Jordan’s Islamists keep changing their minds

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

With no need to go further into why, when and how, in other words, explaining, justifying and rationalizing, Jordanian Islamists have proved their immaturity with regards to politics yet again.

If this is not so, then what is the point behind escalation in a country like Jordan which is surrounded by turbulence and is already anxious over the unbearable security concerns of the ongoing violence in Syria and its risky consequences, mainly the non-stop influx of refugees.

After a considerable period of absence, conceived of by many as a tendency towards rationalization, and a thorough revision of policies, the Muslim Brotherhood has reappeared over the past few days. They took to the streets in an obscure and absurd scene that was no doubt annoying to most Jordanians who are already skeptical about the movement’s agenda despite the Islamists’ “rhetorical assurances.”

Likewise, the Islamists’ show of force over the last weekend, manifested in a “military parade” resembling those of the Shiite Hezbollah’s (although the Jordanian version was a smaller, and unarmed parade), was certainly irritating to the Jordanian authorities. These authorities are on the verge of losing their patience and long-held diplomatic leniency due to unprecedented security burdens.

Naivety amid opportunism

It is no doubt that the scene of young men, belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, marching in what seemed to be military formations in downtown Amman and raising provocative slogans against security bodies, mainly the General Intelligence Department, has had negative impact on the already decreasing popularity of Jordan’s largest opposition force.

Instead of showing mature political engagement, Jordan’s Islamists, in a time when their country is in dire need of reason, restraint and dialogue, resorted to escalation and confrontation

Raed Omari

Instead of showing mature political engagement, Jordan’s Islamists, at a time their country is in dire need of reason, restraint and dialogue, resorted to escalation and confrontation. They failed to alleviate Jordanians’ concerns about the Brotherhood, concerns which revolve around their alleged links to external powers.

Yet, the decades-old movement, which is insisting on escalation and proactive discourse, is said to be taking advantage of the vulnerability and sensitiveness of the Jordanian situation to serve a personal agenda. The Brotherhood has no presence in the newly-elected Parliament, highlighting its desire to gain a foothold in Jordanian politics by any means.

In their slogan, “let us not waste the historic moment brought on by the Syrian unrest and its impact on Jordan,” the Islamists seek to escalate the situation in Jordan so that they can press for certain demands – paramount of which is the formation of a national salvation government made up of opposition figures.

Abrupt change on the Syrian crisis

Jordanian Islamists have recently started promoting a new stance, the exact opposite of the stance they promoted towards the Syrian crisis. This surprising change in attitude merely contributes to their image as opportunists.

Unconvinced with Jordan’s neutral position towards war-torn Syria, the Islamist Movement has been calling for the kingdom to play a more active role in ending their northern neighbor’s turmoil.

In pushing for a decisive action on Syria, Jordanian Islamists sought to help their “brothers” in Syria who are said to be the major contingent in the Free Syrian Army – the most prominent opposition force battling the Syrian regime’s forces.

But this position, that has been steadily maintained since 2011, has changed dramatically over the past few days, with the group now advocating a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that has entered its third year.

Though this abrupt transformation has to do primarily with the group’s absurdity, perplexity and uncertainty and their sentimental “reaction- not –action” approach, it is a reflection of the unsettled internal differences and heated disputes between its two main currents – the so-called hawks and doves – who have long held different views over a set of decisive issues. Syria is becoming a new dispute between the two camps.

While Jordan’s internal affairs are the moderate doves’ major concern, engaging in external matters is the primacy of the radical hawks.

The Islamists’ change in stance towards the Syrian crisis, which is an inseparable part of their opportunism, has to do also with them being an opposition force that build their credibility and legitimacy upon opposing the government’s policies.

Seeing all opposition parties in Jordan, especially the leftists, opposing the kingdom’s role in any possible military action against Syria, especially after the reported dispatch of U.S military advisors to the kingdom, the Islamists could do nothing but join them. Otherwise, they would lose their presence and prevalence in the street.

However, some pundits in Jordan have gone even further, linking the Islamists’ new position towards Syria to the Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s recent meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Puttin, Assad’s major ally.

For those pundits, after Mursi’s assurances to Putin over Egyptian-Russian harmony on Syria, the Jordanian Islamists had to change their position in order to please and support their overall leader, actually their “godfather.”


Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

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