On The Closing Down Of Places During Ramadan & Debating The Real Issues

Disclaimer: I want to emphasize that this post is an opinion and it is not one based on religious doctrine. It is based on political and social elements. I know it’s Ramadan, but I implore you to avoid quoting me the entire Quran just to prove a point or as a way of insisting that your opinion is fact.


One of the co-owners of the famous west Ammani spot, Books@Cafe, published an opinion piece on 7iber recently, which I’m sure many of you have read already. It was regarding the abrupt closure of his place during Ramadan for certain violations, of which the most notable is the serving of alcohol in the daytime. Perhaps a government official will respond to the incident with their own take, but for now, it remains a single person’s point of view.

Reading through the ongoing and seemingly never-ending debate taking place on 7iber, I have yet to formulate an appropriate opinion on the matter; only fragments of one of which I will share here as to not affect the flow of that debate.

I understand both points of view. I understand the one that says there should be freedom of religion and people should be allowed to eat and drink whenever they like. I also understand the one that says it’s Ramadan and people need to respect the will of the majority, especially if it’s only one month of the year. I even understand the point of view that this is not in fact a religious argument but a political one.

And it is this latter view that I see to be the most pertinent.

Religious points of view are volatile and you can’t create a moderate and just system based on volatile elements. In other words, you can never please everyone (hence my tendency to avoid religious topics here). So what you have left is politics; a justice system.

If we’re looking to create a moderate system then the only thing to do, from a political point of view, is to issue special licenses for so-called “tourist”-destination spots to remain open during Ramadan. As far as I know, I believe this is the case. There are many places serving food and alcohol in and outside Amman’s hotels. Thus, perhaps what’s required here is a bit of regulation to ensure that there is a smooth process and that incidents like that of Books@Cafe do not happen.

That really seems like the only way to do it. Many might not agree with it, but if we’re looking to create a country where everyone is respected for their beliefs and their choices, then that’s the only way to go. It’s not a matter of the majority versus the minority or even their numbers. It’s not about raising your hand; laws don’t work that way. It’s about being fair, being just and being balanced.

The expectation that anyone not fasting – for whatever their reasons, for whatever their choices, for whatever their background – should have common, public services closed to them during Ramadan isn’t realistic.

The problem is that despite the existance of such a system, enforcement is the problem. A full-licensed place should not be subject to unreasonable scrutiny by law enforcement if they are operating legally, under government-endorsement. This is the main problem with the system, and the one that I believe (as far as we know) Books@Cafe was subject to. I’m not one for greater bureaucracy, but this kind of system probably requires a regulatory board or commission that oversees the enforcement, and if store-owners see it fit to complain and demand their legal rights as guaranteed them by an approved license to operate, then they can, and the case can be reviewed immediately.

But as of right now: there is just, confusion:

The regulations, which were published in the local media days before the start of Ramadan, ban restaurants and coffee shops from offering their usual services during the day in Ramadan …

… Although Zu’bi said these regulation are applicable to all food outlets, regardless of their classification, several restaurants still open during the day, it is noted.

A restaurant keeper in Jabal Luweibdeh said his outlet is qualified by the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, which means the restaurant can do business as usual in Ramadan.

“We are a three-star restaurant and we open from 9:00am till after midnight,” the restaurant manager told The Jordan Times yesterday adding that “on many days, customers need to make advance reservations”.

This would have been legal last year when the Interior Ministry allowed three-star restaurants to serve tourists during Ramadan days.

But Zu’bi said: “We have nothing to do with Tourism Ministry rankings. We have instructions and we are enforcing them with no exception.” Yet he acknowledged that police cannot raid hotels to check that the law is respected in the restaurants. [source]


As for the more public-related tendencies such as being able to eat, drink and smoke in public during Ramadan: this is more tricky territory.

Let’s admit one thing first. The people who have the biggest problem with the status-quo are non-practicing Muslims. They make up the bulk of the customer-base. In my experience, and I emphasize the word “my” for good measure, Jordanian Christians, foreigners and tourists alike have a whole lot more respect for practicing-Muslims than the non-practicing population of this religion does. And again, I emphasize that this conclusion is based on my experience. I should also emphasize that I do believe everyone is free to make their own choices with regards to practicing or not practicing.

Secondly, this whole debate reminds me all the more of why I need to get the hell out of West Amman and live in the suburbs, or on a farm. I am utterly disheartened by the supposed social discourse that this incident has generated.

The cultural bubble is thickening and the gap between rich and poor has grown so wide that I truly believe many of the residents of West Amman are utterly oblivious to the realities of this country. And that is truly, truly saddening.

The realities that the majority of this country is culturally conservative and, comparitvely, religiously moderate, and the very notion of western ideals being shoved down their throats will tend to cause the very opposite of the initial intent: everyone just resorts back to the safe ground of a more conservative atmosphere. We’ve seen that loud and clear in the post-9/11 world, where American policies in the region to “fight extremism” have only made our people resort back to extremism. That’s where the protection is.

There is poverty, there is corruption, there are human rights violations, and there is wastefulness. There are honest-to-God people who live lives where everyday is another struggle, another battle to put food on their table. And they are many. These are our realities. These are our truths.

Yet, it has taken the closure of Books@Cafe for young, West Ammani Jordanians to call for an international press conference to voice their opinions on corruption, lawlessness, democracy, reform and human rights in Jordan?


Is this what it takes to cause the most influential demographic in the country to become that proactive? To become that engaged?

Heck, after reading those comments I was truly scared that the police might shut down Blue Fig and the state would have to declare martial law.

Anyways, I was pretty disappointed at the reaction. Not because I don’t think this is an important issue, that is, if it’s framed within the larger context as I attempted to do earlier on in this post. But while I always enjoy seeing any debate blossom part of me was thinking how sad it is to see that such a story received so much attention from the one group of people that I believe can shine the brightest spotlight on the issues relative to our generation; to our realities.

Instead, the real issues are missed and this demographic only validates its own stereotype: that of an immature congregation of wasted talent that is completely out of touch with mainstream Jordan.


  • Jordan is a muslim country (I hope we all agree on that), Ramadan is the muslim holy month of fasting, now officials did not close ALL restaurents (in Dubai 2 people were sent to prison for drinking juice in public), its simply closing for 30 days those who serve alcohol (which in some arab countries is limited to hotels only anyway under severe restrictions), so lets not be dramatical about respecting the wishes of 95% of the population for 30 odd days (when they should be respected 365 days in fact)…so to call a press conference with CNN because a few people here or there were deprived from having a beer in public (he can easily buy it from a supermarket and invite his friends home) for 30 days speaks of plain stupidity to me (as Nas noted we have bigger problems in life than this)…..and being sensitive to the local culture and religious beliefs of the majority should come from within the person, not waste police time enforcing it, but what can you say some people it seems think its revolutionary to be audacious?

    …now on Books@cafe specifically, this place has been well known to be a getaway for homosexuals in Amman, this is not a myth or inneundo but a notion that came about after tens of people reported seeing different things there we dont need to get into detail here…so if you ask ME, this place should be closed down for 365 days of the year not 30, and we can debate that in other forum seperatly…in the meantime Ramadan Kareem!

  • couldn’t say it any better. I mean for God’s sake, let it go. The owner was cited 2 days earlier to the incident, but he insisted to keep on serving. people tend to forget that serving alcohol is a privilege not a right. It can be revoked anytime if the licensee doesn’t comply.

    in the mean time, lets try to raise the same loud voice and press conference for the jailed journalists, and maybe the corruption that is becoming infested in many jordanian institutions. I am sure we can do this over coffee instead of beer at books@cafe.

  • I still can’t buy any of the arguments that link the issue to relegion or respect. I see it as a trend that has been taking place in concert with economic and political failures. I think I read somewhere that no new liquir stores, night clubs, etc.. has been lincensed since 2005(Maybe except for this Casino).

    But if you link all of these instances together(including, the casino, closing the massage joints, etc..) you can start to recognize a theme: With failures and public distrust in the system, there is a tendency to increase the enforcment of “morality”. And I think the worst is yet to come- The dollar is going to sink even more with this 1.5 trillion new “bailout”, they will print more dollars which means more infaltion and I think it will also mean that foreign aid will drop dramatically, and don’t foregt that our dinar is pegged to the dollar..The crack down is coming..

  • Whatever stance taken, the amount and quality of responses the controversial closure of this Books@ garnered also reminds me of the outcry over the Hikmat Kaddoura (Allah yer7amo) accident.

    It seems that Ammanis, mostly West Ammani youth, remember that they have a VIOLENTLY LOUD VOICE, and there is something called SOCIAL JUSTICE to be achieved in this country when the problem hits HOME BASE.

  • I agree with the gents but I also think that some limited places should be allowed to discreetly serve non practicing Muslims and Christians regular meals and drinks. People should have the right to chose without disrespecting local tradition.

  • yes its silly to call international media for that, yet we have to believe that its their right to do so.

    You can not expect all people to care for hunger or poverty. As shitty as this is, most people react for their own benefit, and not everyone is a freedom fighter or in arab words a salahdin, they might be just supporters, indifferent, or against salahdin.

