Monthly Archives: October 2012

Johanna and I had a couple hours sans Eli to celebrate our “minor anniversary” of 12 years since our first date. We had a great conversation over lunch, coffee, and arguileh (hookah) at a sidewalk table in Amman.  Then I came across this quote from the writer Pico Iyer that sums up some of our conversation on our sentiments of travel.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

كتب للقراءة الى ابني

أشتريت كتب للقراءة الى ابني في الليل قبل وقته النوم. كُتِب الكتب في اللغة العربية و ممكن القراءة اليه سوف تكون ممارسة جيدا إذا تصبح عادة. المفرادات بسثطة قليلا, و لاكن ممارسة القراءة بصوتي عال ستكون مفيد. واحد الكتب حول قرد الذي يذهب الى مدرسة السديقه الإنسان للعب و يكسر نافذة في الصف لاكن مع ذلك حصل على اصدقاء جديد. كتاب الثاني عن ولد و قطة التي تسرق خبزه الذي يحاول الولد لبيعه. سوف اشتري اكثر كتب فيما بعد و أقراءهم اليه ابني ايضاً. أريد ان سيتحدث ابني اللغة العربية قي مستقبل و هذا سنة فرسة جيدة لبدء بسبب هو عمره سنة و شهرين.

مجالد

لقد أشترينا افلام  (DVDs) كثير من وسط البلد و أمس أشتريت فلمي المفضّل. عنوان الفلم “مجالد” وكنت متحمس كثير عندما وجدتها بسبب أستطيع ان أشاهده باللغة العربية الأن. لقد كنت أشاهد أفلام كثير بالعربية لممارسة الإقراء subtitles أو الإستماع الى اللغة عندما الأصوات في الفلم يكون بالعربية.

الممثّل الرئيسية هو “رسل كرو” الذي يمثّل جنرال الرومانية “ماكسيموس.” كان حادث التعاقب في البداية عندما إمبراطور “مركوس أوريليوس” كان قديم و مريض. يريد الإمبراطور ان ماكسيموس يصبح الخليفة بعد موته و الإمبراطور يخبره ماكسيموس هذا التفضيل. ولاكن قبل يحدث ابن الإمبراطور اسمه “كامادؤر” قتل اباه و أخذ العرش.  أصبح “ماكسيموس” عبد و مقاتل مجالد تسلّق فوق الصفيف في مجال المجالد لكي تمرّد ضد “كامادؤر” و قتله. في النهاية “ماكسيموس” كان ناجح عندما تكافح مع “كامادور” و قاتله في كولوسيوم الروماني, و لاكن مات “ماكسيموس” ايضاً. ممكن سوف أشاهده الأن.

Jordan Mandates Domestic Solar Water Heating

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Saw one of these on the side of a building the other day (not yet hooked up) and had absolutely no clue what it was. Seems like a pretty smart move for the country. We’ll see how the new regulation is actually implemented.  I also wonder if the government will develop any plans to gradually apply the same standard to current buildings or buildings currently under construction.

Special shout-out to Phil Taylor… Come investigate and write about this sometime this year. I’m sure it’s just that easy to make it happen!

Jordan Mandates Domestic Solar Water Heating | Green Prophet.

Conference on Salafis

I went to a conference yesterday hosted by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies on the Salafi movements and political participation in the Middle East and Jordan. It was an impressive regional conference featuring both scholars of Salafism and Salafis themselves on multiple panels addressing the intellectual framework and diversity within the movement, Salafism and democracy, Salafis and minority rights, and a number of other related issues.

For a really good and short analysis of Salafists in Jordan, read this. And on the emergent prevalence of Islamists (a much larger category than the Salafi trend by itself) in Jordanian society more generally, take a look here.

The conference was particularly important because frank, intellectual, and practical discussions of Salafist political trends are rare in the region. It was enlightening to “hear from them, not about them.”  Here and Here are a couple of news items about the conference (in Arabic).  It was also really good for Arabic practice because the whole conference was in Arabic. There were headphones with live translation, but it was helpful to just listen to the Arabic and deal with a less precise understanding.

With that said, I was disappointed, perhaps expectedly, in the way the Salafists responded to direct questions about their views on very practical issues of politics and society.  They repeated the importance of distinguishing between Jihadi Salafists (the violent ones) and the Quietists (of which they were self-ascribed).  They called the Jihadis the biggest threat to Salafism itself and denounced their approach.  Nonetheless, I heard a lot more about what these Salafis are not than what they are, as they took a rather defensive stance from the beginning.

Many people during the discussion period asked direct questions about the Salafis’ positions on women’s roles, human and minority rights, laws governing society, and other questions that invited clear responses on political and social vision; unfortunately, the responses were highly defensive (“Why are we required to provide details when liberals and socialists can give a general vision with stating details?”) or conversely offensive against liberal and secular programs (that ironically tends to produce many of the lawyers responsible for advocating the release of Salafis from prisons as prisoners of conscience). Ultimately, I think this inability or unwillingness to provide clear answers to important questions is a function of the Salafists moving from a state of thought to a state of practice under new political realities in the Middle East that allow their direct participation.

