Using the “Jordan Strategy” to change the laws about adoption in Palestine

This is part two of “The most asked questions about adopting from Palestine”–the Muslim adoption piece, addressing the question, “what can I do to help change this?”

In the last piece we looked at the United States Department of State regulations for adoption in Israel because it considers the West Bank and Gaza to be Israel when it comes to adoption policies. This section of the Department of State page details the differences between Christian and Muslim adoptions:

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 2.22.24 AMWe looked at the Christian adoption contradictions and complications here. But if you thought that seemed overwhelming, the Muslim adoption section might be enough to send you running. But don’t. Don’t run. Anytime you are tempted to run from this, please remember baby Sama, the child our director Suz is holding in our main page picture. Remember all of these babies. If we run, who will stop and free them?


To break down the information on Muslim adoption is significantly more complex, and the issue is less focused on the Palestinian Authority as a governmental entity than it is on the P.A. as a religious entity. As we’ve previously explained in the Open Letter, Islam makes no provision for legal adoption. Many will tell you it does, but they will be referring to “kafala guardianship.” This is detrimental to a child’s psyche. In fact, as one educational psychologist notes, “A child raised with a pseudo-parent, having knowledge he is never to be the heir, only to serve as the second-class citizen of the family, a mere charity case good deed for Allah is likely more harmful to the child than the consistent care of an orphanage where at least the child has equal status and standing with other children in his formative years, even though societally he remains a second-class citizen.”

This is how it’s explained by Islamic law:

According to the Sharee’ah (Islamic law), there is no legal adoption. It is prohibited for a person to legally adopt a son or a daughter of whom he is not the biological father. If a person adopts a son or daughter, the Sharee’ah will not confer on the adopted person the status or rights of a biological son or daughter. According to the Quran, one cannot become a person’s real son merely by virtue of a declaration; Allah Says (what means): “…And He [i.e., Allah] has not made your claimed [i.e., adopted] sons your [true] sons. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the [right] way. Call them [i.e., the adopted children] by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they are your brothers in religion…” [Quran 33: 4-5]

In Islam, only “full-blooded” children count as actual children. No adoption. Period. The problem with this is that once a baby is abandoned and left on a street anywhere else, the baby does not come with some sort of religious certificate. The idea that the child is bound to a religion but rejected by it at the same time is a grave injustice, a Catch-22 of the most tragically ironic proportions. The child deserves the right to be fully adopted into a family, given all the birthrights therein, and raised in the culture of that family. This is obviously an issue of justice, equity, and humanity.

This is why the “Jordan Strategy” is the pivotal key in overturning the injustice of the adoption law in Muslim society. The Jordan Strategy employs the idea that the P.A. likes money and hates criticism more than it likes its loyalty to laws, the same way the Jordanians did when it continued to allow honor killing to be practiced in modern times:

Rana Husseini, a journalist and independent human-rights activist who broke the silence on “honour killings”in Jordan through her reporting and in her book Murder in the Name of Honour… [ which resulted in] The fatwa [that] declared “honour killings” to be contrary to Sharia and described it as one of society’s most heinous crimes.

While children are not being killed as overtly in the case of laws prohibiting their adoption, the research is clear on the necessity of a child to be placed in a safe and loving home. Kafala guardianship is actually bordering on cruel when carried out according to the Qu’ran.

Likewise, the P.A. and other officials eschew negative publicity about their policies. For this reason, the Jordan Strategy is the key to unlocking the orphanage door. Neighboring Jordan not only recently changed its honor killings policies because of Hussenini breaking the silence, but another damaging law recently ended due to the efforts of journalists and social media.

Jordan held an infamous “marry your rapist” law, which some Arab nations have had on the books. Here’s the summary of the law and its rationale and overturning from the Library of Congress:

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 12.11.27 AM

Read the third paragraph: The abolishment of the article came after 63 women’s rights organizations launched a public awareness campaign via social media….

This article details the power behind the campaign. Basically, a 26-year old blogger did research on the law, started posted things on social media, and it sparked a furor.These nations often receive aid from UN agencies, as well as other international human rights organizations, due to the large numbers of refugees and other oppressed people groups. When bad publicity happens and there are threats of withholding money, they don’t have to suddenly care about orphans; the greed or need is enough to suddenly find a “loophole” and change a law. And right now, it doesn’t matter to Free the Orphans what the motivation is, so long as it results in orphans being legally adopted for life.

A friend of mine, who may be reading this, and who I am sure meant well, said something critical when I launched this organization. It hurt me as she refused to share, stating I did not have a “call to action” and implied that sharing on social media was not effective and a real action plan. I tried to explain that in this type of case, it was. Sadly, we have Americanized social media down to viral posts about puppy dogs and babies (and food that we meticulously arrange and photograph prior to eating, of course), here today and gone tomorrow. In the Arab world, posts like these, posts that expose antiquated laws that violate the rights of babies, of women, of human beings, these posts can literally be catalytic in changing the laws and changing history; this is how you do it in this part of the world.

A friend in Palestine, who happens to be a legal expert, and who has studied law at the University of Jordan, commented to me this week about the Jordan Strategy as applied to changing adoption laws (slightly edited for context):

If they [we]  pressure [on social media] and the news went worldwide, it would make much difference… nothing is impossible. A lot of Arab countries change it laws by pressure from human rights organizations.

Whether or not it happens shouldn’t even be the case–especially when efforts to help it happen are so small for most people. If we know from recent history in a nation that borders Palestine that such campaigns have worked to overturn unjust laws, should there be the slightest hesitation to at least attempt this? It’s certainly not the same situation. And going against us is the fact that Palestine is not a recognized nation by many, but the United Nations and Amnesty International are two organizations that do recognize the existence of Palestine and fight for the rights of orphans and refugees. The majority of these babies are also refugee babies–by nature of being Palestinian. Targeted social media posts on a regular basis to these international organizations, plus Human Rights Watch, and others we will share soon, are all keys to unlock the gates that not even the directors of the orphanage can open.

Just a couple weeks ago I wrote again to the dear man who leads the orphanage where I was born. He said, in part:

We hope the whole situation concerning children and their right of protection and care in Palestine will improve one day and move forward with accordance to international laws despite the unpromising reality.

His words, also, are a key. International law is on our side, friends. We need only to not be passive. It is within our power to #FreeTheOrphans.

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