    Condaliza Rice was “worried” today from the religious restrictions in many arab countires including Egypt and JORDAN! does that has to do anything with this ?!?!?!

    People either have the right to rally for THEIR causes or they don’t. And all matters of such materiality – more or less – (homosexuals/religion beliefs/religion practices/sexuality accepted level/cultural and social practices..etc) are all matters that affect many people on daily basis and shape their approach and attitude..

    Just as corruption affects everyone economics on the long run at least, as gender inequality, women & children abuse will affect your society at least if not any of your circles. Social freedoms come within same group no matter what comes first and what comes last.

    Personally, I do not understand why a fasting person is so irritated from non practicing or non muslim people.. why do religion has to be always forcely respected? why are nerves highly electrified? many people I know fasts and don’t really care if food were around them.

    People ask for respect of their will based on a non shared choice.. while those people might be the same who smoke in public without minimum health care or spits around when moisture level grows up to 10% in their mouths, the continous violaters of traffic, tax, licensing, environment laws over and over.. But a ramadan fan who enforces everyone to respect it! While all those issues affect societies, the religion issue affects individuals.

    The same old questions: how democratic are we? do we believe in personal freedoms? do we tend to enforce our choices on others? Many ask for a democratic rule while not being democratic on their own small things first!

  • “It’s not a matter of the majority versus the minority or even their numbers. It’s not about raising your hand; laws don’t work that way. It’s about being fair, being just and being balanced.”

    I didn’t read the whole post but one thing struck me from the beginning. I spent numerous Christmas’s ( more than 10 ) in the west and during that time all public service was shut down for almost 2 weeks. I couldn’t go to university or school nor could I use the public transport or shop at regular hours, now aren’t those things more important than getting Drunk ? Not forgetting that Muslims have to work and study and do exams during their celebrations.

    And how in our debates do we always idealize the west and make it look as if we are the only ones who do this as if Muslims in the West don’t have to tolerate such things and more ? I mean in the west they can’t have indecency on their tv’s because the majority thinks it is bad and they don’t have porn stores in certain areas because the majority thinks it’s bad. Why can’t we ban drinking, which is bad and dangerous and we could do without, if our majority thinks its bad ? Why do we have to consul the Wests majority abroad ? is the world only a global village when it comes to domestic Islamic issues ?

  • Nas, thanks for the interesting post. Due to family circumstances, I’m even LESS aware of the issues circulating than usual and, as always, you bring me up to date. I want appreciate your bringing up this topic. I find your perspective very interesting (and heartening). I wanted to add a few thoughts.

    World-wide, you see this same insensitivity of youth. Starving people are impossible to understand if you have never been hungry. How can a person raised in West Amman in a nice villa with grass (!) possibly understand those who are less fortunate? How can I? I was raised by a single mother. I often did homework by the kerosene lantern because the power bill wasn’t paid on time. And yet, I recognize that I have never know poverty-induced hunger. I can only sympathize (feel for) this large portion of Jordan’s population, not empathize (feel with them).

    That said, I think about the poor of Jordan nearly every day. I wonder if there aren’t ways that I can help. And, even better, ways I can get my kids helping. As a non-Muslim, Ramadan doesn’t bring the poor more forcefully to my mind… it just comes as a month of inconvenience and discrimination. After all, why shouldn’t I be able to go to my favorite bookstore (Christian owned) and get a sandwich for lunch? Why are my options to drive all the way home or go without? If I owned a restaurant and had Christian workers, why shouldn’t I remain open to serve tourists, Christians, and anyone else who chose to come and eat?

    And now, here’s the thing that’s the funniest (and most representative of human nature). When I worked in an office with practicing Muslims, I went away to a closed room with blinds on the windows to eat my morning snack. I did this not because it was a regulation or rule. Quite the opposite, most of the office was not fasting. Those who were went out of their way to let me know that they were perfectly happy for me to eat in front of them. As a result, I wanted to make their fast easier, I walked up a flight of stairs to take myself away from their view. But, when I feel compliance with someone else’s religious beliefs is mandatory, I want to take out food (great quantities) and eat in front of them… After all, are they going to fast with me come Lent? I think not. Ahh, human nature… I appreciate that you tackle the tricky issues and begin the dialog.

  • Nas,

    I agree, the reaction toward the closure is pretty disappointing. Whats disappointing for me is that all the riots ( in terms of temper and calls for excessive measures to protect the Jordan commentators believe it exists because obviously their simple benefits and image is protected). are coming from a superiority point of view.

    The move is merely political as a move to show the other side bigger part of the nation that the government is doing something to protect the holiness of the month. because the number of people fasting and how out spoken we those who dont fast are clear about it very evident and annoying the majority.

    Anyway, the whole annoyment is only a big deal for what? few hundreds at its best because also part of those who need box@ during Ramdan are aware of our country state and many of them were actually fighting the corrupted system that allow such actions and were against the many law’s that regulate this and many other anti freedom and social development actions and are not living an illusion called Jordan the land of freedom and democracy, the liberal jordan.

  • Basically this whole issue has turned into a polemic by Jordanian protagonists of secularism on one hand, and the majority of Jordanians and their government on the other– given that Jordan is more or less a Muslim country, and the majority of its citizens are practicing Muslims – When in fact the whole discussion could have streamed on totally different grounds.

    My humble opinion is that both parties are right in their own way…
    Madian’s statement was pretty strong until he embarked on the cultural and religious freedom bit. By doing so, he has lost his whole argument, and more government-decision-supporting-groups emerged, which was expected.

    If he articulated his whole argument against a system, over-burdened with corruption, ignorance and lack of support for individuals who take it upon themselves to do something, or to change something. He might have got himself a larger audience -but he turned the whole argument against him at some point, and hence the never-ending debate!

    On the other hand, some of us, sadly, think that when we import western liberalism into a strong culture like ours, we naively take it for granted, and forget that strong cultures build high walls, and high walls are harder to climb. The worrying part is when Jordanian secularists adapt what Western secularists famously suggest that the tolerance they exhibit towards the other falters in the case of Islam – Which is a cause for alarm of how divided our own world is!

  • well said Naseem, really!!!
    This only shows how normalized we became to use the same rhetoric that some public political figures use when preaching for importing democracy in our societies , we look at the surface and forget that the problem exist in the core. We became so active, loud and seek explanation from the government when a place serving alcohol ( not mentioned in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) gets shut down, but we are so tolerant to cases of human trafficking, violations of house servants human rights, or the scandals of the stock market..great hearts we have!

    well my only condolences ,even though this was triggered by the Books@ case, finally these people are waking up to terms like “government hypocrisy”, “failed reform” , “freedom of expression” …maybe we ARE moving a step ahead !

  • If my business was closed as such, i’d pack up and leave, move my business to another country where such sociopolitical hurdles do not step in my way… hold on a sec, I think I actually did!

    So much for attracting foreign investment…

  • Well, I’ve promised myself not to comment on blogs. But here goes it…

    I understand the dichotomies that you are addressing. It is also interesting if I may say, that the view from the Terrace is basically East Amman. But I honestly do not think it is a matter of West Amman or East Amman, in fact, I would dismiss it as irrelevant. Like you said, religion is also irrelevant, but the problem is that in this case, religion is used as justification, because of the emotional value it bears in the hearts of the population. I mean let’s face it, without religion, the self perception of 95 percent of the population’s lives would amount to nothing. So religion is that valuable in Jordan.

    Personally, although I do love Books@Cafe, and the place does bear a lot of sentimental value to me. The real issue on hand, is the rule of law in Jordan. Does it sound just to you, that a small business owner, although has gone through the lengthy procedure of obtaining necessary licenses to operate during Ramadan, can be shut down simply based on the whim of a group of vigilantes that decided to impose their own law? And thus dismissing whatever laws passed down by the government?

    The matter on hand, is that at the end of the day, we (as in Jordanians, and not West Ammanis only), educated, law obedient citizens, who do not have any form of wasta, or political muscle, will have to look over our backs? Because the rule of law in Jordan is absent, and because at any given moment, a group of whimsical vigilantes feel a sense of entitlement, and feel that they are above the law? Should we start feeling that we do live in a police state after all?

    It is plain and clear Nas, obeying the law in Jordan seems to not be enough.It seems that you either have to bribe the law (to become above it), or get yourself enough political clout, to override the law.

    It is like Marwan Qussous’ case. It is like ATV’s shutdown. It is like the press law. Do you not see a pattern here? I think the country is sinking down to more darkness, simply because the majority which you have referred to, is taking out its frustrations on the wrong people, instead of dealing with the issues on hand. All of these cases share one common theme, which is finding a scapegoat that can take the blow.

  • Oh and I do second Rami’s sentiment. For a country that has been scrambling to get foreign investments, namely in tourism, this is a big slap in the face.

