Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan
Jordanian MB and IAF
Dr. Adli Hawwari
This chapter has three parts. The first provides an overview of the MB and its founder Hassan al-Banna. The second part focuses on Jordan’s MB since its creation in 1945. The third part is concerned with IAF, the party formed by the MB in 1992.
PART 1: THE MB IN EGYPT
The founder of the MB is Hassan al-Banna, who was born in 1906 in the Egyptian town of al-Mahmūdiyya, where he received his elementary and secondary education. He was a bright student, and managed to be fifth amongst the top ten students across Egypt in the secondary education examinations (Gharaybeh 1997A, p. 11).
Al-Banna was born at a time Egypt was becoming a region under increasing British influence. It became a British protectorate in 1906. Although it was given independence in 1922, it was of a nominal nature. The foreign presence that came to Egypt brought with it behaviours that were alien to the local culture, such as the consumption of alcohol and Western women dress styles.
Al-Banna’s adherence to Islam and its teachings is evident in the fact that he studied and memorised Qur’an at the hands of his father and two Sufi shaykhs: Muhammad Zahran and ‛Abd al-Wahhab al-Hasafi. Al-Banna continued his higher education at the College of Sciences (Dār al-‛Ulūm) in Cairo, where he met a number of prominent shaykhs, including Muhammad Rashid Rida, who was studying at al-Azhar with Muhammad ‛Abdo, the disciple of Jamal al-Dīn al-Afghani, the Islamic reformer (Gharaybeh 1997A, p. 11). Before the MB was formed, al-Banna was involved with the other shaykhs in organising the Young Muslims Society, and al-Fath magazine (Gharaybeh 1997A, p. 11). In 1927, he started to work as a teacher in Isma‛iliyyah. He was only twenty-one years old (Mitchell 1993, p. 6).
In March 1928, he and six other people met at his house and pledged to live and struggle for Islam (al-Banna 2001, p. 69). This is the date when the MB group was founded. The name of the society seems to have been taken from a verse in Qur’an (49:10: ‘The believers are indeed brothers, so make peace among your brothers, and fear God – perhaps you will be shown mercy.’).
Scholars have attempted to study the reasons for the MB’s popularity and appeal. According to Munson (2001, p. 488), al-Banna realised that if the MB is to expand, he has to be in Cairo. The move produced the desired results. The MB expanded during 1932-1954 and had about fifty branches throughout Egypt.
Hanafi (2003, p. 63) attributes the appeal to al-Banna’s ability ‘to formulate a clear and simple theoretical and practical Islam that had an activist concept of the Brothers as fighters during the day and monks during the night’. The other factors which increased the appeal of the MB, according to Hanafi, were their involvement in the 1940s in ‘the Egyptian national movement’, fighting in Palestine, and opposing ‘the tyrannical feudal system of the British, the palace, and minority parties’ (p. 63).
Munson (2001, p. 487) studied ‘how the organization was able to attract an unprecedented number of new members and public support in 1932–1954’. He argues that ‘the concept of political opportunity structure in social movement theory offers a possible alternative explanation’. As he explains, the concept ‘focuses on the relationship between a social movement and its environment, especially its political environment,’ and ‘on the relationship between social movements and political institutions to understand movement mobilization’ (p. 494).
Munson identifies three elements in Egypt’s history at the relevant time to justify the use of the concept, namely: ‘(1) the role of the British in Egyptian political life, (2) the delegitimation of the once-popular Wafd Party, and (3) the ideological conflict over the creation of Israel’. Munson asks: ‘But why did a religious reform society rather than a communist party develop?’ (pp. 494-495). The answer he provides is that in addition to the favourable environment, the MB had a ‘federated structure of authority’ (p. 497). The movement had ‘a network of branches throughout the cities and villages of Egypt’ (p. 489). Moreover, the branches were ‘unified by a central headquarters in Cairo’ (p. 497).
Another reason for the success of mobilisation by the MB is that its membership system consisted of three tiers. The first does not require the member to do anything more than sign a membership form and pay dues. The second would expect the members to be aware of the principles of the movement. The third requires the members to be deeply involved in the organisation, and follow Islamic teachings (p. 497, citing Mitchell 1969).(1)
Although Munson’s explanation is different from others, it nonetheless confirms the fact that the MB appealed to a large number of people. The role of politics is always important in mobilising the masses. I suggest that when many organisations compete to mobilise the masses, the one with the simpler message is more likely to succeed.
