Jordan remains safe haven for religious moderation — UN expert

by Mohammad Ghazal | Sep 10, 2013 | 23:11

AMMAN — Schools in Jordan should play a role in promoting tolerance and understanding, which helps to combat extremism, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Heiner Bielefeldt said on Tuesday.

“Schools have a great role to play in familiarising students with their own faith, but they can and should also provide information about religions, philosophies and beliefs in the context of history,” Bielefeldt said at a press conference at the conclusion of a 10-day visit to the Kingdom.

During his visit, the independent rapporteur collected first-hand information about the situation of freedom of religion or belief in Jordan.

Schools should provide basic information about religions that do not traditionally exist in the country to overcome misunderstanding and negative stereotypes, Bielefeldt noted, as he outlined the preliminary findings of his visit.

This can include also information on Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, he added.

The UN official said Jordan managed to remain a safe haven for religious moderation amidst a complicated region, stressing that the Kingdom enjoys the reputation of a country that practises and promotes peaceful coexistence between followers of different religions, in particular Muslims and Christians.

Jordan has also taken the lead in promoting peaceful inter-religious coexistence in the region, he said, noting that the Kingdom is perceived as a voice of religious moderation in an environment where religions have become increasingly politicised in recent years.

Noting that Christians in Jordan represent about 3 per cent of the population, Bielefeldt said the relationship between Muslims and Christians in the country is “very positive and amicable”.

Even at the level of state institutions, measures have been taken to further support good ties between Muslims and Christians, including allocating a quota at the Lower House for Christians, he added.

Members of minorities in Jordan do not suffer from discrimination in the labour market, the rapporteur said.

However, in Jordan there is a rising resentment of Muslim Shiites, a few hundred of whom reside in the Kingdom, he noted, adding that negative stereotypes about Shiites in the Kingdom have risen in recent years, reflecting current political conflicts within the Arab region.

In addition, Christian denominations such as Baptists or members of the Bahai community do not receive recognition as religious communities, Bielefeldt noted.

Meanwhile, he said it is important that Jordan abolishes the category of “religion” on civil identification cards.

“I would indeed encourage the removal of the category ‘religion’ on ID cards. Every person should feel free to hold, express and manifest their religious convictions in private as well as in public, but no one’s beliefs should be exposed unless they so wish,” Bielefeldt told reporters.

He said Jordan has accomplished a tradition of religious moderation, and extreme interpretations of religious traditions have so far had only marginal influences.

“However, I have frequently heard concerns that this might change in the long run, as some radical voices both within Christianity and Islam seem to be gaining ground,” he warned.

Bielefeldt is scheduled to present a report detailing his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, according to the UN.


1 reply

  1. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at is not officially recognized in Jordan, however, it is unofficially permitted to meet for Friday Prayers. Any police or military officer who joins the Jama’at will loose his job.

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