I also appreciated the format that allowed for a lot of audience participation and discussion, especially because the audience (seated in a U in a large banquet room) was composed of very knowledgeable people from academia, civil society groups, rights organizations, media, etc.  I find that intellectual discussions here, while  very professional and cordial, are also very honest with little “mincing words.” People are direct and I appreciate that.

Today’s Protest “to save the homeland”

Friday’s protest in downtown Amman was billed as the biggest in Jordan since regular demonstrations began a year and a half ago.  Perhaps it was, though I doubt it came close to the 50,000 participants anticipated by the Islamic Action Front, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and organizer of the demonstration (though counting thousands of people isn’t particularly easy, especially from the street).  Nonetheless, it was a significant demonstration of grievances and demands by a large number of different groups with a wide range of interests, and a lot of media to cover them.

There’s no need for me to rehash the basic story here.  Check out coverage from The Jordan Times, Al Jazeera, and Reuters.

These are just a few observations of my own, and below are some pictures I snapped from my phone.

  • It was certainly interesting to see the various groupings and affiliations among the crowd, differentiated primarily by baseball hats of different kinds and colors.  There was a small group of guys “chained” (not really, though) together wearing navy blue shirts and hats with signs pinned to themselves stating “Prisoners of Conscience.”
  • There were a lot more women participating than I expected.  While there were few in the large mass of people immediately in front of the King Hussein mosque, large groups of women were very active on the side streets and sidewalks, many of them wearing ball caps on top of their head coverings.
  • The chants are great, though more difficult to understand than when having a regular conversation with someone.  Shouts over speakers aren’t particularly clear to a non-native speaker, and thousands of voices at once can muffle diction, so I have to make a concerted effort to hear clearly.  Quite a lot of it was directed to the King, though without crossing certain lines that led to jail time for some protesters in Tafileh some weeks back.  A few I scratched down: “Abdullah, where are our freedoms?” “Our demands are legitimate.” “The people want the reform of the system.” “Abdullah, why protect the corrupt?” “Listen good, Abdullah. We want freedom, not royal favors.”  The “music” of the chants is the best though. Reading them here in English just doesn’t do them justice.  (Oh, they also did a short “translation” for the benefit of the English-language media. Interesting and kind of funny at that moment.)
  • Readings signs and banners is easier.  Many of the against corruption. Others wanting “real” reforms. Others against “the system of secret police.” And others generally stating an “order for political, economic, and social reform.”
  • Security was heavy as expected.  The “front line” of police were without guns (this has been usual practice), and line the main street on either side (and many in or on top of buildings). Things did not feel particularly tense and the police seemed relaxed; talking, smiling, and laughing. Once you move to the surrounding streets, however, you would find the gendarmerie “waiting in the wings” and well-armed.

All in all, an excellent day.  I got a fresh squeezed orange juice for the way home and lucked out in getting a cab pretty quickly after leaving the downtown area.  It’s kind of surreal being in such a crowded mass of people, then walking for just 2 to 3 minutes and being on completely deserted city streets.  But the police block off all roads to that part of the downtown.  We’ll see how things go from here now that the King dissolved parliament and new elections are supposed to take place before the end of the year.

A bit on Jordan’s politics…

Some people have asked me about the current political situation in Jordan, so I decided to post a few links here for those interested.  Of course, there’s A LOT to read and learn about the country’s current political climate and these few suggestions are just a very small part of that. 

First, Marc Lynch recently posted on Foreign Policy a brief primer with links of his own and an interview with Curtis Ryan, a professor at Appalachian State University who was kind of enough to give me much of his time at the POMEPS reception at last year’s MESA conference in D.C. to talk about my dissertation.

Second, check out the assessment by Sean Yom on the FPRI website.  He also co-wrote a piece on Foreign Policy that analyzes some very important developments in tribal politics in the Kingdom

Third, Carnegie’s relatively new publication Sada — replacing their previous and well-known ‘Arab Reform Bulletin’ — has a good piece on recent political activism from two local writers.

Fourth, you can always check out domestic news in English from the Jordan Times for rather benign but decent coverage of daily events.

Enjoy!

New bedtime stories… In Arabic!

We read stories to Eli every night for bedtime. We brought a good number of his books with us from the U.S. (though he has quite the library in storage in NJ).

As we grow his collection here, picking up a couple new ones each week, I figured it would be good to get some Arabic in the mix. So we bought a few this past week and he seems to really like them (especially the one about the boy and his monkey – قرد – who likes to play ball but unfortunately breaks a window at the boy’s school and gets sent home). Goodnight!

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