On Liberties, Expression, and the Events in Mafraq…

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Mon 17 April / Apr 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

The government recently decided to detain the protestors who burned pictures of Iraqi and Iranian religious and political leaders in Mafraq.

Many activists argue against the government’s decisions, from the standpoint of the liberties and the freedom of expression and opinion, of course. They say that it is not right to detain those, while hundreds amass at the Syrian embassy in Amman, raising pictures of Bashar Assad. Others have even travelled to Iran and Syria to declare their support.

Whereas the argument may be theoretically valid, it is not so when it comes to Jordan legislation and law.

Notably, the Jordanian law deems it illegal to express any insulting sentiment or view against friendly governments and countries.

Practically speaking, the protests in Mafraq were fruitless, pointless, and meanwhile extremely costly for Jordan and Jordanians. Nothing in this regard has to do with the freedom of expression. It cannot be seen as so. It can only be viewed as a provocative anti-Iraqi activity, which is exactly how the Iraqi government saw it.

In the meantime, we must not justify shackles on expression, because doing so once justifies anything else the government does under this section. But out of sincerity and care for our country’s interests, away from the government’s reasoning, we need to be more careful when expressing opinions and positions that touch on religious, sensitive, and sectarian issues. Especially when it has to with the Kingdom’s higher interests. Endangering the country’s national interests for not reasonable gain is outright insane and inacceptable!

Such an act as the one in Mafraq could only make things worse, incite an even worse response. It only helps the pro-Iranian, anti-Jordanian current in Iraq, who oppose opening up to Jordan; it is obvious from the escalation in diplomatic rhetoric between the two countries.

In other words, such a brief activity, carried out by a very small and limited number of people, stirred a sweep of unnecessary hate and sectarianism, which was employed by Jordan’s enemies in an attempt to hurt the Kingdom’s highest interests!

Normally, liberties and the freedom of speech and expression would be untouchable. That is true for Jordan too, and it must remain true.

However, in the meantime, the government must elaborate to the public on their policies, positions, and directions. For it is possible that those who pulled this thing actually believe they are aligned with the State’s views on the subject matter, which is not true.

Maybe if they knew more about the government’s position and the state’s, had there been a clearer political discourse, they would not have organised such a rally.

On the other hand, the question of liberty in mind, it is vital that society and the government contain and combat hate speech and its ideas.

Yes, there is internal disagreement over Bashar Assad and the ongoings in Syria, as well as Egypt. And yes, we have had opposing rallies on both sides of every one of those popular debates, including Erdogan’s current questions, take to the streets. But should this turn to discord or take an offensive sectarian, religious tone of hate, breaded in politics, the civil society, political forces, and intellectuals carry the duty to stand against it.

That said, this is the point where we reiterate the fundamental and invaluable values of our state and society; not out of obligation, but out of morality and professionalism: we are a state which believes in moderation, diversity, and openness, and rejects fanaticism and sectarianism.

Conveying this particular value to the public and communicating it thoroughly could massively help guide the domestic rhetoric and tone, or at least set the state’s official positions aside from that of the very few.

Those are just ideas on the sidebars of the ongoing social media debate, on whether diversity is valid and whether or not its requirements and ethics are understood.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.