It is okay to smile to strange children in Jordan

While taking my order, the barista got distracted when she saw the baby girl in her stroller accompanied with her father. “So cute,” she said. The father then sat near my table with his daughter. He looked American. I wanted to chat with him, but didn’t know how to start. Later, the barista came to his table and started smiling and baby talk with the baby girl. I then saw her carrying her and leaving the table. She took the baby to show her coworkers the cute baby. I smiled. I was behind the father so he didn’t see me. Luckily, he looked okay. It seems he is not new in Jordan.

When he stood up, getting ready to leave, he looked at my table so I asked him “Are you an American?” I know it is not the best first question you ask a stranger, but I didn’t know how else to start our chat. When he confirmed, I told him I lived in the States. He asked me where I was. I told him I went to grad school in Columbia, MO. I learned that he went to school in Kansas city. It was important to tell him about the culture in Jordan regarding kids. I told him that I saw the young lady took his baby away. “It is normal here,” I said. He smiled and told me he got used to it here. We talked how it is not okay doing such thing in the USA but here it is fine.

This reminded me of something I did back in the USA when I offered to give a ride to two kids.  Luckily, they refused and I didn’t know why back then 🙂

I was happy to talk to an American here in Jordan.

Culture · Jordan

The emerging culture of Amman

img_20170129_210509_processedToday, I went to the food court in the mall near my work. It is only couple of minutes away. While I was having my lunch at MacDonald’s I noticed two different tables. On both the tables there were a father and his son having lunch. If you are not from the Middle East, you may not find anything abnormal in this observation. In Jordan, this is something new to the culture.

I want to mention that schools are on holiday these days. Therefore, it is normal that the kids are out of school at noon.

Because I got used to eating out alone I engage myself trying to figure out other people’s lives, sometimes.

I don’t know what the fathers situation here, but it was something that I took notice of.

Jordan used to be husband at work and wife at home. It is no longer the situation now. Although, both parents work img_20170129_210557_processedit is still the responsibility of the wife to take care of the children. Basically, doing everything a stay-at-home mom does because not many Jordanian men like to do any house chores.

Another thing that is new to the culture is the increasing number of divorce cases.

These men could be divorced and today is their day with the child.

Or the Jordanian father is now sharing the responsibilities of raising children since he is now no longer the only one putting food on the table.

Or maybe with the rising unemployment rate, these two men could be having some quality time with their kid while waiting their next opportunity.

In a working day, it is unusual to see a man with his son having lunch at noon in a mall. This is of course very normal in other big cities but not here in Amman. This just shows how the demographic and the culture of Jordan is changing.


How culturally diverse is your dictionary?

Humans are like that fish who decided to see the land. When she returned to the sea, she had difficulties describing what she saw to other fishes. She failed to explain verbs like flying or walking.

Here are two stories I witnessed that show the importance of having a culturally diverse dictionary. I learned that the bigger and more diverse our cultural dictionary the more open we are to accepting other cultures.

Scene I

Every year, the Muslim Student Organization (MSO) at my university host an Islam Awareness Week and invites an Islamic Studies Scholars to talk about Islam to the public. During a meeting for the MSO executives, to decide on who to invite in our next event, someone mentioned the name of a speaker who was invited before and they wanted to invite him again. The speakers’ name is George Saliba, he is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science at Columbia University. I never heard of him before, but it seems some MSO executives liked his speech. Someone asked whether he is a Muslim or a Christian. Being the old me, naive with a small local dictionary I answered with a smile “of course he is not a Muslim.” At that moment, I even found the question to be unintelligent because I assumed everyone should know George is a Christian name.

“My name is Phillip and I am a Muslim,” commented Phillip. I am so lucky to be schooled in the best possible way. Phillip remark had added more cultural words to my dictionary. For sure the name of a person doesn’t dictate their religion, Muhammad could be an atheist.

Scene II

Every Ramadan the MSO arrange a Fast-A-Thon event on our campus. The idea of the event is to give non-Muslims the experience of both fasting and breaking their fast with Muslims. A week before the event, the MSO put a booth on campus promoting the event. Fasting for non-Muslims is of course optional since what is more important is attending the Iftar (breaking the fast.) Nevertheless, some non-Muslim students do fast for the full experience.

Fast-A-Thon event 2009 at University of Missouri

I don’t remember the topic of the khutba that Friday week of the Fast-A-Thon, but I remember the khateeb was furious. Something he read in the university’s newspaper made him mad. He couldn’t believe that a Muslim had said what he said. The khateeb believed that such thing coming from a Muslim man is a big mistake. He blamed the Muslim community in our small college town not educating their children the true values of Islam.

During the Fast-a-thon event, a student journalist from the university newspaper interviewed some attendees. One of these interviewed was an MSO executive. I don’t remember what was the question but he said something like “… We had lots of food. We pigged out …”

Some Muslims have concerns using phrases not in the dictionary they grew up using. “Pig out” to Muslims is a foreign verb.

Our ‘culprit’ in this story was only 18 or 19. He is an American born to Pakistani parents. He was born a Muslim, but his dictionary is American. “Pig out” is in his dictionary, although not in his parents’ dictionary. To him pig out means overeat not an animal that is not halal to eat.

I understand that non-Muslims find the khateeb’s outrage funny or scary, depending on how you see the matter. To be fair his anger comes from the need to educate the young Muslim generation born in the USA the Muslims’ values which means preserving Muslims’ dictionary.

Unfortunately, some Muslim scholars fail to accept that for Islam to sustain the changes our understanding of Islam need to evolve. European Muslims dictionary is not identical to Arab Muslims dictionary.