Jordanian new national identity

Posted on June 27, 2012


It’s quite clear that one of the critical issues in Jordan is the concept of identity. The greatest contradiction today is the fact that more than half the population lives in Amman and most have been born and raised there, but only very few would consider themselves “Ammani” people.

Isn’t it strange to think that  there are people who unconsciously or subconsciously belong to a place in their lifestyle or behavior, yet have to live in a transitional status where they still consider themselves foreigners. For the young generations who have spent their lifetime in Amman, why is it that the capital is not part of their declared identity? It seems that Amman has been transformed from a city of the Roman Decapolis to a hotel where people stay, but never feel part of.

Amman is an interesting point to focus on as it is a showcase for the failure of integration policy. In other words, the failure to build a national identity. For example, most Jordanians of Palestinian origin even those East bankers who have lived their whole lives in Amman. If you ask the simple question “where are you from?” most likely, they will recall the origins of their grandfathers, despite the fact they don’t have the slightest idea of what these places of origin look like. As a matter of fact, there is no real difference between those who would claim their origins from Ramallah , Nablus or Hebron, or those who would  say Irbid, Kerak or Tafileh.

It’s time to re-build a new Jordanian identity. The basis will be our rich cultural heritage, contemporary history and ancient civilization. Jordan is a land that can never die and is stronger than the petty conspiracies or betrayals which seek to threaten its existence.  These pass, but Jordan remains intact. However, today we are facing a critical existential challenge where we must recognize that the tools of the past can no longer be used to build a new future. The key to unity is an identity that will end what is known as the Jordan “alternative” (according to East Jordanians) or the place to refute the right of return (according to Palestinians). Hopefully, all will soon realized that a new Jordanian identity is the path to preserve Jordan but which will also directly help to save Palestine.

Jordanians deserve to know their history, to understand their culture, to appreciate what they have. They have the right to feel proud, as being Jordanian should be a source of pride, not a cause of discrimination. The  “Spiritual Ghetto” that many are suffering, has to end. It is not forbidden anymore to feel Jordanian as this strong identity will ensure that Palestine can never fade from our hearts and minds.

It’s time to boldly face this complex issue if we strive for a better future for Jordanians. East bankers have to feel reassured that their identity and land are no longer subject to threats. Jordanians from Palestinian origins should never have to fear that their right of return has been definitively taken from them.

To achieve this national identity we have to realize that the whole is bigger than its parts. We have to start with a knowledge of our historical background, culture and national figures that will enrich appreciation of our heritage.

In conclusion, we have to ask ourselves whether there can really be meaningful political or economic reform without enhancing the shared interests that come from real citizenship. The sense of citizenship, however, cannot be achieved without first having a strong, clear, national identity that unifies, not divides, that gathers, not separates. Whoever willfully prevents this from happening is surely being the “retroactive power”. Whoever refuses to build a national Jordanian identity is surely leading the anti-reform , reactionary trend.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh