, as well as terminate or disable any ICT system or Internet Website used to commit any of the crimes described and included in this Law, and the confiscation of funds obtained from these crimes, and ruling to remove the offense on the expense of those guilty.

Again, this is certainly important and valuable taking into consideration articles that refer to terrorism, national security, pornographic materials, etc. However, given the existence of Article 8, does any form of libel warrant the mere possibility of confiscation of servers or information. And given the concerns on the general nature of Articles 8 and 9, could such a procedure of confiscation of servers or retaining information be a restriction on internet freedom?

I am one who truly believes in the goodwill  of the government. As such, I am comfortable that the government will not take any extreme measures to make the worst of these concerns into truth, ever; however, I am still uncomfortable, and again the reason is two-fold:

  1. The potential for abuse is there. While right now the probability of such abuse is zero for all intents and purposes, the potential that such abuse would arise one day, by a future government or under different circumstances in the future, is there. And this can be easily circumvented.
  2. Some of these offenses, especially the ones mentioned above, will allow the general public to seek the judicial branch (article 17). Here, vagueness of some of the terms, as well as the possibility for interpretation, combined with the strong powers given to the court, creates greater potential for abuses by the public against owners of websites expressing themselves, facilitated by the courts.

Reassurances

The law finally provides protections to owners of websites and their users by restricting access to equipment, files, data, and information, addressing hacking, and providing a range of punishments depending on the nature of access violations. The term also refers to important cyber crimes, such as Article 11 which addresses those who attempt to use cyberspace to facilitate terrorist activities, subjecting these persons to hard labor.

Article 17 itself, while addressed in the concerns section, is a great step forward to make Jordan grow as a state of Law and Institutions, per the king’s vision. Article 17 reserves the general public’s right to seek justice for any violation personally through our legal institutions. With liberal and progressive interpretations of the laws, and care from the judicial branch, we will have a population that hold one another accountable, and a population that is responsible to one another on the internet, as it is in the “physical world”.

My Problem with Sheer Exaggeration and Loaded Words in Argumentation

Prelude

I have been thinking about this one for a while. You see, I am very interested in regional politics (“region” here comes from the Latin “to Middle East“…), and I like to read about it in as many places I could, including blog posts of course, and I often comment when I feel compelled to share or add.

But I dislike exaggerated points and wrong facts, logical fallacies, an unfounded appeal for emotion, loaded non-arguments, etc. In normal conversations, these might not be that common, but when conversation shifts to politics or religion, where people are passionate about their arguments, often extremely committed to one side — blind to all the rest, these logical “mishaps” become more and more imminent.

When reading such points, I am often compelled to write back, with a counterargument.

The reason I share this now is because, in the Jordanian blogosphere, most points that bother me just so happen to be concentrated on one side, and as a result, most counterarguments I make happen to be concentrated on the inverse side. And I’m not a hard-liner-loyalist, but increasingly I feel that this is what it seems. And its something I’m used to, anti-religious friends, upon conversation, often deem me as extremely religious, while religious friends often deem me as extremely anti-religious. That is because, by my very nature, I like to respond to one-sided arguments (arguably, all passionate arguments are one-sided, but I disagree) with a one-sided counter-argument.

But to cut the crap, and go directly to the real unambiguous point:

Jordan, is a state with its own strengths and weaknesses, achievements and counter-achievements, perks and downsides, and ultimately, the government, is both right and wrong, depending on the issue. I am all for the continuous improvement of the country, society, and the establishment, and I understand and support that this entails criticism of the wrong.

As such, the arguments I try to fight are those that say its all good and dandy, and those that entail its all bad and horrible. But can’t we engage in more balanced critique where we can actually know where Jordan really stands — what are the upsides and downsides of establishment, where to improve, where to reform, where to revolutionize, and where to simply support?

Just because one might be dissatisfied by Jordan’s attitudes towards certain aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, doesn’t mean that we should criticize the Abdali Regeneration project as a plan to suppress Ammanis, or even criticize all aspects of the attitudes towards the conflict to begin with. And when one is dissatisfied by internal policies, linking them to a national plan of intellectual suppression isn’t helpful either; it ignores real growth and real improvement in some places. All I say is, know where you stand, know where Jordan stands, and then engage in activism accordingly.