The simpler message can be in the language used to deliver the message. Alternatively, the message itself can be simpler than the one being delivered by other parties. Judging from the example of the Palestinian resistance movement which emerged after 1967, Fatah was the most successful at attracting support. Unlike the leftist, Marxist organisations, the language used in Fatah’s statements and by its leaders was simpler.
Moreover, the vision that Fatah communicated was also simple: the liberation of Palestine through armed resistance. Other organisations shared the vision, but referred to ideologies and concepts that did not equally appeal to people, such as dialectical materialism, bourgeois, class conflict, to name but a few. Instead of quoting Marx or Lenin, Fatah would quote the Qur’an or examples from Muslim history.
Can religion and politics mix? In his letters to supporters of the movement, al-Banna (1992, p. 37) explains the mission of the movement:
Our people: We call you with the Qur’an in our right hand and the sunna in the left, and the actions of the good ancestors of this nation as our example. We call you to Islam and its teachings, rules, and guidance. If this is politics, then this is our politics. If the one who calls you to this is a politician, then we are politicians.
Although al-Banna explicitly eschews politics, I suggest that the act of creating a movement of this nature at a time when Egypt was colonised is also a political act even though the stated goal is a religious one. This is a movement which does not want to engage in politics as promoted and controlled by the coloniser. A return to Islam is the equivalent to practising different politics which is not controlled by the coloniser.
Involvement in politics had two opposite effects on the MB in Egypt. As pointed out above, Hanafi suggested that when the involvement was in the Egyptian national movement, fighting in Palestine, and resisting the feudal system in Egypt, the MB benefited in terms of appeal and popularity. Involvement in the domestic politics of Egypt put it on a collision course with the authorities when Egypt was a monarchy, and when it became a republic.
Collision with the Authorities
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Palestine question and how best to support the Palestinian people were major issues. The MB supported the Palestinian people who were under the British Mandate. Palestine was being prepared to become, in part if not in whole, a homeland for the Jews, as promised in the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
The MB was officially dissolved on 8 December 1948. A statement by the Ministry of Interior listed thirteen reasons in the decision, which accused the MB of committing acts of violence (Mitchell 1993, pp. 65-66). Three weeks later, on 28 December 1948, the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi, was assassinated by ‛Abd al-Majid Ahmad Hassan, a young man who was a member of the MB (Mitchell 1993, p. 67). The MB was held responsible for his death. In February 1949, al-Banna was assassinated. No one was held responsible for his death. Hanafi (2003, p. 63) suggested that three parties were responsible for his assassination: ‘The Palace, the British, and some minority parties’. Mitchell (1993, p. 71) was more specific and indicated that it was believed that the assassination was carried out by ‘members of the political police’.
In 1951, the MB won a legal battle which prevented the sale of its headquarters. This decision amounted to legalising its status. Meanwhile, it moved to choose a successor to Hassan al-Banna. Hassan al-Hudaybi was chosen as the new General Guide. An announcement of his appointment was made in October 1951 (Mitchell 1993, pp. 84-86).
When the Free Officers took over power in Egypt in 1952, they did not ban the MB. Hanafi (2003) points out that ‘half of the Revolutionary Council,’ were members of the MB (p. 68). Nasser had contacts with al-Banna, but was not a member. The relationship between both sides deteriorated, however. The Free Officers had their own differences and power struggles in 1954. The nominal head of the new republic, Muhammad Najib, entered into a power struggle with the other officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser.
While the dispute was still unsettled, the MB sided with Najib. The reason, according to Hanafi (2003) was that Najib ‘seemed to unite the two halves of the Nile Valley, since his father was Egyptian and his mother was Sudanese’ (p. 66). This reason to side with Najib is not a convincing one. Abu Zaid (2007) offers a more plausible one, which focuses on the ideological orientations of the MB and Nasser. The MB was hoping for an Islamic form of government. Nasser had different ideas, which included socialism and land ownership reforms (Telmisani 1985, pp. 64-68).
The conflict between Nasser and the MB peaked in 1954. A member of the MB, Mahmoud ‛Abd al-Latif, attempted to assassinate Nasser in 1954. The failed attempt resulted in arrests of members of the movement, and executing six of them (Mitchell 1993, p. 96).
Some people expressed doubt about this assassination attempt, and considered it stage-managed to prop up Nasser. Al-Mahdawi (1986, pp. 110-116) said that the attempt was suggested by an American propaganda specialist, who recommended a failed assassination attempt. Plans were made, and the implementation took place on 26 October 1954, while Nasser was delivering a speech in Alexandria.
