One of the WAMY'S sessions in progress
Jordan has survived as a kingdom even as we reach the turn of the second millennium. Pune based demographer Dr. Malika B. Mistry who recently attended the 9th WAMY Conference in Amman recounts some of her experiences in the beautiful kingdom.
Amman is the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Nearly one-fourth of Jordanian population of five million lives in Amman. It’s a beautiful city with clean and wide roads, flyovers and buildings. A Jordanian told me that a former governor of Amman had ordered that all buildings be painted white. Since then, they remain so. Amman has semi-arid Mediterranean climate. It maintains mild temperature throughout the year. Winter had just begun. The salat timings were very early compared to our Indian timings: Fajar 4.21 am; Zuhar 11.20 am; Asr 2.32 pm; Maghrib 5.03 pm; and Isha 6.20.
Jordanians are handsome people with fair complexion and chiselled features. They are affectionate and sincere. They seem to enjoy life and at the same time work very hard. They are highly Westernised, both in their dress as well as lifestyle. We find men in Western suits and women also wear Western dresses. However, many of the women, though are in Western suits, tie a scarf around their heads.
Jordanians seem to love their King, Hussain and do not miss the opportunity to utter a prayer for his speedy recovery whenever King is the subject of discussion. Currently, Hussain is undergoing treatment for cancer in the US.
Though Amman seems to be a prosperous city, there are quite a few poor people in Jordan. It is estimated that 30 per cent of Jordanians live below poverty line. The average monthly income of a Jordanian is 60 Jordanian Dinar which is insufficient for a decent standard of living. Like other countries, Jordan is also undergoing pangs of globalisation and liberalisation imposed by the International Monetary Fund. Jordan is poised to privatise its massive state-owned cement industries.
For an Indian visitor, Jordan is still a very expensive destination. A Jordanian Dinar is equivalent to 1.4 US Dollar. Many Indian, especially Bohra Muslims visit Amman to go to Karbala in Iraq.
Most Jordanian are also Palestinians. So as long as the question of Palestine is not solved it will bother Jordan. It is where one feels how crucial is the question of Palestine problem for the durable peace in the Middle-East. The huge number of Palestinian living as refugees in Jordan are though much loved by the locals, the problem does nag them.
The status of women in Jordan seems to be better than several Arab countries. I could see countless Jordanian women driving and moving in the open. Offices and worksites employ a lot of women and women also pray in the mosques. I offered salat along with a few Jordanian women in the women’s section of the magnificent Shaheed King Abdullah Mosque of Amman.
A peculiar issue affecting women’s status is killing of women by their fathers or husbands. During my stay the Jordan Times carried one such report. It said that a 20-year-old woman was murdered by her father because he thought that she had lost virginity even though after virginity tests proved to the contrary. Only provocation for murder was that she was found missing from home for a few days.
It is also said that many suicides among women may be ‘honour crimes’. Also there is substantial domestic violence. For example, the family protection unit in Amman deals with around 60 every month involving women and many cases of domestic violence against women go unreported. Mostly Christian organisations counsel and help these helpless women. There is a danger of these Muslim women slowly and silently adopting Christianity through the lure of social work of Christian missionaries. Jordan should evolve strict laws to punish those fathers and husbands who murder their daughters and wives for ‘honour’, a practice no civilised society can accept.
A new type of problem emerging for Jordanian women that of ‘passer-by marriages’ know as Misyar in Arabic in which the husband visits the wife for a few hours and rarely would he stay over night. This type of part-time husband does not bear financial and other responsibilities of wife and would be children. Though such marriages are rare, women’s groups in Jordan are concerned because such unions though legal deny married women their rights. ?