Jordan — June 2006

Sociopolitical Situation

In the run-up to municipal elections scheduled for this year and parliamentary elections in 2007, the Islamic Action Front is avoiding divisive social themes such as whether women must be veiled, alcohol banned and school curriculums changed to more closely mirror Islamic beliefs. The party is a wing of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, an umbrella movement that began in Egypt and has inspired Islamic political groups throughout the Middle East.

Authorities arrested 20 suspects and seized smuggled Iranian-made Katyusha rockets and light antitank weapons in its investigation into plots to carry out attacks on officials, military officers and targets in Jordan. The government suspects there are more hidden weapons. Hamas, who the government believes is behind the plots, repeatedly denies involvement.

About 6,000 Palestinian students in Jordan were affected by the United States and European Union’s decision to cut off aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. Many students were forced to drop out and return to Gaza, others remained in Jordan and moved in with relatives while others have accrued debts to remain in the country. The Ministry of Higher Education has put off student tuition payments until September, but will not disburse funds to these students.

According to government statistics, there are about 500,000 legal foreign workers in Jordan. These workers generally find employment in the construction, industry, service and agriculture sectors. There are also an estimated 500,000 illegal laborers working in Jordan, mostly Iraqis and some Egyptians and Syrians. The government is increasing fees for annual work permits; these monies will fund a national training and employing incentive for some 200,000 Jordanians, about 15.5 percent of the working-age population who are unemployed.

Religious Situation

Over 50 Catholic bishops and other church leaders from North America and Europe visited the region on a solidarity mission with Christians in the Holy Land. King Abdullah spoke to them of Jordan’s efforts to promote religious tolerance and coexistence, citing the Amman Message in an effort to spell out the true spirit of Islam.

“The Da Vinci Code,” which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, was banned in Jordan and it is uncertain whether the movie adaptation of the book will be released.

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