Two Dead as Gunman Opens Fire at Jordan Mass Wedding
Police on Friday shot dead a gunman who opened fire at a mass wedding ceremony, killing one guest in an attack event organizers believed was linked to a family quarrel.
Initial reports said the killer was aiming at two guests among the 5,000 attending a mass wedding for 70 cash-strapped Jordanian couples organized by the Islamic charity Al-Afaf at an Amman school playground.
Two other people were wounded, including a policeman who was wounded in the eye.
The wedding party, which had just got underway, was briefly suspended as ambulances rushed to the scene to attend to the casualties while police maintained order.
"The shooting has nothing to do with the wedding ceremony and the nuptials resumed as planned after the incident," Al-Afaf president Abdel Latif Arabiyat told AFP.
There was no major panic at Al-Ittihad school after the shooting took place in an open-air playground where the grooms were seated, who were separated from brides who wore long white dresses with hoods covering their hair and veils hiding their faces.
The couples had already written their Islamic wedding contracts before coming to the ceremony, where all-male bards accompanied by an all-male orchestra recited verses from the Koran and sang religious songs urging brides to obey their husbands and grooms to treat their wives well.
Female singers gave a similar performance to the brides.
Al-Afaf, which means chastity in Arabic, said this year's wedding ceremony was the largest ever since the first one was in 1995 brought together four couples, followed by another 48 couples in 1999.
"The fact that the number of Jordanians taking part in mass weddings is increasing each year shows how popular these wedding ceremonies are," Al-Afaf director Mufid Sarhan said earlier.
He said the ceremonies are aimed at letting cash-strapped Jordanian couples get started without the trappings of costly weddings.
Jordanian couples are often caught in a vicious circle to outdo one another in lavish and costly wedding parties that cost upwards of 1,400 dollars and are usually held in banquet halls or five-star hotels.
Hassan Ahmad Issa, a 34-year-old unemployed blind man from the northern town of Irbid, said he could not have even afforded one of the modest wedding parties advertised like those advertised in newspapers for 420 dollars.
Groom Ghassan Mo'meni, 23, earns 170 dollars a month working as a muezzin in a local mosque, and likewise could not afford a ceremony elsewhere.
But "the main reason why I chose this type of nuptials is that I refuse to accept women and men mixing freely in such ceremonies," Mo'meni said.
Businessmen or bankers pay the fees of the ceremonies while Al-Afaf buys the brides and grooms gifts such as household utensils and offers interest-free loans.
"Our aim is to encourage the young people to get married and set up homes rather than fall prey to sin," Sarhan said.
He stressed that "many of the 70 couples" had been engaged for years but could not get married because of financial constraints.
Per capita income in Jordan is 3,347 dollars a year, down from 3,450 dollars in 1999, according to a United Nations Development Program report released in June -- (AFP).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)