The big sin and the fatal mistake that we have been committing over the decades is the inclusion of the phrase ‘Islam is the religion of the state’ in Article Two of the Jordanian Constitution, which must be amended as the first step towards civility of the ‘just’ state that we want.
This article contradicts the first clause of Article Six of that constitution which states the “Jordanians are equal before the law, and there is no discrimination between them in rights and duties, even if they differ in race, language or religion.”
When the constitution of the state stipulates that a specific religion is its religion, it does not differ in terms of meaninglessness from the state declaring, for example, that the state’s gender is white-skinned or that the state’s fruit is the apple, or saying that the state’s hair is curly brown hair, and Liverpool is its favorable football team.
We remind people that the state is not a living human being with a religion, a favorite food, and a pet. Rather, it is of devices and institutions whose function is to ensure a just rule to protect the rights of citizens, regardless of their political affiliations or beliefs.
This article of the constitution should have stated that the identity of the Jordanian state is Arab with an Islamic history, culture and heritage that we cherish and be proud of along with the other components of this heritage from other religions and sects, not to say that the state embraces a particular religion.
A just modern state is not allowed to align itself with any of the religions and not others even if that is the religion of the majority, and this state is not allowed to align with one of the races or races without others, even if that race or ethnicity prevails over others, otherwise it is a racist state that discriminates between its citizens on grounds that have nothing to do with the collective identity of its nationals.
Imagine if we were not involved with this Article since the fifties? Imagine how our situation would have been if a certain political current was not able to stand against you every time its affiliates remember the sanctity of the constitution and throw at you the phrase: ‘The constitution is clear and says that the state’s religion is Islam’.
You tell them to lower the volume of the loudspeakers to respect the comfort of people, their children and their patients, and they tell you, ‘Islam is the religion of the state’. You tell them that it is not permissible to close the streets under the pretext of praying in the mosque and they remind you, ‘Islam is the religion of the state’.
You tell them that it is not permissible to teach children alleged Hadiths that incite fighting with all of humanity, so they tell you, ‘Islam is the religion of the state’. You tell them that it is not permissible to demand that music and arts be banned and again you are reminded that ‘Islam is the religion of the state’.
You tell them that it is not permissible to fight ‘segregation’ and impose wearing the veil; again they claim they do it because ‘Islam is the religion of the state’.
It is this article in our constitution that allowed this flagrant bullying of others in the name of religion, and what people should realize is that the origin of the state’s role in the jurisprudence of constitutional law is for this state to be a just arbiter and equality of all citizens, not to be an opponent who adopts a specific character from the characteristics of a group of people without others, even if this group has become predominantly numerous because this bias necessarily undermines the concept of equality between citizens and is fatal.
For example a football referee is supposed to be fair and impartial when two teams are playing. What will happen if he openly declares that he supports a particular team and even wears the uniform of that particular team?
This illogical article in the Jordanian constitution, which the founders neglected when it was drafted in good faith, it did not appear to them that it put us in a dilemma whose negative effects on the structure of the state and the mentality of a large group of its citizens cannot be imagined.
Today, this article looms like a sword over the heads of those who demand a modern civil state and this same sword is being used by those who want to take advantage of this loose phrase on their Jordanian constitution.
Demanding a civil state means demanding that the state refrain from affiliation with any religion whatsoever. The civil rights of citizenship for a Jordanian citizen, with respect for all religions and beliefs, must derive from man-made laws agreed upon by the people and the citizens’ commitment to them and from the extent of fulfillment of duties towards this state, and not from affiliation to any sect.
This is what Zaid Omar Al-Nabulsi wrote. Does anyone agree with him?
By Ahmad alsarraf