    And by the way, out of all of the places in Amman, Books is the least “West Ammanish” since it opens its doors to everybody and anybody. Actually, it’s just as “sha3bi” as Hashem is if you think about it. I really think that the cultural divide taking place in Amman has little to do with this. It’s a matter of a bunch of thugs wanting to rain on somebody’s party. Unfortunately, we live in a country where as I said earlier, without religion, people will believe their lives amount to nothing, so if the same had happened to let’s say any mosque, the matter would have been looked upon in a different light. It’s just that these thugs use the already available religious sentiments to make their own version of what constitutes the law.

  • For those that are saying this is a “slap in the face” of foreign investments, I say: are you freakin kidding me?? If you ask me, the last thing jordan needs is more restaurants/coffee shops and bars. Local business people can do that. This scenario is absolutely irralevant. If anything, gulf investors would love to hear that.

  • again i dont see the link to foreign investors running away, did you hear of a hotel being closed down? no just a few pubs and bars here and there…in the UK pubs are not allowed to open after midnight under their license for instance, well the jordanian license rules are you open 11 months of the year for 24 hours if you wish, so from a lost business perspective its more economical in jordan…..

    Martin – you say “I also think that some limited places should be allowed to discreetly serve non practicing Muslims and Christians regular meals and drinks. People should have the right to chose without disrespecting local tradition” – well I assure you hundred of restaurents (including all the fast food places like Burger King) are open and ready to serve all day in ramadan, so anyone not fasting is welcome to eat there during the day, its just alcohol given its forbidden in Islam so just in Ramadan they are closing it down due to the hightened sensitivity of people during such a holy month…think Yum Kippur and closed shops in Israel for instance….

    My final bullet here would be , if we follow the path of thinking of “am free to do what i want otherwise we will scare foreign investors”, and we pay no regard to wishes of majority vs minority, then can I ask whats stopping us from opening Casinos and Strip clubs in Amman?

    wake up people…half of the European countries are still opposed to opening a Mosque for the millions of Muslims living there (Greece until months ago) whilst we scream human rights coz we cannot flaunt a beer in ramadan, have we no shame?

  • hahah yes we know rankings are not good, but more to do with human capial, taxes, red tape, corruption etc… rather than tolerance for beers in ramadan!

  • I know, that is why the debate should be about the real issues, and hopefully the energy can be focused on holding accountable those who preach reform, better world standings, etc… and deliver only worse standings, deformation, and on paper “accomplishments”. The Books@ case is only a symptom, and instead of us looking at what the real causes behind such moves we moved to debate relegion and respect. We are so damn predictable that it is laughable.

  • Just to address a few key points made throughout the comments thus far:

    “you can start to recognize a theme: With failures and public distrust in the system, there is a tendency to increase the enforcment of “morality”.”

    This has been my general perception as well. Like I pointed out, people tend to move to the right, towards safer ground. The government, and yes, even the right wing hawkish organizations in this country capitalize on that because it’s the easiest way to score political points.

    “Not forgetting that Muslims have to work and study and do exams during their celebrations. “

    While a little exaggerated, there is a valid point here and it opens an interesting debate. Having lived at least half of my life in the west, Muslims, as a minority have to endure holidays related to Christians and Jews. During university, nearly every year the Muslim organization would rally to have Eid considered as a holiday and various other organizations put up such a fight that it never got there. Anyways, it’s an interesting thought that’s worth consideration, but my focus here is away from the majority vs. minority theme.

    “So much for attracting foreign investment…”

    This is an interesting argument. As others have (rightfully) pointed out already, it is highly doubtful that foreign investment is altered by cultural realities. Most foreign investment comes from Gulf-based nations that are more conservative than Jordan. Other FDI sources include western nations that pretty much know what they’re getting into when it comes to Jordan. Regardless, as was pointed out, if investors are either getting swayed by local culture and religious values/norms, then perhaps they’re not the kind of investor that’s needed. Moreover, the service sector is traditionally, and will most likely continue to be, fueled by Jordanians and other Arabs. The kind of FDI required in Jordan is long term investments in light-to-heavy manufacturing, and manufacturers tend to care little about local culture as much as they care about infrastructure, taxes, labor, costs, and low corruption.

    “Does it sound just to you, that a small business owner, although has gone through the lengthy procedure of obtaining necessary licenses to operate during Ramadan, can be shut down simply based on the whim of a group of vigilantes that decided to impose their own law? And thus dismissing whatever laws passed down by the government?”

    I absolutely agree with you. Hence the point of this post. This is a country with a rule-of-law. If it’s not going to be enforced then we should scrap the system.

    “Actually, it’s just as “sha3bi” as Hashem is if you think about it.”

    That’s a bit of a stretch 😀

    “The Books@ case is only a symptom, and instead of us looking at what the real causes behind such moves we moved to debate relegion and respect.”

    Another valid point.

  • Fact: the system/government/legislation/public servants put a rule and abused it themselves. This = corruption, bigotry, hypocrisy. And yet another situation where the gov kills its own credibility – an ingredient in rare supply these days.

    What if the hole in the wall that was shut down this way was Buksat – the women’s only internet cafe in Karak with a women’s only coffee shop inside? And the 150 supporters of Buksat Karak blogged it in Arabic and complained about it, some agreed that a place serving food and drink in the day in Ramadan should be closed, the majority stepped up and spoke out about a place that matters to them. First they were told it’s business as usual during Ramadan, then a few days into the month they get hassled and shut down irrespective of the right paperwork. Would that story be perceived as more noble to the critics?

    Books@Cafe is not only a place in Jabal Amman, after all these years it’s become a little subculture that has nurtured a following. The leader, Madian, stood up, told his story, which he has every right to in whatever way he sees fit, and the loyal community spoke up.

    Did they fumble around in the conversation and debate on 7iber and miss the point? Many times yes. But some have good arguments. And if this is the incident that rallies 150 voices to speak out on an English blog, that’s their right. It matters to them. That’s important. In fact, it’s very important.

    If the incident was not in West Amman, and not being blogged in English, would that change people’s perception/attitude towards it? Probably.

    Break it down. Everyday someone hears a little story of a simple person trying to do his/her little thing and they get jerked around by the system and bullied by the corrupt.

    Causes need leaders and a following. Someone has to step up and venture into uncharted/unsafe territory if s/he cares strongly about something. Hopefully the members of that cause will also voice their opinions too, but they do need an active, committed leader.

    Why aren’t more people fighting for more noble causes here? I think they simply don’t believe! They don’t believe strongly in the cause and that it changes their lives, and if they did, they don’t believe they can impact change. They are broken. And that is very, very sad. People are not born apathetic. People are not born insensitive. People are not born passive. People are not born pessimistic. Nurture makes them that way.

    One of the very few causes and movements that is making bits of progress and growing its community is the Daba7toona movement. That’s a great thing! Why are they doing this and able? Faith. And they know the vision of their movement. And they can see how it touches their lives. I’ve had brief chats with a couple of people in that movement, and I could sense their clarity and feel their passionate commitment. They’ll keep at it. They’ll get somewhere.

    This country could do with more people who have real faith. Jordan is drained from initiatives that never get to the finish line. Big claims that don’t see the end game like they should. Promises that fall off the track mid way coz of a corrupt few and an apathetic many. The system has hit rock bottom in integrity and credibility. That needs to be fixed immediately.

    What is truly lost is vision. All this passion and emotional outbursts on this and that every now and then is mostly wasted coz very few know where they’re going and what to do with this energy. That’s not a good thing at all. When there is no vision, darkness falls. I blogged this at length yesterday if interested.

    We’ll eventually get better at defining what matters and how to fight for it and how to impact it to the better, and how to mobilize voices that count in support of the vitals. It doesn’t matter what individuals chose to stand up/speak out/fight for. What matters is that they do something, and keep at it.

  • It is kind of silly all of this. Jordan doesn’t really know what it wants as an identity. One day they are approving casinos and liquor stores and another they close them down. If you are wishy washy about what you believe in, then no one will have any faith in anything you do.

    I agree that no liquor should be allowed anywhere in Amman during Ramadan, or anytime for that matter, but if someone wants a sandwich, then go for it. It is not going to affect my fasting. If fasting folk cannot handle others eating in front of them then maybe they have forgotten the whole point of fasting to begin with. There are still busloads of tourists in town and all kinds of expats who are not fasting. We should let them eat and be happy. Showing tolerance for our neighbors is part of Dawa.

  • I think the paradox of our little bubble is that “the most influential demographic”, as you call them, do not understand or value the power of their influence.

    It might be ironic that this is the issue that illustrates their collective power and offers them an outlet to voice their concerns. Still, the silver lining is that it will no doubt effect a portion of those readers and turn them on to online activism down the line.

    (or at least i hope that’s what it does).

  • This is a very controversal issue, and I can see that people have different point of views, but to set things str8 here are some points to be concerned:
    1. If a place is licensed by the Government to operate and serve alcohol during Ramadan, then why are we blaming Books and other cafes?
    2. If this measure upsets Muslims in Jordan and the local traditions of the Holy month, why arent we bitching the Government about giving permissions and letting people have alcohol during Ramadan?
    3. I went to the airport on friday morning and during Ramadan, and the cafe in the arrival terminal was serving food and coffee during the day! Is this exceptional, to have food infront of the public during the day? where are the traditions, how come I didnt hear any of you bitch about it?
    4. If books is closed because its a Gay heaven, why didn’t the Government and Intelligence close it down? Is having Gays and Lesbians in a palce makes it worth closing down? What about Nai, Kanabayah, Starbucks? Gays are everywhere
    5. The law should be respected and if this case invloves corruption, bribary, then shame on us and them!