When Sayyid Qutb published his book, Signposts, in the 1960s, one of the people who read it was Nasser. According to Hanafi (2003, p. 66), Nasser discerned in the book a reference to a secret organisation. Therefore, he asked the Interior Minister, Sha‛rawi Jum‛a, to investigate. Subsequently, Qutb was returned to prison, and eventually executed in 1966.
The conflict with the MB in Egypt made Nasser a vehemently hated personality. Hanafi (2003) points out that the MB does not give Nasser credit for anything ‘except the nationalization of the Suez Canal, [and] the stopping of the tripartite aggression against Egypt in 1956’ (p. 68). They consider everything else he did to be a disaster, notably the unity with Syria (1958-1961), the involvement in Yemen, and the socialist laws (p. 68).
Hatred for Nasser led them to welcome the defeat of Arab states in the 1967 war with Israel. The stories of offering prayers of thanks to Allah for defeating Nasser are not propaganda stories to distort the image of the MB. Shaykh Sha‛rawi revealed this information in a TV programme broadcast in 1989. This is referred to by Abu Zaid (2007, p. 20) in his critique of the Islamic discourse. Shaykh Sha‛rawi was happy that the ‘communists were defeated and they were abandoned by Allah’.
Radi Sadduq (2009) confirms this information. He used to come in contact with shaykh Sha‛rawi while both were working in Saudi Arabia. Sha‛rawi was a lecturer at a university and Sadduq worked at Saudi Radio. He asked Sha‛rawi about the rumour that he had offered prayers of thanks after the defeat of 1967.
Sha‛rawi ’s answer was in the affirmative because he considered Nasser a communist, and when there was a choice between communists and people of the book [Christian and Jews], the latter were preferable.
Although the persecution by Nasser earned the MB the sympathy of their brothers in other Muslim countries, the hostility towards Nasser and the attitude towards the defeat of 1967 earned the MB the contempt of many people, especially left and secular leaning intellectuals. Nor did it endear them to ordinary people. Instead, the resistance organisations, such as Fatah and PFLP, were the beneficiaries of the support of the people after the 1967 war.
After Nasser died in September 1970, his successor, Anwar al-Sadat, enlisted the help of the MB to fight against leftist and other currents in Egypt (Esposito 1994, p. 168). Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in 1978 and Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1979 did not endear him to many people in Egypt and in the rest of the Arab world. He was assassinated in October 1981 at the hands of Islamists while he was viewing a parade of Egyptian forces on the 18th anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.
Under Sadat’s successor, Husni Mubarak, the MB failed to secure legal status. Its members were arrested and imprisoned. Whenever the government decided to hold elections, it took measures to control who would be allowed to run.
PART 2: MB IN JORDAN
Unlike the case in Egypt, the Jordanian MB had a better relationship with the regime as will be outlined below.
The founder of the MB in Jordan is ‛Abd al-Latif Abu Qūra. He was born in the city of Salt, and belonged to a family which came to Salt from Damascus at the turn of the 19th century. The Abu Qūras had relatives in Egypt. A century later, most of the Abu Qūras moved to Amman. ‛Abd al-Latif Abu Qūra had his education in kuttab, a school which teaches students Qur’an, the basics of Arabic, and arithmetic. He ventured into business, and became a successful businessman (‛Ubaidi 1992, p. 8).
In the early 1940s, the MB was branching out of Egypt. Its preachers would travel to other Arab countries, where they would meet prominent people and shaykhs, give lectures, and establish the nucleus for an MB society. As regards Jordan, ‛Abd al-Hakim ‛Abdin visited Jordan and met Amir ‛Abdullah. Another preacher who visited Jordan was Sa‛id Ramadan, who was a good orator and attracted audiences to the Husayni Mosque in downtown Amman (Gharaybeh 1997A, pp. 11-12).
According to ‛Abd al-Kathem (1997, pp. 16-17), ‛Abd al-Latif Abu Qūra, contacted Hassan al-Banna in 1945 to offer bay‛a (pledge allegiance) and to work with him in propagating the call to adhere to Islam across the Arab and Muslim worlds. He did so after reading some of the issues of the MB’s newspaper. He admired the call for jihad and the rejection of the Jewish presence in Palestine.
Moreover, Abu Qūra went to Cairo in 1945 and was selected as a member of the guidance committee of the movement in Egypt. After his return to Amman, Abu Qūra proceeded to make formal arrangements to create an MB organisation in Jordan.
