The ugly side of culture clash, boys had better NOT just be boys…

So a week or so ago, small news in the UK turned into big news for Jordan. This isn’t the tale of Jordanian athletes gone to the UK to win gold and succeeding. That would also be big news… In a good way. Instead this is the worst-case scenario. This is three Paralympic athletes gone to the UK and engaging in behavior that back home might be fairly minor. In the UK, however, it’s the kind of behavior that can lead to jail time. As you can read here and here, the men were brought up on charges of sexual assault.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you read, you will see that they are charged with groping a girl after taking pictures of her and of grabbing another girl outside their training venue. I’m pretty sure they thought it was all in good fun. After all, three young women walking about outside the venue, likely flirting are fair game right? And so, they’ve learned the hard way that in the west, they are not in fact fair game. While such minor incidents in Jordan would likely lead to laughter and a total inaction of police (they weren’t even harmed, right?), in the UK this is pretty serious business. Outside the region, groping someone is a crime. Grabbing a girl on the street is also a crime. You can’t simply manhandle people because your perception is that they’d enjoy it. Or that your friends would think it was funny.

I found myself wondering what training the Jordanian teams were offered before being taken to the UK to represent our fine country. Given that the Paralympics trainer was one of those in the triad, I’m guessing none. And that is where Jordan failed its athletes. Whatever you may get away with at home, you should absolutely know better abroad. After all, I constantly hear charges that western women in the region need to respect local mores and culture. I hear that we should dress more conservatively, behave more conservatively, become different. And here is the finest example that this is a two way street. You can’t ask everyone to conform to your standards and then think you can behave in whatever way you want when abroad.

So while I feel for these young men who had their dreams of gold destroyed by their own actions (they were removed from competition and brought home to await their trial date), my heart aches for all of those amazing men and women living in a society that sees infirmity as a reason to exclude and discriminate. Their role model was flawed and failed Ina. Way that harmed each of them. These men, who were to represent Jordan, damaged not only Jordan’s reputation abroad, but also harmed the dreams of potential Paralympians thought the kingdom. The cover story in JO magazine on one of the three just makes it that much worse. And that, ladies and gents, is why boys most definitely should not just be boys…

Sad dream killers…

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4 thoughts on “The ugly side of culture clash, boys had better NOT just be boys…

  1. I have been trying to say to myself – innocent until proven guilty!!! But it does seem that they behaved inappropriately. I would hope that the Family Protection Department in Jordan (who cover cases of sexual abuse) would have dealt with this in the same way as the UK authorities (I am being hopeful here!). I feel sorry for all those who have supported these people, they must feel so let down. But Jordan has done a good job by withdrawing them and bringing them back home.

    • Patricia, I totally agree. I’m glad that Jordan dealt with it properly. Unfortunately, given the environment, I don’t think such mild situations would even be reported. Too much ignoring and belittling I’m afraid, whether perception or reality…

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