  • يا رجل أحسن وأرخص حل في هذا البلد هي الرشوة،لو أنا محلك برشلي شويت قروش علي هل الطرش وهيك بتحل المشكله، أسئل مجرب ولا تسئل طبيب

  • Clearly there is a difference here between the rule of law, freedom of expression, and what you interpret as religious values. Let’s work this out, because although it seems that confusing the three is a national pastime:
    A) It’s not about your bloody Da’wa, it’s not about being tolerant of your neighbours, it’s about the damned rule of law. I’m sorry, but Jordan is not -yet- a Muslim theocracy. Alcohol is allowed, and it has been for ages. Licensing a tourist place in Ramadan is a logical step, not for tourism or anything else, but because there is no reason for people to impose their religious values on others, and believe it or not commerce DOES continue in places around the world. Jordan, a country with a shockingly low productivity rate, does not need to shoot itself in the foot all the time.
    B) No official would dare enter into a hotel and check a bar out, so they pick on the one place that is high-profile and they raid it as an example. Heaven forbid that the government would actually enforce the law correctly, and equally over all.
    C) Oh that’s right, the place actually had a license to operate. Whether you agree or not (see no.1), it’s ABOUT THE RULE OF LAW.
    D) Next thing, we’ll have the banning of musical and cultural activities in Amman during Ramadan, because that doesn’t respect religion and is not in line with the holy nature of the month… because nothing says holy more than gorging yourself to the gills at a restaurant. A time of reflection indeed.
    Finally, for those who are saying that this is a silly cause to mobilize people, one thing should be realized: It is not about books@cafe. For those who are so near-sighted as to not to realize the significance of this and what it means, it should be understood that this is the beginning of something far greater and much more far-reaching. Of course there are far more important causes than the closing of a cafe, even one as significant as books@cafe (which started the revival (and sadly the gentrification) of the First Circle area)), and yes isn’t it silly how the West Ammanis are sobbing because of the closure of their place. But it is not about a cafe, and it is not about alcohol. It is about the way of life that people want to choose and their freedom to choose it. First it is bars, tomorrow it is bars all-year round, soon it is all mixed establishments, and before you know it we are in a place that does not tolerate the existence of anyone who does not obey the worldview there. Yes, of course in Amman there are have and have-nots, just like anywhere else, but that certainly does not mean that personal liberties are to be limited, and maybe this is the scales off the eyes of a lot of people, but belittling this incident is the first step towards a Jordan that is intolerable.
    Hell, what do I care? I’m leaving anyway. Jordan is a pointless country, run by fools who yearn to return to the “grand old days” of “Bab El Harra”. Let them go, and let the brain drain continue.

  • @ the “ultra-liberals”
    What I am trying to say here has got nothing to do with the books@ case per se; but a general observation.

    We can clearly see huge symptoms of greedy liberal thinking which is over-pushing things. It seems that most of these “ultra-liberals” have lived in the west for a long time, and were intrigued by the freedoms granted there, and want to create exact replicas within a secluded Ammani-haven of their own, thus enjoying the best of both worlds, without adding or subtracting to an existing culture which is in a dire situation and can do a lot with their own experience and self-driven power that can add mobility to its needy jamm-ness. And what we shockingly hear is that when their own freedom (secluded haven) is imposter-ed, they only chose to run back westward, like a little child who didn’t get his own way! I think the whole debate is asking for, is compromise, patience, respect for own culture and own people and their cause.

  • it is not about a month that will pass , i guess every culture has its rules ,imagine we were in europe , people would think it is cool to close for a month during the day , it is how u look at it.
    It is a month full of blessings and love to everybody , this is what we should look at , i think Since life has become too fast , Ramadan will slow us down to think about the important stuff that will count in our lives , this is what Ramadan is all about , Now the ones who do not want to use it that way , should wait for a month because our Constitution says that ” the country’s religion is Islam” , we respect all religious events in Jordan , why make noise about Ramadan , we consider christmas and labor day holidays , we take days off in the year that are not compatible with most religions , why Ramadan , This country is a Muslim country that respects all religions and views , so others must respect that as well …

  • at Lass

    yes, you got it right… as an ultra liberal i am sick of those suffering the stockholm syndrome. pun intended.

    you can have the king send you a post card every Eid for being the goody good moderate and loyal muslim, but in a few days you’ll have a gun in your back by the men in black saying don’t get too excited, in fact, shut the hell up.

    thats how it works in jordan — if there is any space for people expressing themselves freely, be it virtually or physically, it gets noted down in newspapers as a development that attracts the international community, but in a dark hallway, there are guns flashing at you if you care to let this development go any further.

  • Rami,
    I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being a moderate, if one can totally relate to one’s own culture and heritage, and see the strengths not the weaknesses, and also build on the myriad of benefits of having an open understanding of both directions of thought – and that most of the time has nothing to do with religion. Why you think that moderates are considered loyal Muslims, is beyond me, as the case of every political thought; we as Middle Eastern people think that to have a political opinion, you either is a Muslim or non-Muslim – or more dangerously, as the Western scholars suggest that any “anti-liberal” thought (fancy way of saying retarded) is Muslim!

    I do believe that “ultra-liberals”, are secluding themselves from the majority, because they’re using that Western classifying system, of Muslim and non-Muslim, and ignoring that religion is a small part of culture and heritage. The good thing about western thought as I see it is that no matter where you stand on the left-right ends of the line; it’s always a matter of sticking to one’s culture and one’s heritage. That’s why you see coherence, and you like it when you see it, but for us, our non-coherence stems from rejecting the most basic about one’s own identity…

  • Okay, well done everybody!

    a stupid silly store has turned into a freedom symbol and yet, a school of religious tolerance in west Amman.

    our scholarships, libraries, poets, legendary heroes and many public and private educational institutions did not even compete with a store that sells cheap liquor, as a national freedom and tolerance centers.

    well done everybody, can we now please get back to the issue of how – our youth – can save Gaza?

  • Bilal – Black Jack
    I totally agree , i put my voice with yours if u allow me , and let’s start something at least virtual

  • I think the debate is starting to lose the plot.

    This issue is simple: the owner of a private business tried to run it the way he saw fit, and sought and obtained the necessary licenes and permission for him to do it.

    Sadly, it has merely unleashed the exact kind of bigotry – oh no, there are gays drinking booze within three miles of my 17-year-old neice! Burn them! – that securalists and liberals find so tiresome. Actually, no, make that backward.

    People mention the starving and the homeless, but where is there concern that government agents seem to have nothing better to do in Jordan than abuse restaurateurs and their customers…???

    If people really don’t want to see other people drinking alcohol, don’t go to a place that serves it.

    It is that easy.

    This country is 6-7% non-Muslim, and probably another 10% on top of that are non-practising Muslims. So, this ultimately boils down to a core of religious bigots who wish to dictate to 15% of the population how to live their lives based on a set of beliefs that are a considerably more recent arrival to the region than alcohol.

    Seriously, how idiotically fragile is one’s faith if the mere thought of someone drinking it in a private place brings out the fascist desire to ban the practice altogether?

    Got a suggestion, though, the next time those in favour of the closing down private businesses head for a weekend in Aqaba, they might want to keep going a few hundred kilometers. I know just the place for them….

  • agree 100%. enough is enough.

    but one word of caution Nas. one person can post dozens of comments with fake names to create the impression of a movement. this is the nature of the web and blogging. as a matter of fact is’s possible that 90% of the comments on your blog may have been generated by 2 people. hardly an accurate sample of west amman. and if you think the IP address is an accurate measure of the originalizty of the comment, think again.

    I think we need always be cognizant of that possibility on the web. one person with a laptop and an internet connection can post a comment every 5 minutes with a new IP address and at the end of the day you would think there is a mass movement.

  • Clearly wanting to run your business is “greedy liberal thinking”. And in case you’re wondering, no, no one in the West would think that some religious group imposing its will on the people would be “cool”. It’s like the Catholic church saying “Hey, wouldn’t it be AWESOME if we forced EVERYONE to not eat meat and be completely vegan for forty days”. Yeah, great idea.
    Also, as another response, don’t you realize that your basic identity is different than mine, and that you have NO RIGHT to impose your identity on mine? Is that not clear? Isn’t the fact that Muslims in the US and France, who are forced to assimilate themselves into the society by not wearing the Hijab or whatever, isn’t it a fact that these people are livid about this? And don’t they have a right to be? Yet when the matter is on the other hand, suddenly we have to adhere to some constructed national identity, which in the case of Jordan was almost entirely constructed by Glubb Pasha.
    Going back “crying” to the West is what anyone with the ability to do in Jordan will do. The crying is not because the “haven” is destroyed, but because one cries for having thought that a haven could exist in such a corrupt, myopic, backward thinking place.
    And before I have to hear one more nonsensical statement about what we can for Gaza, does any one here honestly believe that they could actually do anything for Gaza? Anything tangible and real? You speak of activism and of change, but realize that the government doesn’t even trust you to drive down to the Dead Sea without being checked, and realize that any attempt for activism, even of the peaceful variety, will be met by hostility if not downright obstruction. More to the point, activism is needed here in Jordan, where civil liberties are constantly being toyed with and degraded. This cafe is no where near being an important issue, except for what it symbolizes and what it heralds. It heralds a Jordan even more intolerant than before, and one where not even the rule of law is respected before some person’s view of religion. Doesn’t this frighten anyone? Doesn’t THIS require activism?

