The other week, Syria's Bashar al-Asad made fun of the slogan "Jordan First" during the Arab Political Parties Conference in Damascus. It aroused quite the amusing little nationalistic firestorm in Jordan, with fiery denunciations of the Syrian President for disrespecting the kingdom - amusing because Jordanians had been making fun of the slogan "Jordan First" since the moment it had been unveiled. Yesterday,Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit declared an end to the controversy on the grounds that he had received assurances from Syria that Jordan had not been the target of the remarks. Uh huh - it must have been some other country's slogan "Jordan First" that had been the object of Bashar's witticisms. So a funny end to a funny "crisis"... and a reasonable bit of diplomacy by Bakhit.
The less funny part: members of Jordan's Senate introduced a draft law in the name of "respecting the state" which would ban political party members from participating in events abroad which insulted Jordan. Prominent Jordanian politicians - including Islamic Action Front leader Ishaq Farhan - had come under intense public criticism for their participation in the event, for either applauding or sitting silent through Bashar's comments. One of the leaders of the Senate push for a law governing "respecting the state" was none other than Samir Habashneh, who as Interior Minister had been the architect of inflammatory and anti-democratic attacks on political parties, civil society, and the professional associations which in 2004 ultimately cost then-PM Faisal al-Fayez his job.
Prime Minister Bakhit, to his credit, told the Senate that the response of the "Jordanian street" had been sufficient and no further action was required. This hopefully will block any move towards actually passing a law which could have extremely troubling and anti-liberal implications. If that's the case, as it appears to be, then kudos to Bakhit for resisting the latest bout of anti-democratic activism in Jordan's Parliament (see last week's post on the press law for another example).