Statement of the National Centre for Human Rights regarding the report of the religions freedoms that was prepared by the American Department of State on 26 October 2009

The NCHR would like to state that this report commends the efforts exerted by the Kingdom to encourage the values of tolerance, respect and the inter-religions dialogue. This constitutes a relatively advanced step from the report last year which the NCHR has strongly criticized for the fallacies it contained.

The NCHR would like to point out that the methodology of the report is still based on the American standards and values, and the general values of the western societies in determining the reality of the religious standards of religious freedoms in the various states… ignoring the international freedoms which are the end result of the consensus of the nations of different civilizations … as being the minimum limit of the principles of human rights. The report still mixes between that which could be attributed to official policies and that which is the result of cultural and social accumulations. The preparers of the report do not take into consideration the cultural particularities and differences. This is in addition to the existence of an ambiguity in determining the concepts of religious freedoms that the report adopts, since it always connects this to the minorities that can be linguistic or ethnic, and not necessarily religious. Let alone the standards of selectivity and politicizing that the report adopts in dealing with the states. Nothing could be clearer than its non-addressing of the Israeli practices that are based on religious discrimination against the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians - and preventing them from conducting their religious rites. The report ignores the fact that Israel is constantly stressing the Jewish nature of the state and forbids the work of the Christian missionary work therein.

It is the considered view of the NCHR that the Bureau in the American Department of State, and the reports it issues, follows the same American approach in investing the reports as apolitical tool to induce or pressure so to protect the economic and strategic interests. These quarters are not in a position to issue reports evaluating the situations of human rights in the different countries, since these quarters are not independent or neutral.

The NCHR urges the authors of the report to apply the international standards of human rights, and asks the United States to accede to the international human rights conventions, especially the international convention against all forms of discrimination against women, the international convention on the rights of the child, the fundamental system of the International Criminal Court, and to abstain from concluding bilateral agreements in order to avoid the presentation of Americans before the international courts.

The NCHR stresses that the Jordanian state has guaranteed, since its inception, religious freedoms for its citizens the followers of all denominations without prejudice or discrimination. Article (14) of the Constitution states that the state protects the freedom of the conduct of the rites of religions in accordance with the observed norns in the Kingdom unless these undermine the public order or be against moral ethics. Article (6) states that Jordanians are equal before the law without any discrimination among them in rights and duties, though they may differ in race, language or religion. Article (9) recognized the right of the groups in establishing and caring their schools to teach for their followers, provided taking into consideration the general stipulations of the law and be subject to the supervision of the government in their programmes and orientations.

The NCHR views these constitutional articles as being consistent with the international human rights conventions, especially the provisions of articles (18) and (26) of the international covenant of civil and political rights that was published in the official gazette on 15 June 2006. Article (18) of the covenant states that each individual has the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom of belonging to a religion or belief, the freedom of expression regarding his religion and belief in public worshiping, practice and teaching, the respect of the freedom of the parents or guardians – when present – to assure the religious and moral raising of their own convictions. Yet, the stipulation of the article subjected the freedom of the human being in showing and expressing his religion or belief to the restraints that the law imposes, which may be necessary to protect public safety or public order or public health or public morals or the rights of the others and their basic freedoms… provided these are of legitimate aims and necessary to preserve the democratic institutions.

The NCHR would like to point out that article (18) of the international convention on civil and political rights has assigned the extent of the evaluation of the religious freedoms and their exercise to the impact on the moral, social and political system that enjoys constitutional legitimacy. Thus it connected these with the satisfaction of people and their inner convictions since these freedoms impact doubly on the individuals and the public good. Article (18) was formulated in consensual manner among the states that belong to major cultural systems. It abrogated the term ( change of religion or belief ) stated in article (18) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so as to avoid the problems that ensue from changing the legal status of the individuals, especially in personal status affairs, which guarantee the protection of the society from internal strifes, and affirm the principle of cultural relativity that is based on respecting domestic particularities that lead to different applications of some rights from one state to another. This leads to the difference of the national legislations in applying the recognized rights in the human rights conventions.

The NCHR rejects the references contained in the report regarding the suffering of a segment of the Jordanians from sectarian persecution. This is so, since the Jordanian society is based on the supremacy of the judiciary that dispenses justice in complete impartiality. The bases for the enjoyment of the citizens of their rights lie in their citizenship, irrespective of their religion, race or category. The logic of violence and coercion – as means to impose a definite expression on people – is not sanctioned by the Islamic conceptualization, since it urges intellectual persuation and mental acceptance for any religious practice. this is evidenced by the historical experience that was the first in affirming religious freedoms and the principle of co-existence among them. The Christians enjoy the same rights and duties with their brethren the Muslim citizens. They have engaged earily in building the independent state, and exercised their right to vote and assume public offices as one of the political rights that the constitution guarantees and which has been determined clearly by the law.

The NCHR warns that the way the United States of American deals with the question of religious freedoms may strengthen the possibility of the collapse of the societies in case of inability to attain a kind of parallelism between the respect of the freedom of religions and the enhancement of dialogue and tolerance, and the respect for the particularity of the society in preserving a unified and harmonized entity with a clear identity. This bolsters the culture of extremism and threatens the sovereignty of states, and encourages chaos if the religious feeling of the group is provoked which leads to the explosion of the sectarianism in the name of religious freedoms and the rights of the minorities.

The NCHR calls for the evaluation of the area of religious freedoms within a civilizations interpretation, especially within the sphere of scholars, thinkers and the educated who are committed to the pillars of cultural belonging of the identity so as to crystallize a common vision that is capable of responding to the challenges.

The American Department of State began issuing, since 1999, an annual report regarding the situation of religious freedoms in all areas of the world. This is done under the law of religious freedoms that was enacted by the Congress. It is the law that was proposed by the republican representative frank Wolfe on 9 September 1997 and was approved during the Presidency of Bill Clinton on 27 October 1998, which made it incumbent on every American president to take into his consideration the religious issues in his foreign policies, and cause the question of religious freedoms to be a factor in the workings of the American Department of State.