  • “Jordan was almost entirely constructed by Glubb Pasha”

    Nader B, just an aside. To be fair, every Arab country for that matter is a colonialist invention. It used be called the Ottoman Empire. Remember?

  • Nader B, I think the objection was never over calls to reopen Books@cafe. Books@Cafe suffered from bad PR by amateurs who were loud but never courageous or honest. So they loudly and nosily beat around the bush but never got to the crux of the matter.

    The point is this there is a wide-sweeping campaign to disenfranchise Jordanian Palestinians, politically and economically. They are being put under a microscope until a mistake is committed. If no mistakes were made, they will fabricate evidence. This is what happened to Books@Cafe and to other promenant Jordanian Palestinians. Books@Cafe is not an isolated case.

    So it’s not about freedom of religion or democracy. It’s far worse.


  • Nader,

    “And in case you’re wondering, no, no one in the West would think that some religious group imposing its will on the people would be “cool””

    Of course they want!! It would only be “cool” if we called the CNN, AFP or any other major network to cover how some good willing people’s liberties are being oppressed by not only a vengeance state, but a majority of relatives, neighbors and friends. Let our annoyance with a government decision, be directed towards the majority of people who’s only wrong was that they happen to have a certain belief – which could be different than yours or mine!
    Let all the political system sins be justified at the altar of religion, and let us believe that if we don’t “abolish” religion from our society, it will not be a livable place till we do!

    Meanwhile, let our identities float as vapor in the air, until we can decide who we are and what we want, how do we represent ourselves at home or in the west and most importantly where do we belong?!

  • Hi Naseem,

    your focus seems to be on the behavior of West Ammanis in the face of arbitrary law enforcement and all the other issues raised. You wonder why suddenly they start shouting out loud, fighting for their freedom, while ignoring the realities of the poorer and underprivileged.

    I am a German citizen living in Jabbal Amman, and my social life mainly takes place in West Amman. I don’t believe in god, I drink, and I do all sorts of things that would be regarded to be bad by many Muslims. And I am totally with people like the owner of Books@ who claims his right, and I totally understand why he and others are upset. But you ask a valid and important question: are the privileged inhabitants of this city willing to acknowledge the reality of large parts of society? Are they also willing to contribute to a peaceful and just society where everybody is treated with respect?

    Obviously many muslims in Amman feel disrespected and challenged by more liberal attitudes. That’s maybe where their vulnerability, frustration and anger partly comes from. I don’t know if and how conservatism, Islam and deprivation are connected in this country, but everybody can guess that the whole issue has also to do with the widening gaps between rich and poor, educated and illiterate, young and old etc.

    It is absolutely necessary that West Ammanis care more about those who have less. And they should not talk or think about East Ammanis and conservative Muslims as if they were retards. Maybe then those conservative muslims would start showing more respect themselves towards minorities. For obviously the protection of minorities’ rights doesn’t seem to bother them much – I hope for them that they will always belong to the majority.

    Eventually I’d like to ask you something. You wrote: ‘The realities that the majority of this country is culturally conservative and, comparitvely, religiously moderate, and the very notion of western ideals being shoved down their throats will tend to cause the very opposite of the initial intent: everyone just resorts back to the safe ground of a more conservative atmosphere.’

    The word ‘shove’ implies the use of force. Who tries do impose western values on them? So far I only read comments by Muslims trying to impose their religious laws and traditional lifestyle on others. So what exactly do you mean by ‘shoved down their throats’?

  • Count me with Rami, Nader B and Daniel Faller. Some of the other comments I’ve read on this subject are, frankly, frightening.

  • Daniel, Interesting perspective…..interesting questions.

    “The word ’shove’ implies the use of force. Who tries do impose western values on them? So far I only read comments by Muslims trying to impose their religious laws and traditional lifestyle on others. So what exactly do you mean by ’shoved down their throats’?”

    I’m sure Naseem can elaborate what HE meant, but I’d like to point out it’s been my experience that there’s a strong peer pressure in Jordan to adapt or reform to a “modern” secular pop culture. This is coming from someone born in the west where I lived for 23/24 years.

    Some people go out of their way to have other people feel they’re not welcome in the environments they also inhabit. As Naseem stated, these people are not usually arab Christians or non-muslim foreigners but non-practicing Muslim locals. They have aggressive attitudes and will happily let you know if you don’t subscribe to those ways your place is in the villages. They tend to have a black and white view of everything and don’t know (or don’t want to know) very much about what’s outside of their little bubble. I even experienced this type of pressure from people I was good friends with the last time I saw them. They were more interested in being vocal about our differences and semi-interrogating me than they were in how I’ve been doing or just catching up! It was really disheartening.

    I mean sure there are lots of pressures as a practicing Muslim in the west-but I never experienced that I had to be on one of either side of such a divide in the US like I did in certain places in Jordan.

    I understand that some of the same attributes can be given to “the other side,” but this is in response to your specific question about how “western values” could be imposed.

  • did someone just say Egypt is a colonial invention? LOL pick a history book mate…

    and for the life of me after so many posts i dont understand where the differences are…in Europe muslims make 5% of the population yet they have no mosques nor are they allowed to build them (Greece until 3 months ago), Eid is not a holiday in all EU countries whilst Xmas and Easter in Jordan are, most EU countries ban religious schools and force girls not to wear the veil, in Jordan we had christian schools for ages etc…so i dont understand where europeans or christian or liberals or god knows who can come up with all this hypocracy and call people who want to ban “public” beer drinking for 30 days during their holy month in a MUSLIM country (by constitution and majority of population) as “bigots” and extremists?

  • Ok, it’s pretty late, I’m very tired, and I’m just going to be as honest and open as i can (and regret it in the morning):

    Here’s the thing, people care about the things that affect them directly. EVERYONE does this. Framing this as an issue of privileged West Amman is certainly one part of the discussion we should be having, but I also think that then again, the people in question aren’t doing anything that anyone else isn’t doing.

    Case in point: I don’t have a car in Amman, and I walk/take taxis everywhere. I get harassed, especially in the warmer months. I’m a foreigner who sticks out like a sore thumb, and people feel they have every right to shout things, whistle, point, try to solicit sex, and sometimes even follow me around.

    On the first day of Ramadan, some guy in a car followed me for blocks. He made his intentions clear. He even parked outside my place of residence and watched me go in (and it also seemed as though he knew where I was headed, which added an extra layer of creepiness, but that’s a whole other story). I was scared. Did some people notice it happening? Yes. But they didn’t really care. They kinda thought it was funny, I could tell. They just couldn’t relate. And to be perfectly frank, overall, even the most well-intentioned individuals often act like I deserve what happens.

    Do I blame anyone? No. They don’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes. To them I’m just some weirdo who should at least ride around in a car to protect herself. Now, I like taking walks and I’d much sooner leave Amman than give up on them, but I also understand that in the greater scheme of things my personal predicament is not important, not when there are greater issues at stake.

    It’s important to me, though. I can’t change that. I rarely talk about these things “in public” as it were, if only because I don’t want to appear ungrateful for my life in Amman, but in private this issue consumes me. And I can’t, and won’t, pretend otherwise. Am just an elitist? Well, yeah, in most regards. But is the very act of me dwelling on what concerns me directly wrong or pitiful? I don’t think so. I think the same applies to Books@Cafe and the people who care about what happened there… and, I mean, most of the people I run into there on a regular basis aren’t these millionaires or children of millionaires, or anything.

    The other thing is – running a business is running a business. I’m just a capitalist pig, but I hate to see any sort of good business suffer. I’m not a noble revolutionary, but these people who are trying to make it? Yeah, I think they deserve some dignity and respect.

    I think being able to run a business and not fear government harassment is NOT an elitist concern. Its everybody’s concern. These businesses prop up society in a variety of ways. They don’t just take from the community, they also give back.

    I think if Jordan is to have the bright future it deserves, business concerns should not be devalued (I’m not saying that you’re devaluing anything or anyone, Nas, it’s just that by making this a separate issue from everything else can have that effect).

  • Thank you all for the comments. I’ve enjoyed following the ongoing debate so far. I’m just to leave a quick comment on something that I read a few times throughout this thread that I feel I may have been misunderstood on.