On the Making of a Country: A Walk through the Course of Political Development in Jordan

This took a good portion of my energy for the past month, and discusses the history of political development, and its lack thereof, in Jordan. It is rather long, but nevertheless, if you have a comment or something to say, then at least more than the abstract. You can either view it here, or, for more comfortable viewing, check the PDF at Scribd.

Abstract

This paper discusses the development of a political system in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in an effort to understand the state of the current political system in the country. Different phases and defining moments in the history of Jordan will be studied, and will often directly correspond to phases of Jordanian national identity. Starting from the assassination of King Abdullah I and the short-lived reign of Talal, through the numerous coup d’état attempts in early reign of Hussein I, up to the 1994 Wadi Araba Treaty of Peace, the effect of ongoing events in shaping a political system in Jordan will be explored.

The development of a political system in Jordan will be discussed hand-in-hand along with contemporary regional politics and political movements, coupled with internal views regarding national identity. As such, the rise of Nasser and Nasserism is examined, illustrating the impact of the increasingly popular Nasserist movements in the 1950’s on the government, its policy, and the political system. Similarly, the Arab-Israeli Conflict as a whole, including the Six-Day war, the influence of the PLO, the rise of Fedayeen, and Black September will be reviewed, showing how these also shaped state policy. In addition, the rise of Islamic movements, particularly the Islamic Action Force (IAF), the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its relation to and impact on the political system will be discussed throughout the course of history.

It will be argued that the period of the late 1950s in King Hussein’s reign, the Six-day war of 1967, the battle of Karameh of 1968, and most importantly, Black September of 1970, have been defining moments in the history of a Jordanian national identity and the formation of its current-day political system. The paper will reason that Black September represents the climax of an internal political crisis that lasted throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The development of a Jordanian political system will be studied, beginning with King Talal and Prime Minister Tawfiq abul-Huda’s rewriting of the constitution and the establishment of some sort of a semi-democracy that is put to the test in the 1952 abdication of King Talal. The effect of Nasserist-inspired coup d’état attempts, as well as Black September on the Jordanian political system will be investigated, as well as the 23-year-long era of martial law, and the still-developing political system that emerged afterwards.

The essay aims to argue that the current political system – as well as its lack-thereof – in Jordan, is a result of a combination of organic development and non-development due to a century’s internal, as well as regional, political repercussions. It is my hope that this paper would illustrate the malleability of the political system and the possibility of continuous improvement. More so, it is my hope to illustrate that the existing political system (whether its current state is fortunate or unfortunate) is a result of internal, regional, and – seldom – external political repercussions, rather than a set static agenda by the ruling elite.

Background

Since Abdullah I’s reign, the newly-created kingdom of Jordan was particularly unstable; the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (East Bank) has just merged with the West Bank, absorbing highly politicized Palestinian West Bankers, as well as refugees, giving them all Jordanian citizenship, and tripling the population of the country[1]. The entering population of Palestinians was more sophisticated, urbanized, and educated than the average Transjordanian population, which was predominantly Bedouin. Palestinians loyal to the Mufti also saw Jordan as an occupying power, and held a “high moral ground”, believing that Jordan’s Arab Legion, along with other Arab armies, have failed them, while others looked at King Abdullah as a “protector against Israeli aggression”. It is important to note that, until 1967, these Palestinians never demanded separation from the East Bank.[2]

Thus, with a tripled population, a Transjordanian-Palestinian divide, strong Palestinian nationalism, and a growing refugee problem, the newly-created Hashemite kingdom was in highly critical times…

Beginning of Change

With three fatal gunshots[3] the life of newly-created kingdom of Jordan’s first monarch ended, marking the beginning of decades of uncertainty and instability that continue to leave a distinctive mark on the country’s political system today. Abdullah’s successor, his son Talal, shaped by his father’s mistreatment during his upbringing, was resolved on becoming his father’s polar opposite, and as such initiated far-reaching reforms to the Jordanian political system.[4]

Continue reading “On the Making of a Country: A Walk through the Course of Political Development in Jordan”

Election Law & Selective Representation

As part of a final paper I’m working on, I requested, and obtained a copy of a M.Sc. and B.Sc. thesis in Political Science at MIT, entitled “Containing the Opposition: Selective Representation in Jordan and Turkey”, by Raffaela Wakeman, who also worked in the Center for Strategic Studies in the University of Jordan for a while.

