On Bigotry In Jordan’s Ministry Of Education

Natasha had an interesting post that caught my attention today and for some technical reason I cannot post a comment on her blog so I wanted to voice my concerns here.

Jordan Times’ Randa Habib:

One of my readers called to tell me about this shocking problem: she works for a Christian who is in the field of education, but her boss is being refused any supply of books from departments that depend on the Ministry of Education. Why?

Well she is told that they will never provide books to this â??kaferâ? (non-Muslim) whom they described as â??filthâ?. My reader, a Muslim herself, was appalled and told those men that their attitude has nothing to do with Islam and its precepts of tolerance. But her speech had no effect on them. On the contrary, they criticised her for working for a non-Muslim. My reader was very distressed when she called me, and told me that her boss is in fact thinking of emigrating.

When I suggested that a complaint be filed, my caller expressed scepticism over the outcome. â??Someone higher up in the Ministry of Education must know that such things are happening,â? she said. Do they? Well, I put the question here to the minister and his top ranking people.

Is such intolerant behaviour happening in departments of the Ministry of Education? If so, what is being done to stop this bigotry? Such behaviour goes against the very fibre that Jordanâ??s leaders have sought to instill in encouraging a pluralistic society. Can we afford to risk that the education of our children be dictated by a misguided few?

We have this attitude in Jordan that it’s useless to do anything about it, we simply complain to our neighbours and our friends about some random act of discrimination or bigotry. We say to ourselves, well nothing will become of it so lets not do anything about it. That’s how these people get away with it. If she had complained and recieved no result I would’ve understood.

â??Someone higher up in the Ministry of Education must know that such things are happening,â? she said. Do they?

Probably not. I highly doubt the Minister of Education has heard about such an employee, especially if no one has filed a complaint against him.

Is such intolerant behaviour happening in departments of the Ministry of Education? If so, what is being done to stop this bigotry? Such behaviour goes against the very fibre that Jordanâ??s leaders have sought to instill in encouraging a pluralistic society. Can we afford to risk that the education of our children be dictated by a misguided few?

It’s obviously not happening on a massive scale as suggested by this article. There is ignorance, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, almost everywhere in the world. Even Penguins in Antarctica have something against seals. No land is immune from it. And these people can be found everywhere: high on top or the bottom of the barrel. And I think for the most part we live in a country where we are fighting this kind of thinking.

Either way I have never seen this kind of descrimination so I’m making the bold assumption that it is very rare, the same way this article makes the bold assumption that this one person is a reflection of an entire educational system being taught to our children. The Ministry of Education has many many flaws but it is not in the business of raising a generation of Christian-hating children.


Sure I’d like to see this guy get fired and even fined or sued for being descriminate, intolerent and offensive (to both Christians and Muslims), but to be honest, on the long list of questions that I would want the Minister of Education and his top ranking officials to hear, know and do something about, this doesn’t even rank in the top 5. If this man was writing in the Ministry’s religion books that Christians are “kaffers”, and if this was approved by a Ministry committee, then we’d have a problem (on either or both accounts)

We can’t macro-manage everything in this country. The government cannot be blamed for every little single thing. People need to stand up and show some social responsibility on an individual level. Perhaps this person calling Randa Habib was attempting to do that, but there is a system in place. It’s not like we live in a country with no laws against such bigotry and everytime something like this happens we say oh well, that’s Jordan. There are proper channels before we resort to complaining about it in a newspaper and before we pose questions that are frankly either a hasty generalisation on the writer’s part or quite simply just journalistic sensationalizing.


  • Nas, most Christians I know who have experienced discrimination at any level don’t want to talk about it for fear of jeopordizing what they perceive to be a tenous and fragile balance. Most Christians I know would never dream of telling a Muslim friend what it is really like, because they respond like you did: “I have never seen this kind of discrimination” so it must not happen. It is quite hard to convince people when they deny the problem exists, or they minimize how it feels, or worse, tell you to be thankful you don’t have to walk in the shade and pay taxes. It is sort of like the ‘yes massa’ mentality, kind of like the US in the 50s – equal rights on the books of the law but not in the hearts of the neighbors.

    I think the proof is in the numbers of Jordan’s Christian population is rapidly leaving to other lands. Our particular church is growing with new people, but the number of people moving to Australia, Canada and the US is large enough to show a yearly decline in membership.