    First of all, I’d like to point out the first half of my post is a pro-business, pro-rule-of-law commentary. I do not think a place like Books@Cafe should be randomly closed down at the whims of the police when they have a license to operate during Ramadan. And that being said, I will also emphasize what I wrote above: there is confusion as to the regulations. Someone rightly pointed out that Jordan itself is confused about its own identity and what it wants. This is something that needs to be determined and cleared up because the identity crisis is begining to impact laws and regulations. Closing down all the shops, but keeping some open, and then making sure all are closed is simply confusing and chaotic and no way to fuel a healthy business environment.


    Secondly, I am not making some sort of outcry of “why don’t they care about Gaza!”. This isn’t about west Ammanis caring about Palestine or Iraq or even east Ammani issues. This is about influential west Ammanis caring about Jordanian issues: issues that affect them.

    In other words, it feels like everyone who is all of a sudden talking about corruption and law enforcement and business and human rights and freedoms and reforms and God knows what, is only NOW discovering these issues, or, worse yet, only NOW feeling the urge to discuss those issues. The same issues that have been around for a long time but were impacting mostly that other 90% of Jordan.

    This is something I find troubling. As a 20-something west Ammani, this is something I find disheartening.

    And sure, maybe because they (we) don’t belong to that 90% we feel that we don’t need to comment but here’s where this discourse descends: these people are insisting it’s not about “them”, it’s not about the closure of “their place” or about “their desire to drink” or “their freedom”. No. If anything, they are insisting it’s not about “them” but about Jordan. About everyone. About who we are as a people. About our identity. About our social fabric. A national concern! Something that affects everyone and therefore everyone’s voice should be heard loud. This is the sentiment I’ve heard; this is the tone.

    Alright. Ok. Fine then.

    …but where are these voices when a journalist is jailed? where are these voices when a girl is killed by her brother who spends a few weeks in jail for the crime? where are these voices when minorities in this country run in to discrimination? where are these voices when books get banned? when voices are wrongfully accused because of the length of their beards? where are those voices when a woman earns less than a man?

    Are these not national issues?

    We’re talking about identity and branding and national unity, and equality, where every thread in the social fabric is respected…then why is there so much silence on the issues that affect who we are as a country and as a people?

    Where are those voices then?

    To what corner of this great city do they disappear to?

    THAT is my issue. THAT is my concern.

    It’s not about being helpless, because obviously, judging by the suggestions and the forcefulness of the people standing up for Books@Cafe, these people are anything BUT helpless.

    It’s about the selective apathy.

    Caring about only what directly affects oneself. And that’s fair enough. It is, as someone pointed out, to be expected. A person’s concern is, by default, always relative to the fire that’s closest to home.

    But to frame that “concern” as something of a “national” concern, to push and frame the debate in that direction, insisting that this case of restricted freedoms and abuse of the system is not only a threat to the patrons of a single cafe but indeed a threat to all people everywhere, is just plain hypocritical.

    So either we care about the closure of this one place because it means a lot to us and as selfish as that may sound at least it’s the honest truth, or, we care about the closure of this one place because it attacks the core of a national concern for freedoms and equality, and we’re being hypocritical because we’ve only now chosen to stand up for such rights.

    I don’t know which one it is.

    My guess is, they don’t either.

  • You’re right Nas.

    Voices need leaders. An issue needs one person to stand up and take unrelenting charge. If Madian did not himself tell his story, I’m not sure the situation would’ve taken this course. He is the leader here to his partners, to his staff, to his community, to his business, for their vision. He stood up and spoke specifics, accurately, about something that mattered, and that is what rallied the voices of the members of the Books@Cafe subculture.

    Where is the voice of the community of the other places that were closed? Some are quite popular with a loyal following. Their leaders never stood up nor spoke out, so you won’t hear their community.

    Leadership is not something our system, edu environment nor society embraces generally. We’re not a community nurturing community heroes. It’s a mindset, faith, practice and probably a lot of discomfort. It’s also, again, about vision.

    Do we want a country that empowers strong and mighty individuals with passionate voices, pro or con or simply different, to stand up and take charge and believe they can lead a movement and contribute to change? Or do we want a bunch of people dabbling around in dimness, waiting?

  • Londoner: “So i dont understand where europeans or christian or liberals or god knows who can come up with all this hypocracy and call people who want to ban ‘public’ beer drinking for 30 days during their holy month in a MUSLIM country (by constitution and majority of population) as ‘bigots’ and extremists?”

    That’s because you’re constructing a straw man so large it would rival the flag on Jebel Qusour.

    But I can make it clear for you: the two have NOTHING to do with each other.

    Unless you have evidence that those liberals in Jordan who want to – gasp! – drink wine (which predates Islam in the Middle East by a good few thousand years, incidentally) in private during someone else’s holy month also advocate the ban on mosques in Europe, then your claims of hypocrisy are meaningless.

    Also, the last time I checked, Swiss planning laws don’t have a great deal to do with a small cafe-bar in a Middle Eastern capital trying to operate its business in a legitimate fashion, and who can provide the paperwork to substantiate their attempts to do so.

    Seriously, how many places sell alcohol in Amman during Ramadan…? 15? 20? Yet because your religion finds alcohol distasteful, you want to close them all down for a month and remove people’s choice on whether they can drink it or not.

    That’s bigoted.

  • Londoner, Egypt’s modern borders are a colonial invention. unless you are suggesting that 5000 years ago the Pharaohs stood guard at border checkpoints resembling today’s’ borders. why don’t you pick up a history book not written by Masr Um Eddonya Party for a change.

  • Where are those voices then?

    Well, they’re not getting galvanized, are they? So much of what happens is merely reported in the press – which is important, obviously, but it doesn’t automatically put a face and a voice to the issue.

    As Nadine mentioned, Madian spoke up. He made the entire thing very personal, which is important, if you want people to care. And that’s why so many people reacted so strongly.

    So many other things just don’t get spoken of in that way. This has a lot to do with society, the way that rules are constructed, what is “the done thing” and what “isn’t done.”

    Madian had the opportunity to do something many do not. Or else an opportunity that many do not take up, for a variety of reasons.

  • “So many other things just don’t get spoken of in that way. ”

    Natalia, while I agree that, in this specific case, Madian took the opportunity to voice his issue strongly and rally people to that issue, which he is free to do…I highly disagree with your above statement.

    The problems we face today as a nation and as a people are CONSTANTLY being reported in the mainstream media and even talked about throughout social circles. From corruption to law enforcement to the various cases that are always taking place. And despite all the trespasses we experience and endure, there is silence.

    So many of these issues, such as corruption, are indeed personal stories and highly controversial. They get reported in the press and there’s silence from the same people who chose to speak up now.

    There’s something to be said about that.

    Hence my argument here.

  • The problems we face today as a nation and as a people are CONSTANTLY being reported in the mainstream media and even talked about throughout social circles.

    Well, as a writer, I think that there’s a vast difference between something being reported, or discussed with friends, and a DIRECT public statement from someone adversely affected in a personal manner.

    How many people are out there giving thoughtful, detailed, firsthand accounts of, say, being related to someone who murdered his sister and got 6 months in jail for it? And having to live with that for the rest of their lives? And having others around them AGREE with the murderer?

    Jordan is a small country. It doesn’t take a lot for people to start talking. But honest personal accounts affect people differently, we see it time and time again.

    Having said all that, the class element cannot be discounted. Jordan is extremely stratified. Furthermore, if you’re poor, have little to no education, and must engage in back-breaking labour for most of the day just to keep yourself fed, you don’t usually have time for eloquence.

    Very few people transcend that divide.

    When you’re privileged, you often fall into the trap of speaking “for” someone. In the case of Madian, you’re speaking “with” someone. So it becomes not only easier, it feels more legitimate for you to speak up.

    I don’t know what the solution is either. That’s the ultimate problem. Down the road? Increased prosperity. That’s all I can think of.

  • With all due respect:

    1- I disagree with the government decision of closing down businesses in Ramadan.

    2- I disagree with people telling people how to run their lives; every one is free to believe in whatever faith one likes – drinking, smoking, gambling …etc is a totally personal matter.

    3- I don’t think the closing of books@ café is a real cause.

    4- I don’t think Madian is a leader of a cause; it’s his personal business, personal issue, thus largely biased.

    5- All the people who spoke for his case should STILL feel guilty of not speaking up for other causes, because it’s their duty to do so, if they can do it for one noble reason, they can do it for another.

    6- Book@ café is not privileged for the gentrification of Jabal Amman, the area was already a cultural hub long before books@ café, and gentrification concerns slum areas, I would agree if book@cafe was opened in some less fortunate areas on the outskirts of Amman, or in the remote south of Jordan.

    7- From what I’ve seen, it seems that anything that strikes chords with Western values and contradicts our own is so easy to talk about (especially in English), and thus cannot truely be our cause nor our challenge. Rallying the West against our culture is not a heroic act, whatever personal sacrifices or liberties one has to give-up, or else it would be a selfish act.

    8- The whole issue has taken a lot more attention than its real worth.

  • I follow things in the Middle East closely and I see this as yet another step in the direction of intolerance and discrimination against non-Muslims. Everywhere in Islamic countries we see a group of radicals (fundamentalists) that are pushing for a “pure” Islamic society (whatever that is).

