(The Christian Science Monitor) Akef Smeirat did something no other Christian candidate in Jordan is known to have done: he ran for office with an Islamist party.
“Today we need to stop talking about divisions: Islamist and leftist, tribe versus tribe,” Smeirat told residents of this Christian village who gathered recently in a tent overlooking rolling olive orchards on the outskirts of Amman. “We need the efforts of all Jordanians, Muslims and Christians, hand-in-hand, to build a better Jordan.”
Ismael Abu Rumman, a Muslim candidate from the nearby town of Salt, chimed in.
“We are one team, one message and one voice—we want to reform Jordan,” Abu Rumman said as he campaigned in Fuheis alongside Smeirat. The two men were among 130 candidates that the Islamic Action Front fielded in the parliamentary election on September 20; four, including Smeirat, were Christian.
“Although most of the 130 seats in the lower house of Parliament were retained by pro-monarchy loyalists, the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood’s political arm, and other Islamists not affiliated with the Brotherhood won a total of 16 seats,” the New York Times reported.
Their unusual campaign, which was a first for 21st-century Middle East politics, not only brought Islamist candidates to Christian communities; it also brought Christian candidates to the refugee camps and working-class neighborhoods that are the heartland of Islamist supporters.
Such crossover is noteworthy not only in the Middle East, where Christians have been under attack from Iraq to Syria to Egypt, but even in the increasingly polarized political environments of the United States and some European countries, where other sorts of tribalism are taking hold.