Laurence Foley would not have known what hit him. The affable father of three had been working in Jordan for the past two years. As he left his Amman home for work yesterday morning he also would not have felt in danger. Random acts of violence against foreigners just don’t happen in Jordan. That’s why yesterday’s killing of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) worker is not just a chilling act of terrorism, but also a potentially devastating blow to the tiny Middle Eastern nation. The murder of an American aid worker in Jordan will have long-term and profound repercussions for the Jordanian people.
Jordan is a safe and friendly country that is little known and widely misunderstood. The Kingdom leads the Arab world in political and social reform. Its most recognizable advocate is the smiling face of the diminutive late King Hussein. Under his reign, Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994 and was a key player in the now defunct Oslo Accords, the US-brokered agreement to end hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. King Hussein’s young son Abdullah and his outspoken wife Queen Rania carry on this legacy of peace through balance and compromise. Although still an autocratic monarchy, democratic reforms have allowed for free election of the lower house of Parliament. The population is well educated; English is taught to children from grade one and is widely spoken. Women enjoy broad freedoms and are not forced to wear the veil.
Queen Rania, 33, has emerged as a powerful new voice for moderate Islam. She has inspired a new generation of Jordanian women to assert their rights while continuing to embrace their faith. Issues such as child abuse and the traditional practice of honour killing of women are now part of open public debate. Much economic and social progress has been made, and Canada is playing an important part: Dozens of Canadians are working with Jordanians on trade issues, agriculture best practices, and education. A special Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-sponsored project with the University of New Brunswick has paired UNB teachers with their colleagues in Jordan.
Laurence Foley would not have feared for his life as he left his home because Jordan is a peaceful and stable country in a troubled region. As yesterday’s shots ring around the world, the damage will not be limited to one man’s tragedy. It is clear that the point of the assassination was not just to kill an American diplomat, but also to destabilize and infect another country with the long arm of terror. Jordanians are painfully aware that Western media coverage of Middle East violence has led to a public perception of their country as a dangerous and unstable place unsuitable for trade, tourism or exchange. This perception is false, and it must be resisted.