    In case you don’t know, in most Arab nations, their laws explicitly claim that they are based upon Islam and sharia… from that point on it is clear that non-Muslims are second class citizens. There is not real separation of mosque and state in Muslim countries and most people do not even want it. If a society still has problems, the clerics have two basic solutions: 1. blame others (The West, jews, colonialism, the crusades, lack of democracy, poverty, imperialism, etc…) and 2. Impose more Islam because Muslims are obviously not yet practicing the “true” Islam (whatever that is!). (Observation: From my reading of the Quran, hadith and Islamic history, it seems that “pure Islam” = “perfect human society” which may take a long time, maybe about 1,000,000,000 years give or take a few). Of course, to make these rules work, a morality police is needed and soon all human actions are controlled by a few clerics that have a right to impose their values (or lack thereof) on all.

    Soon, what little freedoms still exist in a country will be gone (I am talking about a moderate country like jordan). This is the way things are going and it will get worse. The government cannot oppose this, because to do so would cause them to be seen as unislamic. By closing this store, the government is saying “We are true Muslims” and it hopes it will curry favor with the Islamists. So, more Islam and less freedoms, and the few remaining non-Muslims will be forced to leave. This is what is happening in all of the Middle East.

    This is why I, a non-Muslim, have no respect for your religion. Until I see a change in the way Muslims treat others where they dominate, I see no reason to think that Muslims are anything but hypocrites.

    To those Muslims here who have stood up and opposed this measure, I thank you. I just wish there were more of you. The sad part is that you too are in trouble because of the increasing radicalization of the Muslim population. You cannot stop it because to speak out against it would be seen as speaking out against Islam because these rules are based upon Islam (in theory, at least). So, it will get worse.

    Too bad.


  • Lowfields & Azmi :

    first off lowfields – you say enjoy wine “in private”, well whats wrong with that? who is to stop anyone go buy a bottle in ramadan in front of people, invite his friends and drink it over dinner at home? No one. so we are only talking about serving it in public…so thats one….

    second you say “Seriously, how many places sell alcohol in Amman during Ramadan…? 15? 20? Yet because your religion finds alcohol distasteful, you want to close them all down for a month and remove people’s choice on whether they can drink it or not” – again same mistake, last time i checked the supermarket in amman selling all kinds of vodka 365 days a year was still open in ramadan, people are most welcome to go buy and enjoy with friends in private…the restriction was just on bars and pubs serving drinks in public which takes the matter from a personal choice (enjoying alcohol in private) to simply poking other people in the eye and staging an act of defiance of basic muslim rules in its most holy month (might as well have a happy hour before breaking the fasting…) which is just tasteless…if I use the “remove people choice” argument then soon the city will be filled with brothels and casinos which goes against being a muslim country (Islamic rules in some cases overrule any personal freedom same as you remove the choice of divorced people to get married again in some religions)…

    Azmi – i didnt talk about borders, even thou the borders of Egypt and Sudan have been there before 1921, but was rather responding to Glubb Pacha and the comment “arab countries are colonial inventions”, when Egypt and its main cities (Cairo, Alexandria etc.) have been there before most European countries, so read the words carefully before you go into sarcasm…

  • jay kactuz,

    As a non-muslim Jordanian, I could care less for your unjust analysis of this issue.This has nothing to do with religion. We non-muslims DO NOT suffer from discrimination in Jordan, this is your Islamophobic mind telling you things that make your life easier to handle, thats all. Why dont you go spew your ignorance somewhere else, maybe at a Jesus camp or something. Praise the Lord now!

  • “…simply poking other people in the eye and staging an act of defiance…”

    Yep, you got to the heart of it, Londoner…! I drink a glass a wine or a pint of beer in a private establishment as an act of rebellion and a deliberate insult to your sensibilities! I’m the James f***ing Dean of Amman!

    It’s good to debate with someone who has such keen insight into my motives for my choice of refreshment!

    Londoner, what I put down my throat in an evening, whether in a restaurant or my dining room, has absolutely no impact on you – or, indeed, anything other than my liver and possibly my ability to make a coherent argument after 2am.

    Similarly, your faith is your concern, and whatever set of ancient tales you have selected to guide your life, it’s better if they have no impact anyone’s choice of beverage – or where it is offered to paying customers.

    Seriously, why do you care what a privately owned, privately run establishment does behind its doors? How does that affect you or your faith…? Is it that fragile that you have to proscribe its limits to others who don’t share it???


    How can a Jordanian set up a company, a restaurant, a bar, with completely legal papers and approvals from all sides necessary with the knowledge that at anytime someone can come and close it down.

    That means theres absolutely no security to any individual…

    this isnt the first time this kind of thing happens, look at the lands of abdali who were just taken from their owners at a fraction of their price, whether they wanted to sell or not. Look at the random lands that have been taken to build schools and museums…

    this is a trend and as long as the Jordanian people sit there and do nothing, its only going to get worse…

    forget the narrowminded self-centered view of “ah ur offending my religion” and look at the big picture

  • Ooz,
    “How can a Jordanian set up a company, a restaurant, a bar, with completely legal papers and approvals from all sides necessary with the knowledge that at anytime someone can come and close it down.”

    The answer is simple.
    When one wants liberation, one has to get ready to enjoy the whole package; freedom and free liberties and eventually a free country does not come without a toll of taxes.
    It’s the rules of the free market — many malls have opened in Amman recently, have you asked about the kind of damage they have done to the private individual businesses in their areas? Basically big businesses eat small businesses; American economy is just an example of this. The free liberal market is the graveyard of small businesses; giants and whales will keep pushing (legally or illegally) to get their share of every single profit they can achieve. And small businesses will fight at first, but without a chance of surviving!

  • Ooz – license regulations can change without notice anywhere in the world…u can change working hours, ban smoking, put new safety rules, close a place down for a week etc as u wish….

    Lowfields – if what you drink or eat is forbidden by a religion, then you doing so in public is offensive to its followers if you sit amongst them….if i follow your logic lets go to the middle of Hindu India and open a butchey and call it the Sacred Cow, hmmmm now why would anyone get offended with what i sell? same as offering non-kosher meat in the middle of a jewish orthodox neighbourhood etc. so simply serve alcohol in ramadan amongst muslim communities…its called respecting their customs and rules, not a sign of fragility……hell can you tell me why the veil is banned in schools then in France?! thats not even banned in their religion!

    anyway i think the majority’s wishes should be respected if it stays within the law, end of….

  • “If what you drink or eat is forbidden by a religion, then you doing so in public is offensive to its followers if you sit amongst them….”

    1. Books serves alcohol year round… Islam forbids drinking alcohol year round. If it is acceptable for Books to serve alcohol in a majority Muslim state for 11 months of the year, any particular exception for Ramadan is nonsensical – and clearly hyporitical.

    2. If practicing Muslims are so “offended” by the contents of the glasses of people sitting at adjacent tables, then they wouldn’t be in a place that openly advertises its provision of alcohol at all…

    3. And knowing that Books serves alcohol, any practicing Muslim entering the establishment has made a choice to sit by me, not the other way round. And I couldn’t give crap whether they’re offended that I’m partaking of the beverages on offer. They can easily leave.

    4. There are millions of cafes and restaurants in Amman that don’t serve alcohol at any time – and not just during Ramadan – so why do religious nut-jobs demand the right to close down the few that do?

    5. Why does your religion retain the right to dictate what people of different faiths do in their leisure time? Don’t Jordan’s Christian population – who’ve been here for centuries – deserve their liberties as citizens?

  • “And knowing that Books serves alcohol, any practicing Muslim entering the establishment has made a choice to sit by me, not the other way round. And I couldn’t give crap whether they’re offended that I’m partaking of the beverages on offer. They can easily leave.”

    I am not a practicing Muslim but when i read stupid arguments like this I cringe. I can easily reply that Jordan is a Muslim country and when you MADE A CHOICE to violate the VERY tolerant customs and traditions that say be discrete when you consume alcohol for 30 days during Ramadan and YOU DECIDE TO BE RUDE AND INSOLENT instead, I couldn’t give a crap whether they fine you, jail you, or deport you depending on the circumstances. You don’t make your own stupid rules about which places are off limit to anyone. The only place that’s off limit is your home. A public cafe is NOT A SAFE HEAVEN since it’s open to the public. DUH!!!! And if you engage in disrespectful conduct in a public place you should expect some consequences.

    Man, some of the most intolerant and offensive Jordanians are those who hoist the banner of tolerance.

    We are so sick and tired of this rudeness. I could care less if they shutdown the goddamn cafe for good. Not for serving alcohol of which I am regular consumer but for harboring such arrogant pricks and for being a nurturing environment to such ars***s


  • Let’s turn the tables around. Let’s assume that a group of Muslims in Jordan are in a country that labels itself tolerant and therefore must be tolerant. This country practices a religion that says to its followers, when you are in public, you have to be drinking wine at all times or otherwise it is insulting.

    you can replace wine with anything, gum, cheese, water, cigarettes, it doesn’t matter. The point is that their belief is being imposed on you. If you wanted to fast during Ramadan in that country, where would you go? Are you stuck at home for a whole month?