The government permitted the creation of a society, and its headquarters were opened under the patronage of Amir ‛Abdullah on 19 November 1945 (‛Abd al-Kathem 1997, pp. 16-17). The Amir’s representative, ‛Abd al-Mon‛em al-Refa‛i, delivered a speech at the inauguration event (‛Ubaidi, 1992). The first elections within the society for the administrative committee (the general bureau) were held in 1947.
A few years later, and as a result of the merger of the West and East Banks in 1950, the members residing in both regions belonged to one MB organisation in the new Jordan. Hroub (1996, pp. 18-19) contrasted the MB members in Gaza with those in the West Bank. The former adopted a revolutionary, military attitude. Those in the West Bank focused on education and political activism. Hroub also noted that the Jordanian government was tolerant of their activities, in the hope that they would act as a counter-current in the face of Nasserism and Ba‛ath.
Abu Qūra continued to lead the society until he resigned in 1953. There are two accounts as to why he did. According to one account, the issue which prompted him to resign was related to taking part in elections. He held the view that the MB should not participate if it had no prospect of winning the majority of seats. His colleagues thought differently, and saw benefits in participation, irrespective of the number of seats won (‛Ubaidi 1992, p. 108).
The other account for his resignation (al-Thbaytat 2009, p. 27) was that he objected to the formation of a special apparatus, as recommended by Najib Jwaifel, an Egyptian who was accused of being an agent of Nasser (‛Ubaidi 1991, pp. 102-108).
Abu Qūra was succeeded by ‛Abd al-Rahman Khalifa, who was also born in Salt and belonged to one of its tribes: the Nsours. At the time of becoming the leader, he was working as a judge in Madaba (near Amman). He was the first leader of the MB in Jordan to acquire the title of General Guide.
Under his leadership, the MB changed status from a charitable society to a general Islamic organisation. In other words, it was not a charitable society, nor was it a political party. This gave the MB the freedom to preach in mosques and other places without the restrictions placed on charitable organisations.
Khalifa was imprisoned on two occasions when the MB criticised the government. The first was in 1958, after the MB issued a statement criticising the decision to invite British forces to Jordan after the coup in Iraq (al-Hassan 1990, pp. 58-59). The second was in 1960, when an ice-skating event was organised in Amman. The MB criticised the government for ‘importing naked girls’ while Israel ‘imports tanks and planes’ (pp. 68-69).
Khalifa was the leader of the MB when the elections of 1989 took place. He also swayed the decision of the movement towards participation after the government changed the elections law in a move believed to have been designed to limit the MB’s ability to win many seats in 1993. He continued to lead the MB in Jordan until 1994. Since Khalifa’s replacement, the MB had three leaders, an indication of the change of attitude that was characterised by having a leader for life. The three leaders are ‛Abd al-Majid Dhnaibat (1994-2006), Salem al-Falāhāt (2006-2008), and Hammam Sa‛id (2008-present).
Relationship with the Government
Although the MB had good relations with the government, certain issues caused friction between both sides. The tensions led the government to arrest and imprison Khalifa on two occasions. Disputes occurred at all stages. After the political liberalisation in 1989, the conflict became more frequent.
Foreign relation issues have often caused estrangement: the presence of British officers in the Jordanian army; the Baghdad Pact; the Eisenhower doctrine for the Middle East; and the invitation for British forces to Jordan in 1958 after Iraq threatened to annex Kuwait (Abu Fares 2000, pp. 22-47). The MB’s opposition to these issues is similar to the attitude of leftists and Pan-Arab nationalists.
The other common theme that causes friction is related to instances in which the MB sees a considerable disregard for Islamic practices. Such an instance happened in 1960, when an ice-skating event was organised in Amman. The MB objected to women skaters who would be wearing revealing costumes (Abu Fares 2000, p. 34).
Despite the frequent episodes of tension, the MB in Jordan sided with the regime on two important occasions: one in 1957, when King Hussein banned all political parties in the country. Abu Fares (2000, p. 39) justified the decision to side with the king as an act of self-defence; the MB members were to be liquidated had the opposition been successful. He also suggested that a civil war had been averted.
