Words: Naseem Tarawnah
It’s been incredibly difficult wrapping my head around the assassination of Nahed Hattar earlier today. The whole story has been baffling from start to finish, troche ailment making it difficult to string together a coherent thought.
The way the government handled his posting of a caricature on Facebook they deemed to be offensive has been a blunder from start to tragic finish. By detaining him and taking him to court, viagra buy they criminalized his action, doctor putting him in the crosshairs, and legitimized the space needed for the crazies to respond. And they did. Nahed Hattar’s brother says the Minister of Interior was informed of death threats the writer received, but the calls were apparently ignored. Unprotected and in the midst of numerous police at the gate, on the sidewalk and across the street – Hattar barely made it up the first steps of the courthouse before going down. While it was the killer who took that gun out from a plastic bag he was carrying, and while it was he who pulled its trigger three times, there has been a whole supporting environment that provided him the motive, motivation, and the opportunity to do it. And if not him – then someone else.
Nahed Hattar was someone whose ideas and beliefs clashed with my own; I don’t recall ever agreeing with anything he ever wrote or his political stances both within and beyond our borders. I mention this not as a disclaimer or beside the point, but as the point precisely. Jordanians polarize themselves into camps based on their beliefs, un-nurtured in the ability to accept the right to free speech. Because this isn’t a country where freedom of speech lives, and in recent years it has gradually migrated elsewhere, faced by significant curtailment by a State on the hunt. From amending old laws, and introducing new ones, to jailing journalists – a narrative has been framed by the State that it is in a position of comfortable power in this post-Arab Spring era; a position supported by societal silence, disillusionment, and consequently – consent.
This is important; When you cut back on freedom of the press, speech and/or expression, you end up with a very polarized society that has no national conversations or debates. And with all the knee-jerk media gag orders – it’s a society that’s also uninformed. Conversations are driven underground to fester.
So we continue to drown in this swamp of inescapable rhetoric about national unity that comes hand in hand with these events. While the sentiments of a “united Jordan” are nice, they are as meaningless as their memes. Without proactive and aggressive inquiry into all the factors fueling extremism, these acts will continue to erode us. With the rise of Daesh, many of us have called attention to these factors repeatedly. Whether it’s reforming the educational curriculum, a genuine addressing of unemployment, or economic and political marginalization, free speech, and on and on – the State has moved undeniably slow on all these issues, and is outpaced by extremism’s raging fire. It is satisfied with sprinkling nationalistic sentiments on a problem that continues to grow.
not everyone is hardened enough to pick up a gun, but a great number of people support the attack, and its motives, on some spectrum of justification.
Only a few weeks ago, a Christian boy died in a car accident and the online exchange about whether Muslims should pray for him pointed to the deep-seated problems we have. Put aside those who took an extremist position. Too many nationalists addressed this dismissively – saying ‘these people are a minority’, and ‘this isn’t the Jordan we know’.
Yes, this isn’t the Jordan we know, and this does contradict our history. But we’re not living in the 1950’s anymore. Romanticizing the past is futile and a disservice to the present we find ourselves in. There are new undeniable realities that have reshaped society, making it a comfortable nest for any extremist ideology. Sure, not everyone is hardened enough to pick up a gun, but a great number of people support the attack, and its motives, on some spectrum of justification.
Shutting up the media and sweeping this under the rug as just another phenomenon hasn’t helped. Sending out the thought police to round people up hasn’t helped. Being comfortable with our status quo hasn’t helped. Blaming the refugee crisis hasn’t helped. Comparing ourselves to our lowest common denominators in the region hasn’t either. We are living in an era where extremism isn’t just a foreign idea being imported into Jordan, but manifesting within a society that has been shaped by numerous forces over the years. The more we build up this bubble of denial, the bigger the burst.
This is bigger than Nahed Hattar. This isn’t even an issue exclusive to the Christian community as some might see it – it’s an issue facing every minority in the country. Whether you’re a moderate or liberal Muslim, a secularist, an atheist, a pluralist or progressive – you too are a minority, and you too are faced with this reality. You too live in this same environment; one with a tendency to counter new ideas or different ideas.
It is no longer enough for the King to give a speech about national unity, or for the Queen to send out a tweet, or for the government, political parties, the Jordan Press Association, the Senate, and every other State entity to come out and merely condemn this. It’s time for them to move. Move beyond appeasement, and move beyond ‘managing’ the situation by ‘regulating imams,’ throwing people in prison, criminalizing criticism, or expanding the definition of ‘sedition’ into ambiguous realms. This needs to move beyond the rigid hands of the Security State, and seep into every crack and crevice of the State, and subsequently, society at large. This needs to be comprehensive reform, and it needs to be inclusive.
Stop thinking about short-term crisis management and look at what society will look like five or ten years from now unless aggressive reform takes place. What kind of country will it be? What is being inherited exactly?