Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown due to his “objection to the Israeli war against Gaza,” the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Zaki Bani Arshid, told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview.
Morsi’s ouster had nothing to do with his internal performance, the Brotherhood leader contended, adding that Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s visit to Egypt after the coup went “contrary to the will of the Jordanian people.”
The outcome of Egypt’s crisis will have a “great effect” on Jordan, Arshid said in the telephone interview, as influential regional and world powers consider the Middle East an “indivisible whole,” with strategies devised to thwart “modern Arab aspirations towards freedom.”
On Syria, the Brotherhood leader pointed to Israel, whose interests are the “weakening or destroying [of] both warring Syrian factions, the regime and opposition.”
Arshid stressed that the way out of what he described as the Jordanian “crisis of governance” did not lie in reliance on force and outside support, or on wagering on regional and international developments, but on national reforms and constitutional amendments capable of restoring authority to the Jordanian people, the preeminent source of ultimate legitimacy.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Al-Monitor: How will the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt affect the organization in Jordan? In your opinion, where did Morsi err, and what did you learn from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egyptian experience?
Bani Arshid: The events in Egypt are ongoing and open to a multitude of eventualities. They are not confined within the borders of the Egyptian state, and are not immune to regional and international changes. If people are watching and waiting to see what the final results will be, it is because they desire to know what their implications and repercussions will be on the overall regional situation in the area.
As a result, we in the Muslim Brotherhood are trying to analyze what has and still is happening in Egypt. We are convinced that all influential regional and international factions have always considered the region to be an indivisible whole, and have prepared different options and scenarios aimed at thwarting modern Arab aspirations towards freedom; aspirations that have collectively come to be known as the Arab Spring.
The path and outcomes of the Egypt events will therefore have a great effect on Jordan and other countries. The question remains how much of an effect it will have and in what direction. The forces that oppose or are in political conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood — be they official international parties or partisan factions — are therefore expected to take advantage of the military coup in Egypt to bolster their position. But, the current situation does not dictate the outcome, and political conflict will once again emerge, especially as the rule of corruption and despotism takes hold in Egypt. We are certain that the hands of time cannot be turned back.
The coup in Egypt might result in the emergence of even more powerful and radicalized opposition factions. Extensive historical experience has shown that Islamic movements are resistant to ablation, and no authority or state is capable of marginalizing them. In fact, the so-called “security solutions” adopted by some governments against the Islamists will only strengthen their reputation. In other words, all the ventures aimed at breaking or incapacitating these Islamic movements are utterly absurd and unrealistic.
Al-Monitor: After the failure of the Islamist project in Egypt, is it time for the Muslim Brotherhood to adopt reforms that would define its importance in today’s Middle East?
Bani Arshid: Before talking about failure and fiascoes, I must say that President Morsi presented a model of excellence in the safeguarding of public freedoms and the respect of dissenting opinions. He did this while working towards establishing the framework for an economically independent state, and trying to achieve food security, as well as agricultural and industrial self-sufficiency. He also strived to establish balanced relations with other countries of the world.
One can say that President Morsi paid the price for his stance against the Israeli war on Gaza in November 2012. This means that the military coup against him had nothing to do with his performance. He was a target regardless of any reforms or accomplishments on his part, because Egypt’s geopolitical location — its vicinity to Israel and Gaza — was cause for concern to some countries, as a result of the new Egyptian stance and policies that would have changed the rules of the regional political game in favor of resistance movements. This, in effect, would have resulted in new challenges for Israel, and therefore necessitated that President Morsi be targeted.
Talk about reforms within the Muslim Brotherhood as a result of the Egyptian events is still premature, because these events have just begun, are still ongoing, and have not reached their conclusion yet. As a result, any necessary re-evaluation must pertain to the manner by which the current phase is managed, without touching on the Muslim Brotherhood abandoning its principles and constants, particularly those relating to the fight against Israel. This has no place in any considerations and is out of the question. The Muslim Brotherhood will remain faithful to its principles and values, because the political movements that were subjugated and acquiesced to the will of the international community never were able to fulfill the ambitions of any nation.
Al-Monitor: How do you characterize King Abdullah II’s visit to Egypt after the coup, especially in light of your tension-filled relationship with the monarchy? Are you concerned of strict measures being employed against the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan?
Bani Arshid: Any comment about the king’s visit to Egypt after the coup must be preceded by a reference to the fact that the Egyptian people’s revolution of Jan. 25 had a major impact in shaping the transitional period experienced in the Arab World. Most prominent among the resulting changes were freedom from subjugation to foreign states and institutions, doing away with the feeling of defeatism in the face of the great colonial powers’ influence, ending the period when the freedom-yearning Arab people’s will was appropriated, and the emergence of a desire for liberty from the grip of political and security tutelage on the part of corrupt oppressive regimes. These were changes that came as a result of the new reality engendered by choices made by the people who now could impose their free will.