So, I went through a good chunk of it and read it, and while it reaffirms most of what we hear already about representation being the most fundamental problems, it also hows how fundamental a problem it is. Cities like Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa are between 2-3 times under-presented than Balqa’a, Karak, and others.

However, upon reading this, a very common fallacy also came to mind, in which the ruling power’s decisions are always rationalized on the basis of self-interest/ill-intentions, which I think is not the right approach. For instance, Jordan’s sheer under-representation of Palestinian-Jordanians in the parliament (or rather, under-representation of intellectuals in the parliament), is not part of a master plan to create a nation with an idle mind, or dominate the people, but rather (very unfortunate) measures to secure the 1994 Peace Treaty, or (very unfortunate) responses to events ranging from Abdullah I’s 1951 assassination, to Black September.

In any case, saying Jordan’s selective representation (which is a real problem) is a plan to “contain the opposition”, ignores the strong opposition that many Islamists as well as Bedouin “loyalists” possess to many crucial Hashemite plans.

I do hope the new election law is more representative. Current rumors are not so promising; Amman and Zarqa seem to be getting more seats, but not nearly enough.

My two-cents.

Dearest Jordan

Flag of Jordan

Photo  by Ibrahim Oweis (edited). Source. License: CC Att-SA 2.0

As the end of my extended winter vacation approaches, the stay back home has come to a (temporary) end. I’ll be on a 15 hour trip to get me to my “third home” in Boston, Massachusetts (we have always been taught “المدرسة بيتك الثاني”, meaning “school is your second home”) in anticipation of another lovely semester at MIT! Though it is probably juvenile to ‘say goodbye’ before spending a short time apart from home, I have garnered a few observations and articulated my timeless feelings and attitudes towards Jordan, and why such feelings and attitudes (positively) inhibit me to begin with. So here we go…

I live in a country whose borders were arbitrarily drawn by Gertrude Bell, so carelessly that a misalignment in transparent paper didn’t seem to bother her one bit. A country low on natural resources, that the late King Hussein’s quote “الإنسان أغلى ما نملك” (meaning “mankind is our greatest asset”) is used jokingly to reference the lack of oil, water, and arable land. A country with a nonexistent independent historic cultural identity, and a nascent national identity.

Yet, not an inch of Jordan exists that I cannot but absolutely adore. More importantly, however, are the people whose culture and identity astound me enough to understand this “haunting beauty” the late king refers to. This culture and identity whose presence I am in awe of, is the same one that began to formulate a mere 64 years ago. What I like about our magnificent ‘national identity’, that I’d rather call a cultural identity, is how it acknowledges and cherishes the fact that it is indeed nascent; an identity summed by the thought that we, “the Jordanian people”, whether Bedouins, old locals, Circassians, Chechens, Palestinian refugees, Iraqi refugees, and others have come together to build something good out of… well, not much. It is an identity of hospitality, generosity, but most importantly, fraternity and cooperation of people united by sharing a common vision of seeking improvement.

It is hard for many living in Jordan to appreciate or even realize the goodness I feel. Indeed, we have problems of our own; we are no beacon of human rights, social norms can be disappointing, and a real influential and internal political party is yet to be seen.

Criticizing the wrong we have in Jordan is the only way to improve; and writing about what is missing is the best way to inspire future leaders to step up and fix things, again, to do something good in an area that was previously lacking. My only message is that such criticism, however harsh it may be, remains to be done in a light where the criticizer realizes that things aren’t necessarily static, and change is very well possible.

It is the duty of a critical thinker to point what is wrong, but it gets to a point where criticism is done in an atmosphere of negativity, a negativity that might convince the thinker and the reader that an effort to improve isn’t worth it… and that’s when the thinker needs to stop and think things through.

