Friday, March 17, 2006

Tribal law or civil law?

Clashes have broken out in a small town in the Karak district. Two days ago, a murder took place there, and the perpetrator gave himself in to the police. Yesterday, the clashes took place because the tribe of the victim was not evacuated from the area, as is demanded by tribal law. Homes and cars of the perpetrator's tribe were burnt, and a major highway to the area was closed. In the end the governor of Karak ordered the evacuation of murderers' tribe. He also thanked the victims' tribe for their understanding and cooperation, instead of putting the vandals and arsons in jail themselves.

A few days ago I mentioned the problem of parallel laws in Jordan. In this case, the victim's tribe demanded a jalwa, which is the removal of the entire tribe from the region. Typically, this means the removal of anybody related by blood up to the fifth paternal ancestor. It implies that the entire tribe is responsible for the action of one of its members.

Now, in the days before a state, police and courts, this rule might have made sense. People would pull up their tents and take their goats to another grazing area. Now, it is simply anachronistic. In some cases, hundreds or thousands of people will be uprooted from their lives, livelihoods, schools and community. Why is this unfair procedure done? To respect the feelings of the victims family. What's this deal with feelings? Can't Arabs restrain themselves, or think beyond the immediate? These people are destined to live in the same community, intermarry, do business together and fight. People living in any civilized community should defer to the rule of law.


In reality, I don't blame the unemployed teenagers and young men who were behind these riots. The problem is that the state is still reluctant to assert it's authority when it comes to such matters. Murder is a crime. Vandalism and arson are also crimes. With his actions and statements, the governor validated the actions of the vandals and arsons. Is this a message that the state really wants to send to Jordanians? I hope not.

14 Comments:

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Hamzeh N. said...

Khalaf, when you ask whether this is the message that the "state" wants to send to "Jordanians"? You have to ask yourself what the "state" is, and what "Jordanians" are.

Both are mostly people belonging to big tribes, and mostly people who still live the tribal ways. So I think the answer is unfortunately yes, this is the message they want to send.

It's kind of sad!

 
At 6:10 PM, Blogger Batir Wardam said...

Although we carry the best available mobile technology, drive the best German cars that have been made, wear the best Italian suits, we still think like a 15th century tribe. The state is always weakened by the tribal laws and it seems all our legislation cannot deal with the outrage of the tribal instincts. It is a big shame for a country that wants to appear as a modernism example in the region.

 
At 6:51 PM, Anonymous kinzi said...

Thans, Khalaf, again.

I am actually optimistic that Jordan has gotten as far as it has with a population that includes post-modern, modern and medieval cultures in a very small space.

 
At 8:11 PM, Anonymous hamede said...

What can we do.

 
At 6:26 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: I suspect you might be right, although I hope not. I think most Jordanians prefer a modern society, not a tribal one.

Batir: Is the state weakened by tribal law, or does the state encourage tribal law? Either way, it is the role of the state to move society forward (at a reasonable pace). I seems to me that this entire aproach is incompatible with a modern society.

Kinzi: I am against making Jordan an anthropologic zoo. The entire country should be moving ahead.

Hamede: I suppose that people should at least start speaking up against this ridiculous backwardness. Anybody who says that this is an irremovable part of Jordanian culture should be hit on the head with a shoe.

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Hasan Zraikat said...

Also consider the large magnitude this has affected the Jordan economy. People are afraid to invest and help, because of a few people who use unfair business practices. And they cannot be persectuted because they are related to a large important tribe.

The funny thing is, this is how things were in ther "Jaheliya." Islam came to replace Tribal law with a law that benifets the majority "ummah." That was the only way how we arabs have risin to a world class civilization up to the Abbasid Dynasty.

It seemed that we have learned nothing and gone back to our old ways.

Tribal Law was important back then to insure a man's safe journey through the harsh desert. It was an "insurance" to know that dealing with a man meant dealing with his whole tribe. But today it is very different.

 
At 1:21 AM, Anonymous khadder said...

