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Jordan: A Popular Cafe Shut Down in Ramadan Crackdown

On Sunday, September 14, 2008 trendy Books@Cafe in the old part of the Jordanian capital Amman was forced to close down after the police cracked down listing various accusations such as: obscene public affection, lack of hygiene, and serving food and alcohol during fasting hours in Ramadan. Co-owner Madian Al-Jazera describes what happened on 7iber, a popular citizen journalism website in Jordan. His post yielded about a 150 comments.

According to Al-Jazera:

The night before Ramadan, the police violently stormed into the café and asked us to close down. “This is the holy month of Ramadan!” they barked. Since we are officially licensed and they could provide no official papers, we refused to close.

This is the third year we operate, fully licensed by the Ministry of Tourism and the Hotel and Restaurant Association. This is very important, because we are categorized as 3-star tourist, with recent faxes from the Ministry endorsing the permit to operate all day with regular food and drink service, including alcohol.

Sunday night, we get shocked with the visit from the police with an order to close. There was no reason within the order. Of course, they only come at night so that there is no one to call or anything to do. When we showed them our papers, they kept calling us a night club. We are licensed as a restaurant. To them, if alcohol is served, then it is a night club. This is the logic we encountered, regardless of the fully accredited and legal license.

The commenters were divided between those who were in complete denial about the cafe's shutdown, and those who were in support. Some interpreted the crackdown as a setback on civic liberties and rights in the country, while others agreed that drinking alcohol and eating during Ramadan should be prohibited. Meanwhile, the debate rages around Islam, coexistence, and democracy.

Here is a selection of reactions from 7iber:

By Faris on Sep 18, 2008 | Reply

This is very sad news Madian, I hope there’s a peaceful resolution to this situation, it seems some elements in the government like to flex their muscles every chance they get, and a clear indication of a lot of uneducated people behind this.

What about Christians? non-Muslims?
If they’re going to act like we want this to be a theocracy, a purely Muslim nation, let’s cut to the chase and do some ethnic cleansing already, I’ve already taken the initiative and ethnic-cleansed myself.

By Maha on Sep 19, 2008 | Reply

Thank God that finally such places are closed in Jordan!

It’s funny that for you people “human rights”, “Freedom” and “Democracy” are synonyms for DRINKING ALCOHOL, NOT FASTING, HOMOSEXUALITY and other digusting stuff!!

For those who don’t want to respect our relegion and live with our tradition in Jordan as a muslim country, I advise u to leave to another country

For more on the story visit 7iber here.

Bloggers in Jordan picked up the story on their blogs and here is what some of them had to say about it.

Tim, a young American living in Amman, wrote:

This is a real shame because we all love Books and it was one of the few places where you could still have a meal with alcohol during Ramadan. Some other places have been closed too, according to the piece above. Beyond the inconvenience to us degenerate expats, this is also symptomatic of the public tendency here to obsess about things like alcohol, Zionist conspiracies in music festivals, foreign cartoons and boycotts, etc. rather than actual issues. As long as these types of things continue to easily rile the masses, the government will be more than happy to play along and smother any rational criticism about things that matter. It's not hard to close down restaurants.

More on Tim's opinion here.

And Naseem Tarawneh had this to say:

I understand both points of view. I understand the one that says there should be freedom of religion and people should be allowed to eat and drink whenever they like. I also understand the one that says it’s Ramadan and people need to respect the will of the majority, especially if it’s only one month of the year. I even understand the point of view that this is not in fact a religious argument but a political one.

And it is this latter view that I see to be the most pertinent.

More on Naseem's opinion here.

6 comments

  • Lara

    Tim,

    It’s only for ONE month out the the WHOLE YEAR! I think you can live without your booze for 30 days. Give your body a break… it will thank you for it:)

  • […] For other bloggers take at the story visit The Arab Observer, The Black Iris, Ali’s blog or Global Voices online. […]

  • Jay kactuz

    Lara, this is NOT about food or booze.

    This is about intolerance and oppression of Non-Muslims.

    Is that too difficult to understand? The question is why should anybody respect a religion that does not respect others? Or, in other words, why should anybody respect a religion that believes it has a right to impose its morality (or lack thereof) on others? Think about it!

    Kactuz

  • Thanks so much for this post, it was great to see a range of comments on the issue, although as “freedom”, “human rights”, and “democracy” loving person, I have to admit I laughed at the comment from “Maha” on 7iber. Why the obsession with what non-observing people do during the Ramadan? I wish people would just accept their differences and get along peacefully. In much of western Europe, many businesses are obliged to close on Sundays for presumably Christian reasons. But nowadays, I think it has more to do with unfair competition and labor rights. An economic argument rather than a moral one.

  • Tim

    Lara, my comment was actually a little tongue-in-cheek, hence “degenerate.” :) I’ve actually only been to Books once this Ramadan and didn’t drink …

    Fasting is certainly an admirable practice and abstaining from alcohol equally so. However, personal opinions about alcohol aside, I think Naseem’s right to suggest that the political aspects of this might outweigh the cultural/religious debate, which we’ve heard ad nauseam already.

    Tim

  • hak

    the majority are muslims, they should be respected. the owner of the restaurant should take advantage of the montht of ramadan and take a vacation, do some repaires or even go to hell or whatever.and should post a sign on his door that says ” IN RESPECT TO THE HOLY MONTH OF RAMADAN, WE WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL AFTER THE EID EL FITR, WE WISH YOU A WONDERFUL HOLYDAYS”. in the US, every town has its own rules when it comes to alkohol. the residents themselves vote on the matter. which means…if the people in Jordan had the right to vote or any right at all there won’t be a “Books@Cafe” to start with!!!

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