Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is the Amman You Live In Real?

So, I was thinking the other day about how different the experience I have living in Amman is from many of my friends. I have a group of friends who are the most lovely ladies. They are, for the most part, American Muslim ladies who wear hijab and jilbab. You can imagine how incongruous this sight is. They are also good Muslims who are faithful and devout. Frankly they have shown me what Islam should be about, something I see far too rarely in a culturally Muslim place (just as I see far too little of what Christianity is about in culturally Christian America). But our experience of Amman is very different.

Here's what I was pondering. These ladies live in environments that are mostly populated with devout Muslims who live their faith. They see an Amman that celebrates Ramadan with fasting and is mostly devout Muslims. But, that's not the real Amman (so I was thinking).

After all, I live in Amman too. And here's the Amman I see. It is mostly non-practising Muslims who have no actual relationship with their faith. They neither pray nor celebrate Ramadan. They wear the same kinds of clothing as the Christians that I see. As an illustration of this Amman, a few years ago, I worked for a company that was maybe 50/50, maybe 60/40 Muslims/Christians. When Ramadan came, the Muslims in the company (of whom only maybe 5 regularly prayed) watched each other to see how Ramadan would be observed. One Day 1, everyone was fasting. One Day 2, the 5 who regularly prayed were fasting. Yep, within one day the majority of the company was outside smoking in the back (not visible from the road). Their observance of Ramadan would have been purely social.

So, as I was thinking about this, I realized something very interesting. The Amman that they see isn't real. It's a subculture within Amman. And, you know, the Amman I see is no more real. It is a subculture as well, a subculture that makes Amman appear mostly Christian (and at 3 or so percent of the population, clearly that's not real). And, somewhere in between lies the real Amman. But, how easy is it for us to get caught up in the city-view, the world-view that is our own? Stay tuned in the future for some thoughts on our world-view as part of the majority, which this thought process here inspired. At any rate, I do wonder how many people live within these little subcultures (or big ones) and never see beyond the edges?

Happy Fake Amman!


At 8:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember when Books@cafe was closed for serving beverages on Ramadan days, most of the blogging society went mad on this "insult to freedom in Jordan". So you see, I can no longer consider Amman to be a Muslim Community. Such acts are strongly apposed at almost every other part in the country, but not in Amman. and I have started to believe that this is something that we should eventually accept. that doesn't mean that I'm happy with it. but Amman is actually a very heterogenous community where no one can impose a certain "Culture" on anyone else as he might be one of only few people practicing the same culture.
I used to live in the Gulf area and I still remember the shock I had when I saw some of my friends smoking at the university in Ramadan. It never occurred to me that any Muslim will not fast Ramadan. But, since then I have realized how much different is Jordan from other neighbor countries

At 12:17 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Jordan is definitely different. And, the blogging community is certainly not representative of all (or even most of Amman), but it is hard to view Amman in a totally Muslim light. However the events that preceded Books being shut down show the ongoing identity struggle.

At 11:10 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Ha! Very good insight into Jordan as a Muslim country. I agree with everything except for the part where we (foreign Muslims) don't see it. I really see it and to no end is it frustrating to me. I see the examples all the time which blow my mind. It is one of the reasons I pretty much stay home most of the time and mostly mix with others like me. It is hard because we were coming here with that idealistic idea that we were migrating to the, da na na na, "Land of the Muslims." Pity.

At 11:32 PM , Anonymous kinzi said...

I think everyone creates their own reality to a degree, I know I have 'created' an Amman I can live with. I can do certain elements in only very limited doses. They probably can deal with me in the same proportion

When my mind gets blown by the contradictions, or the huge gap between idealism and realism, I retreat to my world. But sometimes, even there, there is no escape from it!

At 12:02 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Nicole, my dear, it's actually not that I think you ladies don't see it, but that I think SOME don't. Just as until I started thinking about it, I didn't actively see how unreal my Amman is either :0. I have had some folks argue with me that all Muslims here fast! Yikes!

