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‘Mind your language’

May 14,2017 - Last updated at May 14,2017

One good thing about parliament is that, after a couple of hundred years or so of practising democratic debate, a tradition develops of resolving issues through dialogue without outbreaks of fisticuffs, a notion which may astonish some of our enlightened deputies.

In some countries, democratic debate extends to all walks of life and parliamentary-style debates are held privately to inform the public about relevant issues.

One such debate I saw recently dealt with political correctness, a topic that has become exceedingly relevant nowadays, with the mushrooming of pluralist leaders who take pride in, and gain votes from flaunting their disregard for every form of political and human sensitivity.

Detractors argued that political correctness was a mode of political control and liberal propaganda. But their arguments collapsed when a lady from the floor asked: “Who among us would like to be referred to as…” and she proceeded to list a number of racist terms used to disparage people of colour, those with special needs, homosexuals, women, Arabs and Jews.

I shall not repeat these terms because they are truly offensive, but they were, to the audience, a stark reminder of the bigotry that was commonplace before political correctness started to set standards of decency in expression.

Political correctness is pertinent because the experience of other countries shows that when it becomes unacceptable to refer to others in disparaging terms, it consequently becomes harder to maintain racist and bigoted attitudes towards them.

This is why legislators in some countries have passed laws making it illegal to utter certain racist terms.

So, where do we, in Jordan, stand on this question?

Are we doing enough to raise our future generations with the balance and sensitivity they need in order to build the society of moderation, tolerance and rule of law, which we are told Jordan aims to be?

Are we true to the teachings of our faiths, which, as we constantly remind the world, preach tolerance and moderation?

Blonde, in our parlance, is synonymous with beautiful, and it is embarrassingly common to hear people say about a girl: “She is pretty, but such a pity that she’s dark.”

Worse, we state proudly that the Prophet Mohammad honoured Bilal, a former Abyssinian slave, by having Bilal stand next to him in prayer, ahead of all the rich and powerful in the community, but then we shamefully proceed to use the term “abed”, meaning slave, in reference to black people.

Even worse, in religious discussions on the Internet, tolerance and even civility hit rock bottom.

Sunni and Shiite Muslims (when they are not blowing each other up in mosques), refer to one another’s revered symbols in terms that would make a drunken sailor blush.

And it is just as bad between adherents of different denominations within each of these two branches of Muslims.

I humbly posit that our noble legislators should hold a debate and take action on political correctness.


And no, I do not mean by voting a pay rise for themselves.

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