A post in two parts
Yaser AbuHilaleh, the well known journalist, fascinates me.
I just discovered that the man is one year older than me (born 1969) and that he has a new blog (on the new Maktoob blogging service). I also just found out (on his blog) that we went to the same high school (Al Hussien College) in the late 80’s (though we never met). While at the time I was really getting into computers and being introduced to whatever global media a Jordanian youth could get his hands on (computer magazines, British papers at the Shoman library, pop music mags, etc), AbuHilaleh was taking on radical Islamist politics.
While he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps until the early 90’s (he was politically active during his Yarmouk University days), I never was interested in any Jordanian political party (but very interested in politics), and was more into reading the critical writings of Arab leftist/liberal/crticial thinkers like Mohammad Abed Al Jaberi, Naser Hamed Abu Zeid, Burhan Ghalion and others.
In my later university years I too became active in ‘student politics’ but in total opposition to the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood in university political life. I got together with a group of friends and we talked the people responsible for the administration-controlled university newspaper into giving us a page in which we started expressing our opinions (no blogs those days!). Our main principle was democracy. While the Brotherhood-controlled council only allowed activities in line with their narrow ideology, we simply wanted diversity. A group of us even ran against them in council elections for the Faculty of Engineering and we got almost one third of the vote (but no council seat due to the electoral system in place).
Do you understand now why AbuHilaleh fascinates me? His past represents those whom I considered the closed minded ‘other’..
As a journalist he was a managing editor of the Islamist Al-Sabeel. He later worked at the Jordan Times and currently is the Amman bureau chief for Al Jazeera. Another fascinating point: the man responsible for running Al Jazeera channel in Amman, admitted in an article recently that, in his capacity as election program author/editor for the Islamic Action Front, during the parliamentary election in the early 90’s he actually called for BANNING satellite dishes in Jordan as they are a conduit for western cultural invasion. The man has come a long way!
On his blog, go and look for what he posted November 27, 2005: An article (in Arabic) written about him back in 1996 by the prominent Lebanese columnist Hazem Sagheyeh, in Al Hayat. It’s a portrait of AbuHilaleh and his transformation from a radical youth to a much more moderate, tolerant Islamist journalist. It is an amazing story of a radical discovering the diversity of life outside his radicalism, and the role of Jordan’s relative democracy and open cultural attitude in this transformation.
As a subscriber to Al-Ghad newspaper I read all his articles, as he’s a columnist for the paper. He is an intelligent writer but I find myself disagreeing with quite a lot of what he has to say, or with the attitude in which he states his opinions. Still I try not to miss any of his articles.
AbuHilaleh and Al Luwiebdeh park
Away from politics, Iraq, terrorism and other hot political issues, I was intrigued when I saw an editorial by Abu Hilaleh in Al-Ghad about Jabal Al Luweibdeh and its cultural life. He was full of praise of Darat Al Funun and he wrote lovingly about it. He also expressed his view on how Jabal Luweibdeh represents the ‘true’ diversity of Jordan.
But then he launched into a scathing attack on the newly upgraded Luweibdeh park. Amongst other things, he wrote that an ‘apartheid wall’ was erected inside the park (between the garden and the building that used to be a public cafe) and that it is totally improper that the ‘common people’ were barred from entering the park after 8 pm and that only the ‘elite’ were allowed in the the privatized coffee shop/bar at night.
The article completely trashed the park and failed to see the effort that went into its upgrade and the ongoing effort to keep the garden intact. I also found the use of the term ‘apartheid wall’ totally uncalled for. Why is it that journalists need to over dramatize things?!
In Monday’s Al-Ghad, Dr. Khaled Khreis, Director of The National Gallery, who’s two buildings are adjacent to the park and who is partly responsible for it, shot back with a long letter to the editor, accusing AbuHilaleh of being biased in praising only one cultural institution and ignoring all the others and unfairly trashing the improvements in the park (which is based on the concept of water conserving plants). Khreis wrote that the 8 am till 8 pm opening time is a normal policy for many parks around the world and that the garden has won the praise of the local residents of Al Luweibdeh.
The story doesn’t end here!
Totally unsatisfied with Dr. Khreis’ reply AbuHilaleh is shooting back again in today’s Al-Ghad with even bigger guns. Now, he’s contacted all the members of parliament of the Luweibdeh district asking them if they were ‘consulted’ about the park (they weren’t) and he’s quoting Mohammad Attieh, a member of the Luweibdeh Friend’s Society who’s stating that he was against putting a ‘bar’ in the park when he was consulted.
AbuHilaleh is clearly pissed off with the existence of a ‘bar’ in the park. He’s saying that Jordanian laws prohibit serving alcohol in a public/governmental place. He says that he is defending the public’s right to use a public space and that Khreis’ reply did not address that point or the ‘bar’ issue.
This sparring on the pages of Al-Ghad is really something! But to Mr. AbuHilaleh I say: your point about the ‘bar’ is worthy of debate, but you’re totally off the mark in trashing the effort that went into the park and your over dramatized ‘apartheid’ remarks. Save us from this demagoguery..
To Dr. Khreis I say: My wife, son and I visited the park last Friday and it’s pretty neat. But where the heck did the kid’s slides and swings go?
Read these related posts on 360east:
- Room/apartment needed in Jabal Amman or Luweibdeh
- Losing my iPod in Frankfurt
- The homeless blogger
- Sha3shaboneh: Come and learn the art and science of blogging this Saturday..
- Does your mother-in-law read your blog?
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