The second occasion was in 1970, when King Hussein decided to eliminate the threat of the Palestinian armed resistance in Jordan. The MB presents its position as having taken a neutral stand in the conflict. ‛Azzam (2005), a prominent figure in the MB movement in Jordan, who in the 1980s became associated with Mujahidin organisations in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda during the years of the Soviet invasion, says (p. 72):
We decided that if the army clashed with the guerrillas, we would not participate in this conflict which we were concerned that it would spill innocent blood […] and the battle would be waged under no clear banner, and especially the resistance movement was overwhelmed by riffraff [...] Fighting the Jordanian army was unacceptable from the viewpoint of shari‛a, reason, and interest. Therefore, we preferred to take a neutral stand.
If it was indeed a neutral position in that situation, it suited King Hussein.
It was in the by-elections of 1984 that the measurable popularity of Islamic candidates was revealed. The Islamist candidate in the Irbid constituency, Ahmad al-Kofahi, was more than 10,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival. Another Islamist candidate, Laith Shbailat, defeated thirty-five candidates (al-Sharah 1997, p. 122).
The Shbailat instance is highlighted in Boulby’s (1999) study of the MB in Jordan. She pointed out that Shbailat ‘won the support of upper class leftists and other secularists, as well as that of Christian men and women’ (p. 105).(2)
In the general elections of 1989, five Islamist candidates achieved the highest number of votes, the lowest being nearly 20,000 votes. Al-Sharah attributed the good performance of the MB to being ‘one of the first groups to establish a coherent, organized platform’ (p. 172). He further noted that ‘the Islamic trend won a number of seats equal to that of overt supporters of the regime’, namely, ‘the tribal leaders and ex-governmental officials’ (p. 172).
PART 3: THE IAF
The IAF was created in 1992, soon after a law was enacted to allow the formation of political parties in Jordan. The IAF was supposed to be an organisation which embraced non-MB Islamists. However, when the founding conference was held, the independent Islamists walked out, and accused the MB of attempting to dominate the party (Hourani et al. 1997, p. 20).
As stated in the bylaws, the first goal of the party is ‘the resumption of Islamic life in society, and seeking to implement Islamic law in various aspects of life’ (IAF bylaws 2002, article 1). The goals include the ‘reinforcement of national unity, shura and democracy; defending the dignity and rights of the human being; and defending freedoms generally’ (IAF bylaws 2002, article 1/1/4).
The founding members totalled 353. The first secretary-general was Ishaq al-Farhan, a former minister of education. The ruling bodies of the IAF comprise the general assembly, general congress, consultative council, and the executive bureau (Hourani et al. 1993).
The members of the general assembly include the founding members and other members admitted in accordance with the internal regulations. It holds a meeting once a year, unless it is asked to meet by a decision of the executive council or the absolute majority of the consultative council.
The consultative council (shura council) has 120 members who represent proportionately the branches of the party. The term of office for the council is four years. It meets once every six months, unless it is asked by one-third of its members or the executive council. This council is the body which decides the policies of IAF and monitors their implementation. It also elects, by a secret ballot, the chairman of the council, his deputies and assistants, the secretary-general of the party, and other members of the executive council.
There are thirteen members in the executive council, including the secretary-general of the party, who is elected to this position separately. Then another twelve members are elected. Members of the executive council elect his deputy and assistants. It forms various committees to run the affairs of the party. The secretary-general can be elected for two terms only, each lasting for a period of two years.
IAF: Women’s Bureau
The IAF’s bylaws list seventeen goals, one of which, stated in article 1/2/9, is ‘to respect the woman’s being and her legitimate rights; her role in developing society within Islamic virtues; to enable her to participate in public life; and to enable the emergence of women leaders in political action’.
In December 2001, the party held its first general conference. The leader of the women section of the party, Arwa al-Kilani, spoke at the conference and reminded the attendees of article 1/2/9. She called for wider involvement in the decision making by increasing the representation of women in the consultative council. (pp. 88-92).
In 1993, a woman, Nawal al-Fa‛uri, was elected to the consultative council. However, she resigned and left the party in 1997. She explained that attitudes towards women in general in the party, and the role of woman in society led to her resignation.(3) However, another woman, Hayat al-Msaimi, was elected to the council in 1997, and kept her seat on five consecutive occasions. She acknowledges that there are people in the party, such as Muhammad Abu Fares, who oppose women’s involvement in politics. However, as she stresses, he abides by the decisions of the party, and does not let his views undermine the decisions, for example, during election campaigns.(4)
This explanation, however, does not resolve the conflict created by holding these views and not acting on them. In a situation like this, the credibility of such a person will be questioned by Islamists and others. Also, holding these views will discourage women, even if Abu Fares and his likes abide by the decisions. These views will have opportunities to be expressed and debated within IAF/MB. They will also attract criticism from others—parties and people.