I've read the story in the news, and the comments by Khalaf and the others, and I am delighted to see that everyone is calling on the state to have a role in transencing our culture or our tribal lawys at least, no one is calling on the private sector - I have to mention Zeriekat who want us jordanian to stop this because it will affect investors sentiments!! - Well, First, Khalaf - The libral - start to generalizing in such an inferior tone about Arabs "Can't Arabs restrain themselves, or think beyond the immediate? "

and ended with the response to Hemedi that "..should be hit on the head with a shoe" how libral really!

To begin with the ruling Monrachy in Jordan is maintained through mainly a tribal coallition, recently and all of us watch and read on the news how the king is meeting the tribal eleders in Mafraq1, Assalt and elsewhere is Jordan, The GDP is growing this year by 2.5% down from 8% last year in real terms. The US that the Jordan is part of its coallition in the region in big trouble in Iraq and the region, and this is dampening the horizon, and lately the market see-saw who destroyed what is left from the middle income saving or almost there..No one had objected to this promotion of the tribes or the tribal norms?

The state recognize the tribal law, and the tribal proceeds, and attempt on that by the Prime Minister Mahmoud Sharaf ended was rebucked by King Hussein back then..

It is not that fight that is our of the ordinary, but the fights that goes on every year in the universities in Jordan along the main tribal and regional lines in Jordan.

Lately, with the neolibralism, and the empoverashed political and democratic life in Jordan that end rediculing any attempting at expanding it becasue of the governement-Palace absolute hold on power, with the concent of many intellectuals and liberals in the country why any person in Al- Karak, Irbid or Jordan part of a tribe and whose the state gave him his back if not stapped him in the back many times under the guise of these "sofisticated intellectuals" withdrawing the support for Oil, schools, health sector, detriorating limited income..why won't they grap on their tribal saftey net then. All the apeals, and the cowardice "hit on the head with a shoe" will not convince anyone not Just an Arab, to let go with what is really so intertwined with his interests.

Take it easy on people, and let's us all listen to what they are really saying and learn from it.

 
At 3:10 AM, Anonymous Rafael Patai said...

Khalaf wrote “Anybody who says that this is an irremovable part of Jordanian culture should be hit on the head with a shoe.”

I see now what you mean by “civilized community.” And somehow you manage to muster the indignation to decry the Arabs who can’t “restrain themselves, or think beyond the immediate?”

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

All: Jordanians are tribal. I have no problem with that. Any reading of what I wrote that suggests otherwise is unintentional. On the other hand, blaming backward tribal laws on some innate "nature" that we have is another attempt at evading modern norms under this dubious cover.

Hitting somebody on the head with a show is an Arab expression. It doesn't mean physically taking a shoe and striking somebody with it. What I mean to say that people making such stupid arguements should be stopped. But I don't blame people who don't understand Arab culture for misunderstanding me :)

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Rfaifan El-Patai said...

You are really clueless, aren’t you? The late Raphael Patai epitomizes the 19th century-style Orientalist scholarship with its facile and vicious assertions about the “Arab mind.” His book of the same title is reportedly a favourite read among the neo-cons in D.C. I used his name because your writing reminded me of him (and of them). Had he been around he would have loved your claim that using expressions like “beddo dhareb bilsurmayeh 3ala ni3o” constitutes polite Arabic conversation.

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous hamede said...

Only time will do .

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Rfaifan: "You are really clueless, aren’t you?"

Thanks for the lesson on politeness. You should talk.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger Houstonlaw said...

People should start a movement against such tribal laws. It can change the position.

Personal Injury Attorney Houston

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger نسرين said...

For any change to happen in Tribal Laws, it has to come from inside. For any change to happen in Tribal Laws, it has to come from inside. Laws, even tribal laws, are not static. They change based on what these tribes and their members are confronted with according to the geo-political and economical circumstances of the time.

The tribes are an intricate part of the fabric of the Jordanian society. They offer many positive elements to the people, and the country of Jordan. I agree that the law of the land should dominate, but I believe that until the tribes themselves see the validity of changing the tribal laws, and until trust in the justice that the Jordanian legal system can provide, not much will happen!

 

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