Halloween 'devil worship' in Jordan

The Islamic Action Front – the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan – has called on the government to prosecute "worshippers of demons". 

The IAF's call for a crackdown came after protesters attacked a café in Amman which was holding a Halloween party last Thursday night.

About 200 men gathered outside the cafe in the affluent Abdoun district and began throwing stones, the Jordan Times says, quoting a police spokesman. The group were dispersed by police with no arrests or injuries, the paper adds:

The men gathered near the café late Thursday night, following reports published in several local news websites earlier in the day saying that “devil worshippers and gays” were going to attend a party in the premises.

The following day, the awning at the entrance of the café was set on fire by unknown individuals, but “no one filed a complaint and no one was arrested either,” the police official added, noting that it was just a party.

“The men attempted to storm into the premises but were stopped by Gendarmerie Forces,” an eyewitness told The Jordan Times.

The incident caused a traffic jam for about half an hour in the area, the eyewitness noted.

Yesterday, in a letter to the Jordanian prime minister, the secretary-general of the Islamic Action front, Hamza Mansour, claims that "these practices" (Halloween parties, Devil worship, etc) and not only "contrary to the teachings of our religion" and "authentic" Jordanian values but also "a violation of our constitution which stipulates that the religion of the state is Islam".

Jordan also has a small but ancient Christian community (dating back to the time of Jesus) and Article 14 of the constitution allows religious freedom – though with some important qualifications:

"The State shall safeguard the free exercise of all forms of worship and religious rites in accordance with the customs observed in the Kingdom, unless such is inconsistent with public order or morality."

The attack on the café hosting the Halloween party thus looks like an attempt to bring the "public order" argument into play and thus justify a ban.

But can Halloween parties really be considered a "form of worship" or a "religious rite"? Most people, these days, just regard them as a bit of ghoulish fun.

Aren't there bigger issues for Jordanians to get steamed up about?

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 6 November 2012