Language and Religion of Jordan


Arabic is the official language of the country and is spoken even by the ethnic minorities who maintain their own languages in their everyday lives. The spoken Arabic of the country is essentially a vernacular of literary Arabic; it is common to neighboring countries as well but is quite different from the spoken language in Egypt. There also are differences between the languages of the towns and of the countryside, and between those of the East and West banks. English is widely understood by the upper and middle classes. About 1.7 million people are registered as Palestinian refugees and displaced persons; most of these are citizens.


Islam is the state religion, although all are guaranteed religious freedom. Most Jordanians (about 95%) are Sunni Muslims. Of the racial minorities, the Turkomans and Circassians are Sunni Muslims, but the Druzes are a heterodox Muslim sect. Christians constitute about 4% of the population and live mainly in 'Ammān or the Jordan Valley; most are Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Other officially recognized denominations include Melkite, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite, Assyrian, Anglican, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventist, United Pentecostal, and Presbyterian. Groups registered as religious societies by the government include Baptists, Free Evangelicals, Nazarenes, the Christian Missionary Alliance, and Assemblies of God. There are some members of the Coptic church; these are primarily Egyptian immigrants. The Baha'is are mainly of Persian stock. Chaldean and Syriac Christians are also represented. A tiny community of Samaritans maintains the faith of its ancestors, a heterodox form of the ancient Jewish religion. There are numerous missionary groups within the country.

The constitution provides for religious freedom with the stipulation the all religious practices are within the semblance of "public order and morality." Non-Muslims are not permitted to proselytize to Muslims. Conversion from Islam to other faiths is not expressly prohibited, but converts face a great deal of legal and social discrimination. Certain Muslim and Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays. The Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies and the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization research are government-sponsored organizations that promote tolerance and understanding between Muslims and Christians.