(MENAFN - Jordan Times) As Jordan is still grappling with the question of political reform, some intellectuals and politicians seem to be working at cross purpose. Far from being united behind one vision of reform, they have been exploiting the push for change to gain privileges or rights that only reinforce the politics of sub-identities at the expense of an encompassing national identity.
A week ago, a small group of intellectuals and politicians sent the King a letter calling for granting Jordanians of Palestinian origin more privileges in politics, bureaucracy and the army. To them, this is reform.
While some of the grievances included in the letter are justified, their approach is completely wrong and has overlooked the problem in its wider context.
I would not go as far as to say that this group has acted in bad faith, but the essence of its letter has nothing to do with reform. Formulating narrow demands for one demographic constituency in Jordan can set in motion a wider problem: the logics of ethnic-based allocations.
As an observer to the protest movements in Jordan, I have noticed that activists seek one goal: to effect genuine political reform that addresses the issue of disenfranchisement of Jordanians, regardless of their social or ethnic backgrounds.
The true path for political empowerment of Jordanians and putting an end to political disenfranchisement entails two important steps: doing away with the one-person, one-vote system and allocating seats based on citizenship rather than demographic makeup.
Unfortunately, the letter signed by this group fails to touch on these two important issues. In other words, this group seeks to strike a deal with the state whereby it gains more privileges for Jordanians of Palestinian origin for their support to the regime's approach to reform. This trade-off touches on the issue of citizenship and does not face head-on with those who reject genuine reform.
Implicit in this letter is an encouragement for the emergence sub-identities rather than a national identity for all Jordanians. Not only is this logic the antithesis of the logic of reform, it is also damaging and could bring the country to its knees.
Lest one should forget, this ethnic-based approach can create damaging social tensions that will serve no one in the country.
The problem with those behind the letter is threefold. First, they do not represent the mainstream Jordanians and therefore remain isolated from the protest movements and the key political forces. Second, they fail to identify the problem in its correct historical, political and economic context. And finally, they prove to be oblivious to the difference between equality and justice on the Jordanian scene.
The redemption of all Jordanians, regardless of their ethnic or social background, can be realised through a state-society relationship that is based on citizenship and not on demographic allocations.
Addressing the needs of a tiny group of intellectuals with no impact on the street is a drop in the bucket, but the main challenge is still about whether we can effect the required reform in a way that addresses the grievances of all Jordanians.