Kinz, yep. I think everyone creates their own reality as well. But, it's good to step outside of it and think about what reality actually does look like. Just once in awhile mind you ;).

At 6:39 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Every once in awhile I like to drive the kids to another part of town and let them see a little more than their own reality. It is healthy. I just can't take huge doses of the reality sometimes. I know there have been times I have come up out of my cave and thought, "Oh, wow, I am still here!"

At 6:42 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Then again, I went over to Choiefat (sp?) last week and was looking at the folks who attend that school (and their parents) and was definately thinking this is not the Jordanian reality. This place is full of strange dichotomies.

At 11:29 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

What an astute observation, Momma. Someone can live next door to me and have a completely different reality that works for him/her, and our realities never truly have to mix. Then there are folks like us, who kind of force our way into different echelons, if you will, for no particular reason except that we like to think of ourselves as "citizens of the world" and do that outside of the box thinking. This is why we all know one another...have you ever thought of that? Isn't it amazing? And groovy?
My Amman is better than yours, though. (sticking tongue out...tee hee)

At 12:19 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

No, no. Umm Farouq, mine is much better than yours. Teehee.

Nicole, I think that getting our kids outside their reality is a very good thing. I don't do it often enough (probably because I'm lazy or tired or lazy). And I also agree that many of the places in town are like that. Full of strange dichotomies. It must be an odd world to live in, that one :).

At 10:49 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

I know my Amman wouldn't be complete without you ladies near the center of it. :)

At 12:20 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Hear hear!

At 10:21 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Oooh, ditto that for me!

At 7:44 AM , Blogger Ali Dahmash said...

I don't agree with you in some points Momma. First of all, the standards of living in West Amman is different than in East Amman. The society in west amman is more ease and open and in east amman is more conservative. Islam is just like any relegion, its about the relation between you and your God. So in my office in West Amman that is 70/30 (muslim/christian) many Muslims pray while I see Vieled women who do not pray as well. Also some pray in private. the same goes with Christians, we have strict conservative and we have the liberals one. I would say Jordanians have a special relation with relegion and God but that depends on their income, their background and the living standards, strange right?
I think Jordan is a secular state in many ways.

At 2:06 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Ali, thanks for joining the conversation. I think you are right that East Amman and West Amman are different, even within those we seem to find our own little circle and then generalize it to think that all of Amman is that way. This is human nature I think and the point of the post.

On the point of your comment (which is perhaps slightly off-topic but very valid regardless), the laws of Jordan and the enforcement therein is not limited to East Amman or West Amman. During Ramadan, I still can't go to a Christian bookstore for a cup of coffee during the day. They aren't allowed. And yet, again, in the wider West Amman context, I don't believe the majority of people fast for religious, rather than social, reasons. It's about perception and legalism. Legally, Jordan runs as a religious state in many ways, making it about my relationship with the way someone else worships God, not the way I do.

Oh, and Jordan isn't the least bit unique in its varying nature of relationship with God based on socioeconomic factors. It's fairly common around the world from what I've see.

So, secular state, definitely not. More secular than religious, absolutely (and happily so for me).

I'm so glad you provided another perspective on this.

At 8:39 PM , Blogger Strawberrylife said...

Do you live in a different part of Amman from your friends?
I visited Amman for about 2 months total and we stayed in various parts, the first time in East Amman (very strictly/conservatively Muslim area I found) and then later near Jordan Hospital in West Amman where I saw a greater cultural and religious diversity.
-I would live in West Amman if I could, if I lived in Jordan. It is much more my style. I walked the neighbourhood without a scarf one day,something I would never do in East Amman. They'd kill me for my blond hair there!!

At 3:27 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Faith, thanks for stopping by. Mentally yes, we live in different places. Physically, we're all in West Amman. This was more about understanding what our unique perspective brings to our view of society here. And, I'm quite certian that, while uncomfortable, you would not have been in physical danger unveiled in East Amman... ;)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home