Jordan, Brotherhood: reluctant partners in the political dance

A delicate dance between Jordan and the Muslim Brotherhood allows both to further their goals within the confines of a well-trodden routine.

al-monitor Supporters of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood wave Jordanian, Palestinian and Islamic flags as they shout slogans during a rally in Amman, celebrating what Hamas says is its victory in Gaza, Aug. 29, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.

Topics covered

politics, political islam, political conflict, muslim brotherhood, leadership, jordan

Dec 3, 2014

The relationship between the Jordanian state and the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is complex and ambiguous just like the general policy toward the group in the region. Over the last seven decades, this relationship witnessed a wide range of disputes, agreements, disagreements, cooperation and alliances. Ultimately it was and still is a relationship of complicity in a game played by both parties, to a sufficient extent as to perpetuate it under a set of rules and understandings known to both sides. The parties also bear obligations and burdens that they accept to achieve an extent of satisfaction and social cohesion and gain support for the policies of the state and the society.

All parties to the conflict believe that the arrest of Zaki Bani Irsheid, deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, is based on a charge filed against a particular citizen for having prejudiced the relationship with a sister state and has nothing to do with his role in the Brotherhood. That the accused is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the second man in the group does not implicate the Muslim Brotherhood, since Irsheid published opinion and comments in his personal capacity and on his personal pages, which were deemed offensive to a friendly country and prejudicing the relationship and common interests with this country.

Although it's practically difficult to separate this matter from the Brotherhood, legally and technically the arrest of Irsheid was indeed deemed separate from the group. This was the case before, when three Jordanian MPs from the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested for offering their condolences following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, and since one of the MPs made statements on a satellite channel that the government deemed offensive and harmful to social cohesion, general policy and Jordan’s external relationships. The charge back then did not refer to the Brotherhood, even if the relationship between the Jordanian state and the Muslim Brotherhood was strained, which is what seems to be happening today following the arrest of Irsheid.

The Jordanian state established its relationship with the Brotherhood and allowed it to work to achieve a set of goals that the state and society find necessary and important for building social cohesion to support state policies and positions. This is why the state tolerates differences with the group.

By organizing political life on the basis of parliamentary elections and repeating these elections, the state would ensure the greatest possible popular participation in the elections. This is because the credibility of these elections, their results and the ensuing legislation and policies stem from the level of participation in the elections. This is also due to the fact that opposition represents a social and political credibility and coherence equivalent to those represented by the parties supporting the regime. Moreover, the social contract can only be sustained and maintained through popular participation, which is the practical expression of acceptance of the rules of competition and political hustle deemed by the leadership of the Jordanian state as falling in its best interests. That is even if this hustle benefits the opposition and other political groups that do not entirely agree with the leadership of the state and the political and economic elite allied with the regime and participating in its foundation.

However, of course you cannot compel a citizen to have a specific intellectual or political line of thought or prevent him from having a particular inclination. The only solution is to contain this difference in a joint political and social process that maintains social peace.

This is how the Brotherhood worked with the State for political and social benefits and gains which are not less important than the gains it achieved itself. The Brotherhood's abidance by the limits and the rules of political life allowed it to control its supporters and social bases in this vain and to participate in the protection of the street and prevent the masses from falling into chaos and extremism. The Brotherhood, its popular bases and supporters, feel they are winners and have a reasonable influence in politics. Of course, they realize that they may win and that they may lose, but this game and its result are accepted by the playing parties. This only perpetuates the game, just like the problems, riots and tension associated with sports clubs do not lead to the cancelation of games.

In terms of foreign policy, Jordan is the guardian of the religious sacred shrines in Jerusalem and combats Israeli aggression against Jerusalem through its alliance with the Palestinian people in Palestine, Jordan and Israel. Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Palestine and Israel represents an important partner for the state of Jordan in facing the policies of Israeli occupation.

In short, the relationship between the Brotherhood and the Jordanian state is the management of a partnership between two rivals who do not see the usefulness of becoming friends. However, it is worth mentioning two major crises in this relationship; one is technical and the other intellectual. For 70 years, the Brotherhood’s work has been bound by mystery, secrecy, violations and breaches of the law, the state jurisdiction and its judicial and authoritative institutions. It may be possible or even indispensable to remedy this problem, despite the relevant difficulty and hardship. However, there is a substantial intellectual imbalance that cancels and invalidates the political participation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The group had rushed into such participation without abiding by the rules establishing it and justifying its continuation. What the Brotherhood thinks is a sacred right bestowed to voters may not be forgone in return for participation in parliament and political life. If the Brotherhood’s rhetoric is really sacred it may not be subject to a vote; as such, if it were subject to a vote it surely would not be sacred.

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