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Accident exposes hate, intolerance

Aug 03,2016 - Last updated at Aug 03,2016

The incident was tragic by any standard, but the response appears even more tragic.

When Shadi Abu Jaber, a 17-year-old Jordanian, along with another passenger died in a car accident in Amman, social media users started talking about the young man whose life was cut short. 

Among other things, friends recalled various things about young Abu Jaber, including that his mother sang in a local church (his uncle is an evangelical pastor) and that he was a guitar player in a local band.

Words of condolences filled the Facebook page of a local TV station’s website that broke the story. People used the normal words in such occasions, such as “Allah yerhamo” (May God have mercy on him).

The outpouring of warm words and condolences apparently did not please some people who seem to have a problem with such normal human reaction.

How can people express such words of sympathy in the case of a young man who “played the guitar”? 

And anyway, said others, Muslims are not allowed to call for mercy on non-Muslims.

This triggered a debate, with people taking sides and debating whether it is haram (religiously forbidden) to ask for mercy for a non-Muslim or not.

The debate became so vicious and ugly that Jordan’s Grand Mufti Abdul Karim Khasawneh issued a fatwa declaring that it is acceptable for Muslims to express condolences to non-Muslims.

The fatwa did little to stop the debate. Some felt that it was not necessary and only made a bad situation worse because it brought attention to a case that was limited to social media.

Others argued that the mufti did not actually solve the conflict, because he only said that Muslims can express condolences, but did not explain whether they can call on God to have mercy on a non-Muslim. 

Others criticised the mufti for failing to call Christians by their religion, but used the term “non-Muslim”.

Shadi was given a touching funeral. A leading Islamic sheikh, Hamdi Murad, attended the church service. 

His presence was welcomed by family and friends and was seen as the kind of goodwill gesture Jordanians have known for, decades. 

Still, the case left a bad taste in the mouth and exposed the hate and evil that exist under the veneer of tolerance that Jordanians have regularly proclaimed.

The incident also brought many questions to the forefront.

How deep is this hatred, lack of respect and absence of tolerance for another religion?

If as this case has shown, intolerance runs deep in society, what is its source and how can it be addressed? 

Is the war against Daesh a source of this bigotry?

Who are the instigators of such hatred and what can be done to reverse this situation?

Death has a way of touching a nerve and raising emotions. But the fibre of any society must find ways to overcome such emotions by pulling together, rather than finding what separates a community and a nation.

The struggle against religious radicalism is seen as much more important as previously believed. 

The problem is not only the people who burn pilots alive and behead their opponents. The problem is that within society are many minor Daeshes who are festering deep.

The larger radicals are easy to see and fight, but the real test is to uproot the bigots and haters in our society.

Critical mass is needed in the Jordanian society to shut off this hatred and produce, in its place, tolerance, respect and even love for fellow citizens and fellow human beings.

 

This path is long and hard, and all efforts and resources must be mobilised to reach its end.

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