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New Jordanian MP says election gains by women reflect genuine Islam

Jordan's Islamic Movement MP Tahboub speaks with MEE about gains by women in recent election, plans for reforms
Dr Dima Tahboub (MEE/Courtesy Dima Tahboub)

LONDON - In Jordan’s parliamentary elections on 20 September, women won 20 of 130 seats, compared with 18 out of 150 in the previous parliament, amid a movement towards more progressive political representation for women.

Middle East Eye spoke with one of the new parliamentarians, Dr Dima Tahboub, about the election results. She is university professor in Jordan and also a member of the Islamic Action Front’s Shura Council, the highest leadership institution in the biggest Jordanian political party.

Jordanians came to know Tahboub in 2003 after her journalist husband, Tariq Ayoub, was killed when the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera were hit in a US air raid. His funeral was attended by thousands of Jordanians days after the fall of Baghdad.

Tahboub, who represents the Islamic Movement, said: “The Islamic Movement is advancing women towards various leadership positions in order to bolster women’s political participation.”

The Islamic Movement nominated 19 women candidates for the elections, its biggest number ever, and four of them won seats.

Dr Dima Tahboub was one of 20 women elected to parliament (MEE/Courtesy Dima Tahboub)

Tahboub told MEE these figures show a “return to the genuine teachings of the Islamic religion, which does not discriminate between men and women".

Even before women stood as parliamentary candidates on behalf of the Islamic Movement, Tahboub said, they participated in various leadership positions within the Islamic Action Front. She was a spokesperson for the Islamic Action Front prior to her nomination by the party for parliament membership.

“We want to reinforce our idea that is based on the belief that competence has nothing to do with gender. This is an Islamic principle,” she said.

“Women used to participate with the Messenger, peace be upon him, in politics and in other leadership roles. This is Islam’s genuine spirit,” Tahboub said.

She affirmed that Jordanian society is witnessing a tangible change in attitudes towards women, stressing that: “The Islamic Movement supports change, but objects to imposition of any change under external pressure.”

Tahboub also said the reforms demanded by the Islamic Movement in recent years by taking to the streets will now be taken to the House of Representatives, where demands for accomplishing them will be channelled through Jordan’s official institutions.

She added that “economic reform is the priority,” so as to improve people’s living conditions and serve the country’s best interests.

“We are now part of the political scene. We shall put all the important files before us. We shall start reform from within. Jordan’s interest will be our foremost priority in whatever we do,” Tahboub said.

Asked about prospects for the Islamic Movement participating in the government and the shape of their relationship during the next phase, Tahboub said: “The Islamic Movement extends its hand for cooperation with everyone, including the government, and we are ready to be soldiers within it.”

She said the participation of Islamist parties in the Jordanian parliamentary elections, which they had previously boycotted, means they wish to be partners with the government rather than opponents.

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