    How would that make you feel?

  • Maad,

    How many times do I have to repeat myself so sensitive souls like you finally understand the argument??

    What is in my glass, being poured down my throat, has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t affect you, it doesn’t impact on you, so unless you have a secret fondness for the actions of the Saudi morality police, butt the f**k out of my business and I will continue to replenish my thirst the way I choose.


    Why are people so keen to stop me from doing something LEGAL in a LEGAL establishment that has obtained LEGAL permission to serve me the drink of MY CHOICE.

    I have not “violated” any law; in fact, by drinking a beverage a place with PERMISSION to serve that beverage to me, I am OBSERVING the laws.

    Got that?

    You, though, seem to support the arbitrary closure of an establishment by a bunch of ministry thugs even though that establishment went to every length to obtain the necessary licences to run its business.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t want LEGAL conduct to be arbitrarily interfered with by religious zealots with NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT TO DO than harass people who don’t share their medieval morality.

    Narcissistic? Maybe… but it’s not me trying to enforce my perspectives on other people. That’s arrogance only people with blind, irrational faith can muster.

  • “What is in my glass, being poured down my throat, has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t affect you, it doesn’t impact on you, so unless you have a secret fondness for the actions of the Saudi morality police, butt the f**k out of my business and I will continue to replenish my thirst the way I choose.”

    Even a liberal country like France controls what you pour down your throat. That’s’ why there are age limits and limit of % of alcohol in drinks and licensing of those who can sell alcohol. Even Sweden will no let you shoot up heroin up your vain even though it’s your body. Even Italy will not let you pop certain pills down your throat without prescription even if you are not endangering your life. Your defective understanding of the concept of personal freedoms leads you to such dumb conclusions about what you can or can’t do.

    Your no-harm-to-others rule to personal freedoms simply applies in your imagination. If we go along with your criteria of what you should be allowed to do, maybe we should legalize incest, since according to your no-harm-to-others, anything between two consenting adults is their business.

    but if you turn Books@Cafe into a members-only club, I have no problem with turning it into a safe heaven for anarchists, so long as it does not use a Cafe/Restaurant/Bookstore title as a front. Call it Jabal Amman Lawless & Narcissist Youth Society (JALNYS) It even sounds nice. And no one will misunderstand it and you will be left alone.

    jesting aside, i hope Books is reopened. But I hope Madian jazeera does something to salvage Books’ image from the damage a few of his customers have done to it. Amazing how some people can be so repulsive they can actually turn supporters into detractors. Madian deserves better than to have your likes take his side.

    If I want to defeat a cause, I will make sure you and your rotten lot support it first. That would do the trick.

  • I was actually really surprised to hear of an establishment that combines reading with alcohol. There are some cafe/bookstores in the US, but these serve coffee/tea/milk – not alcohol! Reading is an intellectual pursuit, and it makes no sense to turn such a place into a bar or gathering spot for immoral activities. It really devalues the idea of having a cool place to read and (presumably) connect with other like-minded intellectuals…or perhaps I am misunderstanding the vision/intent of this place.

  • Komar,

    This is getting seriously boring.

    As has been established, alcohol sales in Books are LEGAL. They have the paperwork to prove it. My decision to drink alcohol in Books – or in La Calle, Champions, the Square Bar in the Four Seasons, etc – is completely LEGAL.

    Therefore, Komar (and Londoner, and Maad), I AM ENGAGING IN A LEGAL ACTIVITY.

    So your comparisons with heroin and, even more laughably, incest are nothing less than moronic – and UTTERLY IRRELEVANT.

    So, again, what is LEGALLY in MY GLASS and is being LEGALLY poured down MY THROAT has no bearing on you. Hey, in La Calle, they even serve beer in plastic cups – so you don’t even know what I’m drinking and can’t be “offended” by it.

    (By the way, where’s my right not be “offended” by the intolerance of my beliefs? When I’m drinking, I’m not forcing anyone else to, so why does your abstinence have to include me?)

    This is simple, Komar, the religious nutcases – and their incredibly tedious supporters – aren’t enforcing a LEGAL statute, but an incredibly arbitrary RELIGIOUS one. I don’t share their faith-based prohibition of alcohol, so they can all f**k off and take their thuggery somewhere else. Like Saudi.

    In eight days, though, I’ll gladly buy you a beer… isn’t that when the 30-day Muslims suddenly forget their deep, deep piety and return to Nai and Eight????

  • Oooops…. “intolerance of my beliefs” should read “intolerance for my beliefs”.

    But come to think of it, I have no tolerance for religious bigots, so both work…

  • its wierd that people suddenly get sensitive and offended by the very things most of them do outside of Ramadan… maybe there should be 11 months of ramadan, and one month of getting pissed drunk in bars and clubs, its healthier…

  • Low fields, I’m glad someone has taken up the explanation of something that should be so bloody trivial that it is amazing that one has to repeat it so many times.
    The LAW says I can drink. The LAW said Books can serve. Therefore I DRINK at books during Ramadan. Where is the LAW on closing it? Forget Islam, forget Islamophobia (a very real thing, but not in this case), forget all the stuff about homosexuals (who by the way are probably the reason why books is a coo place), and concentrate on the LAW: Is it LAWful to close a place that has the permission of the LAW? Didn’t that guy violate the LAW? And here I say the LAW, not your law, not my law, not some bloody religious law, but the LAW. What do you say?

  • I am afraid Books@Cafe loyalists don’t have a case. the government says there are health code violations. they saw roaches. it’s not legal to make unsuspecting clients eat roach infested foodstuff.

    in hindsight and armed with the recent knowledge that Books loyalists (propably 1 guy with a laptop) are capable of laying without blinking, I am tempted to believe the government story, that inspectors did find enough violations to close Books@Cafe.

    Let’s take this case apart.

    FACT: Books@Cafe has not been targeted alone. Had Books been targeted alone, we may have suspected foul play and selective enforcement of the law. But there are about two dozen other cafes that have been shut.

    FACT: This is not about banning alcohol. there are a few dozen hangouts open in Ramadan in Amma serving alcohol during Ramadan. So again, the religion argument just does not hold water, despite Books loyalists efforts to twist this into a a religious intolerance cause.

    But what’s happening is that Books@Cafe loyalists want exemptions and preferential treatment. That’s as immoral and illegal as selective enforcement of the law. You let roaches into your kitchen, you don’t deserve to serve food.

    Case closed.

  • Reading is an intellectual pursuit, and it makes no sense to turn such a place into a bar or gathering spot for immoral activities.

    There’s nothing “immoral” about bars or gathering spots. The tradition of combining books and alcohol is a long and excellent one.

    Personally, I find nothing better than sitting inside a warm cafe on a cool autumn day, reading Tolkien and having a glass of mulled wine.

    Perhaps its “immoral” to enjoy myself – but ascribing evil meanings to perfectly pleasurable activities is also a long, if not-so-excellent, tradition.

    I love how this issue has been turned into something where one has to pick a “side” and there is no nuance, and there are “loyalists” or whatever.

    It’s a great way of moving goal-posts in a discussion, so the real issues don’t get addressed.

  • I wish I had the source to share with you.

    A few weeks ago I read on yahoo news about a small town in FL where a law has been passed to ban saggy baggy hip-hop pants, how funny is that? But the point is, for god’s sake get over it! Even the western communities have their own set of regulations and laws where the majority is granted what make them comfortable. The law did not stop you from eating, drinking or doing whatever you want in your own privacy under your own set of personal choices. Stack your liquor up for a whole month and drink in your own home or wherever no harm, or foul is caused. There is no need for you to do that out in public.

  • Are we angry about drinking in Jordan or drinking during Ramadan in Jordan?

    If it’s OK outside Ramadan, it’s OK.

    Anyone who says anything different is doing what my friend in the U.S. is doing, and I quote:

    “Dude i can’t wait for Ramadan to be over I need to go out and GET WASTED this weekend.”


  • this whole debate surfaced how the Jordanian “Ammani” society has many hidden issues, like Black Iris said.
    the “kashra” (scowl) the everyone has, is caused by something, everyone keeps saying: “smile, smile, why are ammanis always frowning”
    my opinion is that this whole debate clearly shows the big gap that Black iris implied; that the ammani society has issues and that it is not much harmonious, actually it is not at all harmonious!!
    some will say: “the poverty or hard living”, fine, look at how Egyptians are 3asal, Brazilians enjoy life to the best, etc.. although most are very poor, and there is an even bigger gap (at least economical) than that in amman.. but our gap is on many more facets: economical, cultural, religious, social… and the Books@ debate showed that..
    this is my opinion!! and everybody else is wrong hehe :p

  • Thanks Nas for this elaborate and articulate article, and I absolutely agree with your conclusion.
    I was totally appalled by the reactions towards the issue, regardless of the reasons, while we have hundreds of major issues to handle, i bet most of those who are rallying for the Books@ don’t even know or care to know about.
    how unfortunate how pitty our minds are becoming.

Your Two Piasters: