Whoever follows the current Twitter debates in Jordan, might think the country is about to collapse over a pair of torn jeans. Basketball player Rubi Habash, captain of the national team, had been invited for an interview with Jordan TV.
However, the state broadcaster prevented the 32-year-old from entering the building, as her ripped jeans didn’t “comply with Jordanian values and traditions.” Her pair of torn pants consequently “ripped” Jordanians into two camps of supporters and opponents.
She also said that, just before her, a young man had been allowed to enter the building in a pair of shorts. She attached her tweet to a picture of her jeans torn at the knee, which is part of a well-known global fashion trend, that has also been popular in the Arab world for years.
The incident prompted Prince Ali Ibn Al-Hussein to photograph his torn pants and posted it on Twitter with the phrase: “With you, Ruby!” Habash daring to raise the issue and openly confront the TV authorities – which seem to perceive morals and values through a hole in a jeans – triggered a national campaign, in which the player was subjected to the worst forms of bullying and slander.
She responded with a tweet reminding people of the fact that those who bully her today were the same people who objected to the Netflix series Al Rawabi School, which sparked great turmoil and debate in Jordan as it would present a false and distorted image of Jordanian society.
“When the series Al Rawabi School came out, you started to talk about this: we are not bullied, we are a people who do not bully, respect everyone, and accept others,” Habash wrote.
While the weight of the increasingly emotional debate mainly fell on the shoulders of the athlete, Prince Ali also received his fair share of bullying. What is remarkable in the comments on the prince’s tweet were the references to the general economic and social plight of Jordanians.
So, there were those who reminded him of the 40-year-old man who recently set himself on fire and threw himself off a Roman bridge after the police had confiscated his vegetable stall. A story remarkably similar to that of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, who burnt himself in 2011 after the police had confiscated his vegetable and fruit cart and became the symbol of the Arab Spring, Thus suddenly Bouazizi appeared in Jordan, amidst the campaign waged by extremists, moral guardians and supporters of tribal logic against a woman’s torn trousers.
It shows how a large number of Jordanians are still very closedminded when it comes to social issues and chastise anyone of the new generation, who tries to break the prevailing tribal and moral codes.
Especially when such attempts are made by a woman, resentment grows. It is the heavy burden of a fossilized system of crude values that cannot embrace modernity or keep pace with time.
This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago on Eid al-Adha when Wafaa al-Khadra, a member of the Committee to Modernize the Political System in Jordan, in a tweet dared to criticize the ritual slaughtering and considered it a “lack of mercy and compassion.” Al-Khadra was subjected to a fierce campaign that demanded her dismissal. And that while is a member of a committee created by royal order, whose job it is think about modernization and “make recommendations related to developing legislation governing local administration and expanding the base of participation in decision-making.”
Al-Khadra’s tried to explain her tweet, which she forced to delete, that the scenes of slaughter no longer fit an era in which “living circumstances, concepts of environmental balance and the environmental contract have evolved and changed.” But to no avail. The era she dared criticize defeated her. She was dismissed from her position under pressure of the “masses” that collectively punished her for merely expressing her opinion.
Worse, she is now forced to travel with a security escort, after being subjected to threats. Al-Khadra is not the first victim of this kind of social disciplining practiced by reactionary groups in Jordanian society, which aim to bury any idea that is somehow deemed out of the ordinary.
This is also what happened to the actors of the 2018 Netflix series Jin. They were subjected to a public campaign over a kiss between two teenagers in the series, which turned into a wave of bullying. Just as what happened to Ruby today.