Monday, March 16, 2009

Books@café continued

Last Ramadan the café found itself in the middle of a scandal. Now, what the scandal actually consisted in remains a matter of disagreement. There are two sides to this story, as there usually is. Let’s get marinated in the facts first: during Ramadan it is normally illegal to sell food during the day in the Kingdom of Jordan. The owners of the café had, however, attained a license from the local government to serve not only food, but also alcohol to its patrons. How they managed this, I don’t know. Nevertheless, one day in the midst of Ramadan, police barges into the place and shuts it down.
A lively debate followed, particularly on various blog forums. Let’s name the two sides the “I-do-as-I-want”-folks and the “You-should-do-as-I want”-folks respectively for reasons of simplification. Amongst other things, the latter state (probably correctly) that Jordan is a Muslim country with about 95% Islamic coverage, and hence non-Muslims (and non-practicing Muslims) ought to respect that The former say: So what? What happened to personal freedom? Why should anyone care if a few people have a few beers in a few isolated places? How sipping a beer inside a bar, far from any practicing Muslims automatically means that one disrespects Islam, they say, is just a matter of hypocrisy.
Let it simmer for awhile. Wait for it. Let’s now imagine it’s boiled down to this: Where is Jordan going? Almost all commentators seem to agree on the fact that this case has wider ramifications than being just about one place, in one month. The million dinar question is, in fact, a question about Jordan’s role in the world (and perhaps foremost about its own self-identity) with forces wishing to drag it south, towards its Saudi borders and brothers, and forces desperate to keep feeding Jordan deep-pan pizzas, washed down with slurps of Starbucks vanilla-flavored coffee.
Ah, it doesn’t get more old school than this. The ol’West vs. East enigma. That West Amman just happens to be West of East Amman (if you know what I mean) is only a geographical coincidence, a fluke.

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