Nermeen Murad on the Books@Cafe issue – Jordan Times

I loved this article from the Jordan Times

Nermeen Murad

If you want to find out what is really happening in Jordan, you must read the blogs. Newspapers and Jordan Television obviously think that it is not their job to allow discussion of any controversy or draw attention to anything that in any way can be construed as “rocking the boat”.

The job of the local press is to publish the statements of senior officials verbatim, laud those senior officials and, for a bit of colour, attack former officials for not being as efficient as the current ones. Now, obviously this is cyclical and therefore today’s most lauded official could very easily be tomorrow’s most hated, and then back on the favoured list, and so on.
But the local press doesn’t only feel it is not its job to criticise officials; it also ignores controversial issues that stir the wrath of the traditionally conservative forces in the country, be they tribal or religious.

So the illegal shutting down of a licensed restaurant in Amman during Ramadan wouldn’t make it into the newspapers because, firstly, “who cares about this bourgeois restaurant anyway” and, secondly, “the young people who hang out there are immoral, are not fasting during Ramadan, shouldn’t be allowed to behave as they wish” or any of the statements that basically mean if we don’t go there and they aren’t like us, why should we protect their rights or their business? Especially if it also means that we would be lambasted by a religious cleric or tribal dignitary for daring to go there.

So upholding the law depends on who this law affects and, more importantly, whether we morally approve of that person. The rights of a restaurant owner are just not important. The rights of a woman who wants to divorce her husband are not important. The rights of the child of an illegal relationship are not important. The rights of a woman being denied her inheritance are not important. The rights of a domestic servant are not important. The rights of a foreign labourer are not important and, of course, how can I forget the rights of a Jordanian woman married to a foreigner which are also irrelevant.

Books@café just off the Rainbow Street, leading to the 1stCircle, was one of the first projects that drew people back to the old areas of Amman and contributed to the increased interest in its preservation. It was also one of the first projects in Amman to marry culture and intellectual pursuit (in this case reading) with a hospitality service.

It acquired its own character through years of hosting generations of youth in its warm environment that started by providing a coffee, a book and an astounding view combination to a cult-like hangout for the artsy crowd of Amman.

During the month of Ramadan, blogs in the know tell us, Books@café was closed by what the owners and the blog writers believe is a vindictive and disapproving official, in contravention of their licence, which would have allowed them to remain open during this month.

The “inspector official” apparently made the comment that the place was immoral and should have been shut long ago. His yardstick for morality in no way infers that this is a place of vice or disrepute, only that it just didn’t conform to his own personal moral code.

We all know that in a country like Jordan there are sectors of society that live according to completely different moral and religious codes. A short walk along any of the city’s streets will reveal ladies covered in black garb with only slits for their hardly visible eyes, women in floor length jackets and headscarf, women in long dresses with a colourful headscarf, women in tight jeans, bouffant type headscarves and makeup, women in jeans, trousers, knee-length skirts, really short skirts, long sleeves shirts, short sleeves shirts and sleeveless. You will also find men in short thobs with slip-on shoes and long beards, men in suits and moustaches, men without moustaches, in jeans, shorts, etc. All these people, with the different moral implications of their dress or undress, carry Jordanian passports and belong to the legal structure that governs our lives. They all have different beliefs under the predominantly two monotheistic beliefs.
If we the people of Jordan want to preserve our freedom to practise our moral and religious preference, we have to protect the freedom of the others to practise theirs. If I want to swim and wear a bathing suit freely in Aqaba, I have to protect the right of the woman who wants to swim in a Sharia-compliant bathing suit or even not swim at all, and vice versa.

The government, through the equitable and fair application of the law, and the media, by bringing forward and reporting any infringements on these freedoms, are the foremost guardians of these personal freedoms. In the case of Books@café, both failed to protect the Jordanian citizen from injustice and bowed down to the threats of those who do not see a place for freedom and democracy in Jordan.


  1. @Dave, They print it because they know that the audience of this newspaper are not the targeted people to make a step 🙂our government is smart enough in hiding information from people and they know to whom to spread information (i.e: weak people with no voice but blogs…)This article will never convience Abu Saddad (Bytheway, do you know whos Abu Saddad?) to make any tiny move, and also i suggest as a brother to you just to close the case before he decides to make further movements against you .. one bad luck is better than hell 100 years life here 🙂


  2. Is books@cafe licensed to serve drinks during Ramadan as well?I’m asking because if it is, then this would be the most troubling thing about shutting it down. Investors have to have confidence that their license is protected, and the law they agreed to will be followed. It should be clear what they can and can not do. If it’s random then no one will invest in Jordan.Whether the law to begin with is fair or not is a different story, and a separate battle.


  3. WOW!I am American coming to Amman in February for 6 months and was looking for a cafe to hang out in. This one sounds interesting, is it open again? Please let me know! I am also interested in making contacts, so it would be good to get to know some locals beforehand!Well written, mabrouk! I really appreciate how you put it, “If we want to protect our freedom to practice our moral and religious preference, we have to protect the freedom of others to practice theirs.” I haven’t heard anything regarding this topic that was better


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