US report on religious freedom praises Jordan but points to issues

(File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — The US State Department has issued the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom on June 2. The chapter on Jordan covered 20 pages and included praise for laws and freedom of practice in general, but also criticisms especially over difficulties faced by members of different religions, notably with regard to the issue of personal status such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption, according to AmmanNet and the actual report that Jordan News had seen.اضافة اعلان

The report sighted difficulties facing people who changed their religion, and included criticism of the intervention of the security authorities and others to pressure them. The report also pointed to difficulties faced by specific sects such as Bahaais and Druze (although the report said that the government considers them Muslims). The report also presented the problems facing the followers of evangelical churches, particularly the attempt to interfere in divorce cases by one of the churches that is influential within the Council of Church Heads in Jordan.

In the constitutional and legal aspect, the report pointed to Article VI of the Jordanian Constitution, which guarantees equality of citizens and protects them from religious discrimination. It also praised the security authorities’ stance in protecting places of worship, especially on religious occasions. Several paragraphs were also devoted to praising the Baptism Site Law.

The report pointed that the Jordanian Constitution declares Islam the religion of the state but safeguards “the free exercise of all forms of worship and religious rites” as long as these are consistent with public order and morality. It stipulates there shall be no discrimination based on religion. But the report added that Constitution does not address the right to convert to another faith, nor are there penalties under civil law for doing so. 

It went on to say that according to the Constitution, matters concerning the personal and family status of Muslims come under the jurisdiction of sharia courts. Under sharia, converts from Islam are still considered Muslims and are subject to sharia but are regarded as apostates.  Converts to Christianity from Islam reported that security officials continued to question them to determine their “true” religious beliefs and practices.  The government continued to deny official recognition to some religious groups, including Bahaais and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the report said. 

It also said that members of some unregistered religious groups continued to face problems registering their marriages and the religious affiliation of their children, and also renewing their residency permits.  The government continued to monitor mosque sermons and required that preachers refrain from unsanctioned political commentary and adhere to approved themes and texts.  The Judicial Council issued an order in February requiring adherents of unrecognized Christian denominations to use an ecclesiastical court (instead of civil courts) to adjudicate Personal Status Law, but it reversed the order in March.

The report said that religious leaders reported continued online hate speech directed towards religious minorities and moderates, frequently through social media.  Some social media users defended interfaith tolerance, with posts condemning content that criticized Christianity or tried to discourage interfaith dialogue. 

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