Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan
Dr. Adli Hawwari
The conclusion of this book is that there is no theoretical incompatibility between democracy and Islam/ism.
During the period of 1990-2010, there have been frequent references in Jordan to a ‘democratic process’. If one is to assume that the king and people of Jordan strictly follow Islam’s teachings, and these stipulate that Islam is incompatible with democracy, the king would refrain from calling the process ‘democratic’. Similarly, the people in Jordan would refrain from engaging in this process because it contradicts Islamic teachings. For two decades (1990-2010), the process was described as democratic, and an Islamist political party participated in it.
As discussed in detail, there were doubts that the Islamists were committed to democracy. There were also concerns that they would change the democratic nature of the system if they come to power. In reality, during 1990-2010, the MB/IAF never managed to obtain a majority in parliament. Therefore, they were never in a position to change the political system or alter its democratic nature (which is non-existent). The representation of MB/IAF continued to decline in the HoD, and they were increasingly incapable of introducing changes.
Moreover, the MB/IAF played by the rules of the democratic process. They accepted the outcome of elections. The most drastic action they took to protest was to boycott the elections in 1997 and 2010 to persuade the government to introduce changes that would help democracy, not hinder it.
One can disagree with the MB/IAF ideologically, but one cannot deny the fact that MB and IAF manage their affairs on a democratic basis, as has been demonstrated by Brown (2006). Therefore, if democracy is not good for Jordan, it will not be good for the MB/IAF.
Rustow’s antecedents are better at explaining why democracy has failed to take root in Jordan. The expansion in education at all levels was not matched by weakening tribal traditions. The geographical context of Jordan’s political system did not remain the same. It expanded in 1950, and decreased in 1967 and 1988 (severing links with West Bank).
One can say that there is now one generation of political parties, but this does not satisfy the third antecedent. There was a discontinuity in the presence of parties between 1957 and 1991. Although parties operate legally now, they do so with severely restricted freedoms.
The fourth antecedent, the presence of ‘a tenacious conflict’ is not satisfied. The conflict of September 1970 was short. The uprising of 1988 was significant and produced changes, but it was short and lacked leadership. Signs of a tenacious conflict appeared before the uprisings erupted in the Arab world at the end of 2010, but it subsided after the situations in Libya and Syria projected an unwanted outcome for change.
The hopes for establishing democratic systems of government crashed so soon. Where change was mostly peaceful, as was the case in Tunisia and Egypt, counter forces managed to reverse the outcomes that seemed to herald a new era. It will be naïve to continue to look at the lack of democracy through an imagined theoretical incompatibility between it and Islam/ism.
Adli Hawwari (2020). Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan, 1989-2019 : A Critical Reexamination of the Incompatibility Paradigm. London: Ud Al-Nad.
- cover democracy and Isalm