    But, since I’m not a Jordanian, perhaps I should wait for a couple more responses before speaking myself.

  • I didn’t say it “must not happen” I said “not happening on a massive scale”, there’s an obvious difference so please dont put words in my mouth, thanks. Our neighbours are Christians, some friends of mine are Christians and I’ve been around Jordanian Christians most my life so I’m not completely ignorant of it. I’m aware there is descrimination with religion and even with nationality on some level here and there. I’ve seen discrimination in many forms in Jordan: Jordanians against Palestinians, Palestinians against Jordanians, Both against Iraqis and Gulf people and vice versa, and not to mention the Sharkas. But what I said is I’ve never seen “this kind” in other words government employees denying a citizen books on the basis of their religion and calling her flat out a “kaffreh”. I’m not denying it didnt happen, Im saying I’ve never seen this kind od discrimination.

    Are Christians leaving because Muslims are persecuting them in Jordan or is it because of the bad economy and increasing unpredictability of the region in recent years? Everyone is dying to get out! Unless you’ve actually seen and heard from all these rapidly leaving Christians that they’re leaving because of discrimination against them then thats something else.

    This isnt exactly Saudi Arabia

  • Lets just pray the IAF or other clowns won’t get in power!

    Anyways, so far in Jordan people are leaving because of the economical hardship like everyone else. Another reason is the fear that an Islamic government will take over, just like what is going on in Palestine, Somalia, Iraq and sooner or later Egypt!

    I guess many Jordanians, Muslims or Christians would leave JOrdan if the IDF I mean IAF clows take over!

    We have to realize that the Islamic brotherhood in Jordan have been dominating the educational sector for many years! And I think it’s time someone start doing something about it. I mean Jordan is an Islamic state, but why do we have to memorize Quranic verses for an Arabic lesson?
    The history books don’t talk about Jordan’s history! It talks about Saudi Arabia history!

  • Nas, I was quoting you from a different place and those were your words, and you said it was a bold assumption – which I agree with you. I did make the jump to say ‘must not be happening’ was connected to your not having heard about it. Sorry to offend, but it does illustrate my point. Most people haven’t heard about it so they think it isn’t happening. Innocent until proven guilty is a concept I believe in.

    I know five people in administrative positions in Christian education in Jordan that consistently get sidelined, avoided, delayed beyond even the cultural norm at the Ministry of Education (and Ministry of Culture, since some of these are not even allowed to be considered places of education). Even spoken to the way this woman was. And the two families that I know leaving this summer said their primary reason for leaving was the unabated rise in fundamentalism; they fear for their children’s future, not the chance to make a better living.

    Remember, I CHOOSE to live in Jordan. I love Jordan. I know it is nothing like Saudi. I just wish the Muslim community would take a greater role in making these thngs known as this employee and Randa Habiib have. I do think you are one of those people, too, Nas. I do consider you one having inside knowledge, and you consistantly fill in the gaps of knowledge for me. And that you will come back to Jordan and be an agent of change in many arenas.

  • Firas, in the list of top 5 things I would take to the minister, reforming the entire educational system is number one. Also Jordan is not an Islamic state. There is a difference between saying the state’s religion is Islam and an Islamic state. As for history books, I dunno, I can’t remember that far back. But technically speaking we all came from Yeman so I guess that counts for something 😀

    kinzi, that’s ok, but nevertheless I meant what I said. If I wanted to say it doesn’t happen at all simply because I myself dont hear about it then that would be a bit absurd and a bit self-centered on my part.

    also, leaving because of a rise in fundementalism? come one kinzi, gimme a break here. where are they moving to by the way; lebanon or to a western nation? and even if these two families say they are leaving for this specific reason I dont think it opens the door to say theres a rise in Jordanian Christians leaving because of a rise in fundementalism. that would be a bit of a hasty generalization. Also I dont know what kind of Christians are we talking about? The wealthy Ammani types or the ones from Kerak and Madaba. Because as far as I know the latter are the bigger tribes and constitute the majority of the Christian community in the country and them leaving Jordan is as likely as pigs learning to fly, considering they’ve been here for centuries and established a great deal of the country.

    kinzi there is a system of law in the country. if one is discriminated against they can file complaints they launch civil suits et cetera. it’s not like Christians are considered non-existant or given non-citizen status and stripped of their rights. Christians are about 7% of the country if not less now due to the influx of foreigners. The Muslim community in Jordan cannot possibly be aware of the wrongdoings of its all its members. There is an individual responsibility to be upheld.

    the fact is there will never be an environment in Jordan that is discrimination free nor the whole world for that matter. and if we want to look at which discrimination is really taking hold of the country, its not based on difference in religion or ethnic origin…the most discrimination happening in Jordan is based on class.

