Successful PR usually pivots on a simple storyline, and in a sense both the Vatican and the Jordanians are trying to offer just such a storyline during Pope Benedict XVI’s three days in the country: Jordan as a moderate Islamic nation that proves a “clash of civilizations” isn’t inevitable.
Yesterday, for example, Benedict told King Abdullah II that Jordan’s commitment to inter-faith dialogue has confounded “the predictions of those who consider violence and conflict inevitable.”
Talking to ordinary Jordanians, both Muslim and Christian, there seems a fair bit of truth behind this rosy picture. By and large, they say, the country’s Muslim majority and its small Christian minority live in harmony, and the Hashemite monarchy here goes to great lengths to protect Jordan’s image as an open and tolerant place. (For example, eight percent of the seats in Jordan’s parliament are reserved for Christians, even though they represent only about three percent of the population.)
Drilling beneath the surface, however, it’s clear that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.