State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Jordan
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||1 July 2010|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Jordan, 1 July 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c33311327.html [accessed 11 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
A decade since King Abdullah II ascended the throne of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the country remains relatively stable in a region mired in conflicts and political turmoil. The majority of the Kingdom's small population of 6.3 million is Sunni Muslim (around 92 per cent). Christians of various denominations make up about 6 per cent of the population. The remaining 2 per cent include Shia Muslims, approximately 1,000 Baha'is, and an estimated 14,000 Druze. Small Circassian (Muslim) and Armenian (Christian) minorities together make up about 2 per cent of the population. No statistics are available on the number of persons who are not adherents of any religious faith.
Jordan is also home to about 500,000 Iraqi refugees, of whom only 46,500 are registered with the UNHCR. Forty-five per cent of the Iraqi refugees registered with the UNHCR are Sunni Muslim, 35 per cent are Shia Muslim and 12 per cent are Christian. There are also close to 2 million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. According to UNRWA, all Palestinian refugees in Jordan were granted full Jordanian citizenship, with the exception of some 120,000 refugees originally from the Gaza Strip (also known as ex-Gazans). The latter are eligible for temporary Jordanian passports, which do not entitle them to full citizenship rights such as the right to vote and employment with the government.
Article 2 of Jordan's Constitution recognizes Islam as the state's religion and Arabic as its official language. The Constitution also recognizes the equal rights of Jordanians before the law and prohibits discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on the grounds of race, language or religion (Article 6). The Constitution further guarantees the freedom to exercise all forms of worship and religious rites, provided they do not violate public order or morality (Article 14).
Christians form the largest religious minority in Jordan. On 21 January 2009, the cabinet designated the Council of Church Leaders as the government's reference point for all Christian affairs. The Council includes heads of the 11 officially recognized Christian denominations in the country. According to the Jamestown Foundation, a USA-based think-tank, the Council does not, however, represent non-recognized Christian denominations, such as evangelical groups. Nevertheless, USCIRF 2009 confirmed the absence of any reports of discrimination or incitement against Jordan's Christian minority. It is said that Christians serve regularly as cabinet ministers, and they are represented in both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament.
In May 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Jordan as part of a wider tour of the Holy Land, which included stops in Israel and the West Bank. The Pope's visit was aimed at encouraging the minority Christian community in the Middle East, and promoting better inter-faith dialogue between followers of the three Abrahamic religions.
Despite the relative tolerance displayed by Jordan towards religious minorities, there are nevertheless some instances in which the government has interfered with the religious freedom of Muslim and non-Muslim groups. USCIRF 2009 highlighted the sensitive situation of converts, who face discrimination and harassment, as the government continues to prohibit conversion from Islam. The government does not recognize converts from Islam as falling under the jurisdiction of their new religious community's laws in matters of personal status. They are still considered Muslims.
Strict penalties are also applied in cases of slander of Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. On 21 June 2009, the court sentenced Al-Arab al-Youm reporter and poet Islam Samhan to one year's imprisonment and fined him US $14,000 (10,000 Jordanian dinars), on charges of slandering Islam through his use of Qur'anic verses in a book of love poetry. He was released on bail pending an appeal of the Court of First Instance's ruling.
Although the government does not recognize the Druze religion or the Baha'i faith, it does not prohibit their practice. They are, however, identified in official government papers as Muslims, or a space/dash is marked under the religion field. Furthermore, Baha'i marriages are not recognized and they are thus unable to get birth certificates for their children. They are also prohibited from registering schools or places of worship, according to SCIRF 2009.