  • Break given, Nas. Let me say again I do appreciate your instruction, and the manner it is given.

    These particular families are from Madaba and Kerak originally, but are moving from Zarqa and Jabal Amman respectively to the US. The decision to leave tore them up. They were never the Shmeisani types (forgive me Roba)and lived humbly, not the type who seem to need a lot of money to be happy. And these examples are just the two from this summer I know the best – the others I can’t claim to know well or why.

    I would say in the last few years there is a rise in visible fundamentalism – has it been a year since the men brought the chemical weapons from Syria? Nas, it felt Amman was under siege, after dark anyone with a big car was stopped. Nov 9, the recently Hamas bust (or whatever that really was). It’s more visible, we’ve been attacked, our innocence is damaged. That is what I mean.

    You wouldn’t believe the grief we are getting from family that we aren’t moving back to ‘safe’ America. I just tell them I’m planning a trip to Baghdad in Sept. 🙂

    I am sensitive to Christian issues because it affects me and my friends. There have been civil suits launched (Natasha mentioned a couple of them)but people are reticent to rock the boat because authorities have long memories of ‘trouble makers’ who rock the boat. Very sad, but it only seems to work when some foreign human rights group or government gets involved.

    Other people sense injustice in their sphere of influence and will take up those causes. But because of them I am more aware and hope I would be able to stand with others against discrimination at all levels; such as in America against Arabs.

  • I would say in the last few years there is a rise in visible fundamentalism – has it been a year since the men brought the chemical weapons from Syria? Nas, it felt Amman was under siege, after dark

    there’s a global rise in fundementalism and you dont fight it by leaving the country. unless these guys were targetting christians I dont have to remind you that the overhwelming majority of victims of fanaticism have been Muslims…including the Amman bombings. So unless Christians are being rounded up or specifically targetted, or heck, even told by the government that they cant do certain social things because of their religion, then it’s safe to assume the people who want to leave are doing so because of economic conditions and not because of a rise of fanaticism…we’ve had worse times in our history so it’s not an excuse. Mind you the Christian population of Jordan is actually increasing I believe…not to mention the thousands and thousands of Iraqi Christians that have been fleeing persecution

    I can respect your sensitivity to christian issues in Jordan, I have the same sensitivity for Muslims in Toronto…but there is a law and there is a system and there is a constitution and the authorities with long memories are more anti-islamists than anything else.

    someone calls you a kaffer you report him.

  • Interesting comments, let me add something with all modesty:
    burrying our heads in the sand will not help anyone. Yes we have a problem, yes these things happen in the ministry of Education and elsewhere.
    We live in an era of extremism, someone is ringing a bell in Jordan so that we dont allow crazy extremists to change the life that we know and enjoy, so wake up and look around you

  • The truth is that a lot of this discrimination is happening in Jordan and Christians are avoiding dealing with it even though the time will come where they will have no choice. I have no doubt that the highest leadership in the country represented by the King will never adopt or support and antichristian sentiment of any sort but the rest of the religious leadership in government and private sectors do that all the time .. Jordan need to introduce and educate its people and new generations on the important role that christians played in the history of the country. Christians founded whole towns and cities across Jordan. They led economic forums and were pioneers and supported their national belonging to the country in great ways .. Jordanian christians don’t live in Jordan as visitors or guests and they are not under the protection of anyone .. They are the people of Jordan equal to everyone else and have every right like everyone else. Jordanian christians should be recognized in every way and should not be treated as less of citizens. There should not be limits to where they can go in government or military positions either. Christians are Jordanians who chose a different relgion and they have every right to it and to live it without being looked at with bigotry and oppression which both exist today and all who deny it are big liers whether they are chrsitains or muslims.

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