Conor Fishback and Dr. Chad Emmett, Geography Department
Recently three of Jordan’s neighboring states: Israel, Iraq, and Syria have experienced different types of large scale violence within their country. Jordan has remained relatively stable with no major violent conflicts. On October 21st 2012, the Jordanian Government announced that it had foiled a terrorist plot involving 11 Jordanians seeking to target Western interests in Amman. Even though Jordan is near the heart of the Muslim world, it has been targeted by terrorists, as if it was a Western state. This study analyzed the level of tolerance to the Christian faith inside a Muslim state according to the location of various religious buildings. The main goal of this project is to find out if Jordan portrays a sign of religious tolerance to the Christian faith, by how Christian churches are located in relation to the number and location of Muslim mosques. The question was to find out not only if the locations of Christian churches reflect Christian tolerance in the country of Jordan but also to assume that the state of Jordan is religiously tolerant and that the geographic locations of these different building help to prove that. Geographic situation in this study revolved around the number of Muslim mosques, and how adjacent they are in relation to the Christian churches. The study took five cities and located where each of their Christian neighborhoods were sited. This study is based on a much broader study which looked at how religious buildings interact with one another and influence broader religious trends. This delved into placing of buildings with the intent to overshadow or minimize the presence of other faiths buildings as well as building in a way to show tolerance and compromise.1 Looking at their geographic situation and analyzed whether or not the mosques were trying to overshadow the churches or if there is religious freedom and respect in the area. This was accomplished by going to several cities and taking photographs to show if there is one church or mosque dominating the landscape over the other. I compared several different cities within Jordan that have a strong Christian percentage of its population. The study was conducted in each of the following cities; Amman, Irbid, Salt, Karak, and Madaba. Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) several digital maps were made of each city. Using a portable GPS unit, the latitude and longitude of each church and mosque was taken and recorded while on site. This recorded each building on a global reference system. These points were geocoded or inputted onto a map showing the specific locations of each church and mosque. A point layer consisting of geocoded points for each church and mosque nearby the Christian quarters of each city. After geocoding the buildings the analysis looked at any clustering that is taking place between the two religions and then compare those areas to the photos that were taken of the same location. Being that it is a Muslim majority country, some questions that we wanted answered arose out of doing the analysis. Do mosques seem to dominate or overshadow the nearby Christian churches or do they promote religious tolerance? It was expected to find that the religious tolerance trend will be positive. That there will not be significant clustering of Mosques compared to churches. Any effects of overshadowing would not be found. There were many instances of finding evidence of religious tolerance based on the in-situ data that was gathered in each city under the study. Breaking the study down by city, Amman showed the most evidence of displaying signs of tolerance and cooperation. Right next to the parliamentary building resides one fairly large mosque and two fairly large churches. Neither of them outshine nor try to overshadow the other. The fact that this is done right next to the house of government in the country’s capital city is a sign that Jordan seeks to have religious cooperation spread to the whole country. In Amman’s downtown district there were several areas that had multiple mosques in very close proximity. Questions were raised as to why there would need to be multiple mosques so close to each other. Were they there based on usage or to encroach upon the nearby Christian neighborhood? Looking at the map these areas are highly populous, which justified the need for two or more mosques in such close proximity. There was no significant clustering found in Amman. In Irbid and Karak the results were highly similar. In Irbid, the Christian quarter was highly spatially clustered and the mosques surrounding it were not considered clustered. There was a great example of cooperation at the top of a hill near the downtown of the city. In Karak the majority of the city is located on a bluff that connects the city to the famous Karak castle that was involved with the crusades. It is a Christian majority town with only three visible mosques from the center of the city. Madaba had some interesting results as well as had some great examples of tolerance. In the center of the city lies a large hill that has several churches and one fairly large mosque. However the mosque does not seek to overshadow the other churches because of the presence of a large church that lies at a higher elevation. The site of the mosque right next to their most prominent building shows the Christian majority city is tolerant to the presence of Muslims within their city. The city of Salt is the only city that showed significant clustering of mosques surrounding the Christian quarter. This can be explained by the topography of the terrain in Salt. The city lies inside of a canyon. Many Muslim neighborhoods have developed inside the canyon as well as on the rims along each side. Because the center of the city houses all of the industrial commerce and main economics of the city, mosques have also been built on the canyon floor itself so Muslims may have a chance to worship during midday call to prayer. The reason that the map analysis shows clustering is because the whole city is clustered within a small geographic area. With a look at all of maps created and photos taken, it is clear to see that Jordan’s case of positive religious tolerance is clearly expressed by the site and situation of its religious buildings. Within each city there were frequent examples of how cooperation is prevalent. That there were many examples of buildings of different faiths within close proximity of one another that did not seem to overshadow the other. Also there was no real evidence of clustering upon the Christian areas of each city except for in Salt but through thorough analysis of the area the study proved that the clustering found was due to the physical features of the landscape. This study found that the amount of Christian churches and where they are located reflect tolerance and cooperation, and show that the current proximity of Muslim mosques portray the ideal for a Muslim state to not just tolerate Christians living within its borders, but to have a sense of respect for the Christian faith.