I mean hey, we just fixed our tax laws! We’re working on great energy improvements. We’ve made great progress on economical reform. And human rights, like it or not, have improved drastically over the past 20 years. Change is being done, and that’s a positive thought one should keep in mind. Never mistake my sentences as trying to impose satisfaction on whatever we already have; I’d like to remind you that change has happened in the past, and it can happen in the present and future if we work for it. Some things are easier than others, but it’ll work.

/end emotional insights

Dear Jordanian Blogger, Don’t Change—Not yet at least!

I know the whole talk about inclusion of websites in the press and publication law can indicate some very bad scenarios, chief among them is self-censorship, fear of writing critical high-quality articles, etc. My only message to the Jordanian blogosphere is: don’t change.

There are a lot of things we don’t know yet, and unless there’s direct evidence that says that we should worry, we shouldn’t. That is not to say that we shouldn’t care about the issue, but we shouldn’t let it change our attitude towards whatever it is that we do.

First, there no clear evidence that the ruling applies only to media sites/news agencies (i.e. alghad.jo, ammonnews.net, ammannet.net, etc.) or blogs as well; so bloggers don’t need to worry from now.

Second, there is no indication of how things will work. As it has been mentioned earlier, there is a government committee trying to figure out how to apply the law to the web; requirements about identity vs. anonymity, trade unions, having an editor-in-chief, etc. most likely won’t apply to blogs. Similarly, some of the restrictions on information in news articles (who are there to portray facts), might not apply to blogs (who are there to portray opinion).

So go about your business for now and write freely; if a government spokesperson drops a bombshell, its another story. When fighting the decision, speak as honestly and freely as you always have. If you have a critical post in store, share it and educate us all. Criticize the government, and hope they’ll be open minded and strive to improve. Act as if its some sort of utopia, and if a decision or announcement tells us definitely that its not, you’ll have time to go back and self-sensor your past posts or something.

Reblogged: Websites & the Press and Publication Law @ 7iber

Earlier today, 7iber.com published an article that I had contributed regarding the inclusion of internet websites under the definition of the press and publication law.

You can view the article in its original location here. Or, alternatively, continue to read it in this same post:

Websites and the Publication Law: The Hour’s Reality and What Should have Happened Instead

Perhaps the talk of the moment in the Jordanian blogosphere is the decision of the Court of Cassation of Jordan (also known as the Supreme Court) [1] to categorize Internet websites as a type of “publication” thus extending the controversial Press and Publication Law to govern websites as well. The decision was met with fierce opposition in the Jordanian Blogosphere; the Jordanian free and alternative media was now to be under the same governing legislation that many believe brought Jordan’s traditional media to its supposed demise. Indeed, it is a common view that the Press and Publication Law restricts journalists in exploring alternative news sources, as well as voicing their opinions freely in editorials.

The Court’s ruling, however, occurred in a different light. The ruling was a result of a court case by journalist Ahmad Salameh, currently an advisor for the crown prince of Bahrain, against Samir al-Hiari and Sakher Abu `Antara, who operate Internet news websites, over a case of public defamation. [3]

(See Ammon’s article on Salameh’s case against Omar Kallab, listing Salameh’s accusations against Mr. Kallab as well as the Ammon website: http://www.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=13047)

The ‘Press and Publication Law’ provides clear anti-defamation codes for journalists, and thus was used by Salameh to argue for his case. In that case, the writers as well as the editor-in-chief of the publication are accountable; and false information or personal attacks on individuals are prohibited. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the verdict was appealed until reaching the Court of Cassation, which had to establish whether the basis of the case was lawful to begin with, and thus, establish whether the Press and Publication Law can be a governing document for articles on the internet.

Supporters of the ruling also view ramifications in the same light: writers on the internet are accountable to what they say, baseless attacks are prohibited, and information integrity is promoted.

While such view is well-founded, supporters are perhaps oblivious to the other ramifications of using the law as it stands to websites. For instance, the law prohibits writings offensive to religion, prophets, or other people, which might prove to hinder some of the healthy debate going on.

Continue reading “Reblogged: Websites & the Press and Publication Law @ 7iber”