Society / Jordanie
Amman: Global Internet Parliament
Suad Nofal - 21/02/2008
"While we all belong to the same universal culture that is humanity, there are many misconceptions about Arab Youth. The West is not aware of the nature of our life as Arabs - what we think, what we do. We might have contributed to feeding these misconceptions within the absence of proper dialogue that can allow us to let them know who we are. The reason can also be our inability to express ourselves in the right manner at a certain point. That is why we need to communicate with others because rejection will not change things for the better. On the contrary, it will widen the gap and create more distance between people."
Those were the words of Reem Johari, an English literature student at the Jordan University and member of the Abu Thar al-Ghafari Center in Prince Hassan Refugee Camp in Jabal an-Naser. She added that, through the Global Island game, they discussed many ideas on public issues, which form an integral part of young people's life, such as immigration and opening the borders between countries. Reem noted that immigration has many advantages, provided it is a regulated and not random process that might harm the interests of host countries by creating security or economic problems. She reported that in response to some suggestions that political borders have to be closed and assistance has to be provided from a distance, they pointed that borders are not a natural phenomenon but are created by international politics and went on to explain that classifying countries as powerful or poor was not correct from the start and that immigration I global concern and not restricted to one nation.
During the open debate, several issues pertaining to the Arab and Western worlds in light of the recent events that have shocked the whole world were discussed. Reem indicated that they tried to explain that the so-called 'terrorism' is a result of 'misunderstandings' and 'senseless' conduct of both parties resulting in reactions destructive to both.
Lack of Dialogue
Yusuf Mohammad, a Management Information Systems student, said that the re-publishing of the offensive cartoons did not change his decision to participate in the game. On the contrary, it motivated him to talk with the other. He noted that these discussions are not mere chatting over the internet, but an open discussion of important issues related to youth. Discussions are conducted in a democratic free environment that allows youth to express and exchange views on public issues. He maintained that these discussions promote dialogue between Jordanian and Danish youth. He added, "One cannot ignore that wars that have erupted among different cultures and killed millions of people were a result of a lack of dialogue."
As part of the intercultural youth exchange program between Denmark and Jordan, the Jordanian Danish Youth Dialogue Center organized a session for youth on the Global Island Game (www.globalisland.nu) in the Jordanian capital Amman on 15 February. Jordanian and Danish youth in the age group 16-20 years got together to discuss the issue of immigration and opening borders to immigrants while ensuring the best interest of immigrants and host societies. Young people held their discussions in a democratic parliament-like environment through the use communication skills in negotiation, dialogue with the other and decision-making. Participants cast their final votes on the internet.
Students from two classes from Denmark and four youth groups, coming from different areas of Jordan, participated in the session.
The success or failure of dialogue is not contingent on persuading the other party…
Shatha Mansour Kafawin, a student at the Zarqa Private University, said, "I believe that proper dialogue should be based on a discussion of ideas and views among the two parties. The success of failure of dialogue is not contingent on persuading the other party… The importance of dialogue is in arriving at a common ground, where each party accepts the other and respect their beliefs. There are many misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims. We need to explore ways to correct them and eliminate prejudice. We need to establish dialogue between Arab and Western societies. Our participation in the Global Island game is part of the dialogue we strive for."
She added, "Through the game, we discussed the issue of immigration and increasing numbers of immigrants and its positive and negative social and economic effects on host countries."
Commenting on her participation in the game, she said that direct interaction and exchange of ideas with other participating was real fun. She was disappointed however that her query as to why the offensive cartoons were republished, was not responded to.
"Laws kill millions”, said Omar Abu Shanab, "Immigration is a pressing issue resulting from ongoing wars. Look what happened to Palestinians and what has been happening to Iraqi of late. These immigrants seek better living conditions, whether in Arab of foreign countries, which, for their part, have helped and accommodated immigrants and provided them with a decent life in terms of education, work and rights."
Several Jordanian Youth Withdraw from the Global Island Game after Republishing of Offensive Cartoons
Raja' Fawaz, program coordinator at the Abu Thar al-Ghafari Center, indicated that the Global Island Game is an educational game that takes the form of a youth parliament made up of five virtual countries, which in their characteristics, resemble actual countries . Young people discuss public issues in an open debate. On this day of open debate, young people are discussing the issue of immigration and open borders. In the second stage of the game, the voting stage, young people will vote on the suggestions. The winner becomes president of the youth parliament. Raja' added that the game is designed to promote communication between youth in the Arab and Western worlds after proving a success in several countries.
In conjunction with holding the Global Island game, the offensive cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) were republished. As a result, Raja' noted that several young people withdrew on the grounds that they felt there was no sense in dialogue when the offences are persistent
To the northeast of Amman, 20 km from Zarqa, lies the Zarqa refugee camp, one of the oldest refugee camps in Jordan. Muhannad Afaneh, a student at the Hashemite University, explains how, when discussing the issue of immigration, we need to take a serious look at involuntary immigration, as is the case with Palestinian immigrants, who still dream of returning to their homeland since the Nakba of 1948.