However, the parties negatively affected by these great transformations — most prominent among them Israel — could not accept this new reality and the historical transformations that were underway; they endeavored, as a result, to thwart the Arab revolutions and abort the onward march of the Arab Spring. Egypt was at the forefront of the countries targeted by a Zionist-American plan, with the involvement of some Arab ruling regimes that struck a pre-emptive blow to the new Arab renaissance experiment, for fear that awareness might expand, and the culture of reform and change might spread. The military coup in Egypt occurred in this context; to do away with the results of the first ever free and fair elections, while trying to usurp the Jan. 25 Revolution.
It was clear from the onset that the Jordanian regime stood with the regimes that tried to impede the democratic transformation underway in Egypt, and sabotaging the movement towards liberty. It contributed in creating the crisis in order to keep the movement contained inside Egypt. The official Jordanian stance did not reflect the interests of the Jordanian state, nor did it take into account the fact that the people’s will would inevitably triumph. On the contrary, it wagered, as usual, on desperate and losing options, predicated on the success of the military plot.
Jordan was one of the first regimes to give its blessing to the coup in Egypt and declare its support for the evolving situation there. It did not content itself with sending its Foreign Minister to Cairo on July 14 to announce its endorsement of the coup; it went so far as to also defend the putschists, and justify their crime more than did the Egyptian Foreign Minister, who was appointed by the military.
Then, King Abdullah took it upon himself to be the first head of state in the world to visit Cairo after the coup on July 20, without waiting for, or giving regard to, the possible outcomes of the ever-growing popular revolution that spread throughout the lands of Egypt. This was a revolution that sought to thwart the military coup, reject its resulting aberrant situation, while demanding the return to legitimacy and the conclusion of efforts to build a modern civil state.
We, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, object to King Abdullah’s visit aimed at bestowing legitimacy on the principle of military coups, while hindering the people’s movement towards freedom, national dignity, true independence and citizens’ rights. We consider it to be contrary to the position espoused by most Jordanians, and ask for the rectification of aberrations that have plagued internal Jordanian politics and external relations that have made friends out of enemies and enemies out of friends. This must be done in a manner that conforms with the legitimacy granted by the people, and the choice of voters who made their opinions clear in six unquestionably fair and free elections.
It should be noted that the king’s visit confirmed that the way out of the crisis of governance in Jordan cannot come through reliance on or intimidation from abroad, or through wagering on regional and international developments; but must be predicated on the adoption of national reforms and constitutional amendments capable of restoring authority to the Jordanian people, the preeminent source of ultimate legitimacy.
Al-Monitor: Did you reconsider your stance about boycotting the Jordanian elections and ending the state of isolation that the Muslim Brotherhood suffers from in Jordan, following the Egyptian crisis? And, what is your characterization of the king’s reforms?
Bani Arshid: Irrespective of our position regarding boycotting or participating in the upcoming elections, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood believes that the internal official reforms embarked on by the regime are not enough, and do not satisfy the minimum demands of reformists. It is clear that the regime does not intend on adopting serious measures that would change this position, especially considering that the Jordanian government is talking about changes being made to the parliamentary elections law.
Al-Monitor: Jordan is playing a key role in attempts aimed at the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. What is your view about Jordan’s position vis-à-vis this initiative, and are you hopeful that a settlement might be reached between the two sides?
Bani Arshid: The process towards a peaceful settlement will fail, and has no political chances of success because the main problem lies in the intransigence of the Israelis who refuse to acquiesce to calls demanding the halt of settlement activities. Unfortunately, Jordan is merely playing a functional role aimed at reviving negotiations. It lacks a clear vision in this regard, except to divert public attention, maintain the status-quo and pass time, no more!
Al-Monitor: Jordan faces a refugee crisis caused by the Syrian war, with fears mounting about the stability of the kingdom. Will you reassert your support for the Syrian insurgents, in light of the growing conflict that is spreading in Jordan?
Bani Arshid: It has become known to all that the Syrian crisis has mutated into a regional one. All participating factions are now fighting their wars on Syrian soil, which makes resolving the crisis a virtual impossibility engendered by an inability to control the course of events there, and due to the fact that Israel’s interest lies in weakening or destroying both warring Syrian factions, the regime and opposition. As a result, the crisis is expected to last longer than anyone anticipates.
Adnan Abu Amer is dean of the Faculty of Arts and head of the Press and Information Section as well as a lecturer in the history of the Palestinian issue, national security, political science and Islamic civilization at Al Ummah University Open Education. He holds a doctorate in political history from the Demashq University and has published a number of books on issues related to the contemporary history of the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict. On Twitter: @adnanabuamer1