Jordan is a country which boasts of its freedom of religion quite openly. Christians have a quota in the parliament and there are churches quietly nestled in many corners around Amman and the country. As a Christian (I wouldn’t describe myself as such, but seeing as this country gives you the choice of being either Muslim or Christian, I suppose I fall in the latter), I personally never faced any ordeal simply because I am. Sure you come across the occasional ‘smashed car because there was a cross hanging on the mirror’ story and are confronted with inconsideration every once in a while, like having exams set around Christmas, but nonetheless, I was always more or less convinced of Jordan’s ‘freedom of religion’.
The recent events in Fuheis, however, made me rethink just how ‘religiously free’ we as a society really are. For those who haven’t heard, a week ago some hundred protesters from Fuheis, a predominantly Christian town, closed up the major roundabout with blazing tires in protest to a young Christian woman eloping with a Muslim man. Of course there are many, many versions of the story, and trying to get the actual story is damn near impossible. Some say the girl was raped and forced to marry the guy and others say she got pregnant and ran off with him. The latest story I heard even involved him being in jail due to drug-related issues. Whatever the true story is, it sure hit a nerve.
The whole Christian-girl-marries-Muslim-boy issue already is quite a sensitive topic with Christian families, particularly lately. Not that it has anything to do with religion itself, nobody really cares if the man is devout or not, just as long as he has a Christian family name, he’s good to go. I don’t know if it’s due to the diminishing numbers of Christians in Jordan or if it’s simply a cultural taboo. I know of many women who have been shunned by their families because of their decision to marry a Muslim, and I know of many other Shakespearean couples who were forced to break up or elope outside of Jordan as the man was Christian and the woman is not, and therefore they cannot marry here. I will avoid to speak here of the hypocrisy of such a law, alas, this is the case.
Of course with the recent turn of events, such a topic cannot be avoided at family reunions, and the statements I hear truly make me wonder at this religious freedom we supposedly have. After hearing the story, one of my uncles went so far as to yell, right next to his daughters, that he would kill them if he knew one of his daughters was going to marry a Muslim – the Christian version of honor crimes, that was traditionally practiced up till recently, I would say. The rationale behind such a stance by most is that it’s not a two-way street; a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman, and therefore why should their daughter, sister or whatever female relative they think they own be given away to a Muslim.
But I wonder. Had it been possible to do so, would it no longer be a taboo? Would suddenly all our prejudices and hatreds simply cease to exist? Would we truly live in harmony together regardless of what God we do or do not believe in?
Brag about our tolerant society all we will, but the truth is, when push comes to shove, we are anything but tolerant.