Muhannad sees in his participation in the Global Island game a window that allows him to explore and gain experience on how people in the West think and react to global issues.
Accepting the Cultures of Others
Akram Abu Shanab indicated that they posed a number of questions related to the issue of immigration: Do immigrants enjoy full rights, security and stability in the host country? What about their integration in the new environment, how accepting is the new community of immigrants' culture? When asked whether the republishing of the offensive cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) has affected his decision to participate, he said that we need to accept the culture of others and engage in this dialogue in a civilized manner. According to Akram, we should not make generalized judgments because then we would be including all the Danish people and not a specific extremist group. He added that they have already met with several Danish youth to understand their views and convictions. "The point is respecting and accepting others. I believe that people might resort to violence in communities and situations where political and social injustice and the absence of democracy and respect for basic human rights breed frustration. They might resort to violence when they feel that they cannot live without dignity, when a decent standard of living is not ensured," Akram said.
There were differences in views among youth who have had past experiences with Danish youth in previous meetings or dialogues and those who were dealing with them for the first time.
Some of the latter group felt that Danish youth were not very keen on participating; that they were holding on to their convictions without any consideration for the other party's need for acceptance and respect.
Without being on the defensive…
In cooperation with the Child-Friendly City Initiative/ Greater Amman Municipality, a number of young people from the Al-Aydi Al-Waida (the Promising Hands) from the National Orthodox School, the Baptist School, the Mashreq International School, the Philadelphia School and the Montessori School, met at the National Orthodox School.
Zaid Nasser (16 years) said, "Participating in the game was fun. It created a dynamic atmosphere, where participants exchanged views and information. I think this contributes to promoting dialogue between the Arab and Western worlds without anyone being on the defensive or feeling under attack."
Enhancing communication skills..
For her part, Aseel Sahib (16 years) said, "We exchanged views by discussing the issue of immigration and the opening of borders. I think the Global Island enhances communication skill. Its is a special kind of fun, where we directly exchange ideas with others over issues relevant to all people."
Tala Kayed (17 years) said, "I remember at the beginning, I was not sure about participating after the republishing of the offensive cartoons. But I reconsidered, and felt that this was only a group of the Danish people and not a group view or action and it would be wrong of me to generalize. I wanted to participate in the game to present myself and convey a true image of Muslims and Arabs."
"Why is every Muslim considered a terrorist?" Dima Shukair (16 years old) asked this question through the Global Island Game. She says, "We tried to explain that Islam is a noble heavenly message that embraces other religions. The West has several misconceptions resulting from lack of knowledge of the other party and its culture. As youth, we have a responsibility to properly inform others about our culture and religion."
A fun and rich game…
Sawsan Ahmad (17 years) said, "Through the game, we were able to discuss several issues related to the Arab and Western worlds, with a focus on immigration. We discussed its disadvantages and the extent to which it affects immigrants and host countries. Taking part in the Global Island was a fun experience. I got a firsthand look at the Western culture, how others thought of issues related to youth and how we can present our views democratically through civilized dialogue.
Jordanian Youth Garner Leading Positions in the Game
"When you walk in the streets of Iraq, you can only see the deep red color of blood. You can only hear the crying of a child on the side of the road and the prayers of trees and stones. You can only see dead bodies and destroyed houses. This is where life stopped in Iraq and the journey of immigration began in an attempt to search for the lost smile and life and save our most precious thing in our life – our children, who found themselves caught in a war that distorted the innocence and purity of childhood" This is how Ibtisam Fares (17 years old) described the recent latest mishaps. She used moving imagery that appealed to many participants, thus getting high scores in the voting. Three Jordanian youth achieved high scores in the final voting and were elected parliament chairs in their respective virtual countries.
To Lubna Zobi, Dima Mahadin and Salam Ahmad, participating in the Global Island presented them with the chance to communicate with others and prove their ability to directly with others. They felt that the game was exciting and fun, especially the exchange of useful ideas and views.
Engaging Youth in a Dialogue with others through an Educational Game
Coordinator Mai Kawalit, a teacher at the National Orthodox School, commented on the game by saying, "The Global Island Game is an educational game aimed at creating a dialogue among youth by giving them a space to express themselves and experience the views and beliefs of others through discussing public issues related to different peoples and youth. I believe the game succeeded in engaging youth in an interesting and exciting direct dialogue with others."
What Danish youth say…
In Roskilde, 45km from the Danish capital of Copenhagen, a number of Danish young people were participating in the Global Island dialogue with their Jordanian counterparts. Danish youth felt that Jordanian youth seek peace, accept and respect others while being considerate of the cultural differences between the two countries.
Report by Suad Nofal
Translated by Majd Mohsen