Al-Thbaytat (2009) has studied the MB, covering a period of more than 50 years (1945-1997). He applies Huntington’s (1965) criteria for political institutionalisation: (1) adaptability-rigidity; (2) autonomy-subordination; (3) complexity-simplicity; (4) and coherence-disunity.
Al-Thbaytat points out that although the MB considers the Qur’an and sunna to be its guidance, it has adapted. Manifestations of this adaptation can be seen in accepting ijtihād to deal with new issues. This led to their acceptance of the issue of political pluralism and parties; participation in local and general elections; and serving in the government at ministerial level (pp. 47-53).
Regarding autonomy-subordination, al-Thbaytat assesses two categories: financial autonomy, and relationship with the regime (p. 89). He identifies the sources of funds which include: membership fees; donations by members; donations by non-members; revenues from properties owned by the MB; and revenues from book sales or other fundraising activities (p. 92). He also points out that organisations run by the MB managed revenues that reached JD200 million, surpassing other social organisations such as the General Union of Charitable Organisations, and the Noor al-Hussein Foundation (p. 93). Al-Thbaytat concludes that the MB has achieved financial autonomy, and does not receive external financial support (p. 92).
In terms of the relationship with the regime, al-Thbaytat goes into the reasons why the relationship on the whole was friendly (pp. 99-127). In the 1950s, the MB sided with the regime in its attempts to stem the nationalist and leftist currents. Moreover, he notes that the MB literature does not call for a revolution. He also suggests that they respect the ruling dynasty’s credential of being descendants of Prophet Muhammad (p. 105).
Al-Thbaytat’s conclusion in this category is questionable. He basically suggests that both sides benefited from one another. What should be noted here is that there have been changes in the relationship, when Jordan signed its peace treaty with Israel in 1994. It underwent further changes when ‛Abdullah II succeeded his father in 1999. (This point will be discussed further in a section below regarding divisions within MB/IAF).
Moreover, al-Thbaytat assesses whether MB and IAF meet the criterion of complexity-simplicity and identifies the fields in which they are active, such as the universities and professional associations. He notes that they have a sizeable presence in these arenas. The decisions are not made by the central leadership, but taken at the local level and take into account the special circumstances. However, he notes that the Jordanian government has enacted some laws to limit their influence.
Al-Thbaytat mentioned the creation of the Liberation Party as a split within the movement in 1960s. However, that the Liberation Party was a group that split from the MB was challenged by al-‛Ubaidi (1991). He asserted that the founder of the Liberation Party, Taqiyyuddin al-Nabhani, was never a member of the MB (p. 121). Some people who left the MB might have joined the Liberation Party. Al-‛Ubaidi noted that there was no organisational relationship between the MB and Nabhani, who did meet Hassan al-Banna and had respect for him, but that was the extent of it (pp. 121-122). Al-‛Ubaidi also denied the suggestions that there were attempts to unite the MB and the Liberation Party in the 1950s (p. 123-124).
Al-‛Ubaidi’s information was identical to that of ‛Abd al-‛Aziz al-Khayyat. The latter was a leader in the Liberation Party in Jordan. However, he was co-opted by the regime and served several times as minister of religious affairs in 1970s. He wrote an introduction to a book on the Liberation Party by al-‛Ubaidi (1992, pp. 3-28). He corrected or clarified many points that were mentioned in the book.
If, however, one is to consider that a split did take place in the 1950s, the split is more than fifty years old. As such, it will be too crude a measurement to coherence-disunity. Other examples of disunity mentioned by al-Thbaytat include disagreements over participation in elections and joining the government. Overall, the disunity in the ranks of the MB/IAF is minimal, according to al-Thbaytat. This conclusion, however, is far from categorical, considering the developments within the IAF since the elections of 2007. (See a section below on divisions within MB/IAF).
Moreover, Brown (2006, p. 5) concurs with al-Thbaytat in certain areas, such as the criteria of complexity-simplicity. He notes that the MB ‘attracted some figures in the religious establishment; ran candidates in professional association elections (such as the bar and the medical syndicate); and began to publish its own periodicals’. In general, Brown is unequivocal about the democratic nature of IAF (p. 6):
The IAF has built an impressive set of democratic structures internally. Party leaders are elected by the membership, and there is a regular turnover in top positions. At key points it has polled its members for guidance on important decisions (on two occasions to decide whether or not the IAF would boycott elections). It also selects its candidates in a process that begins with branches holding primaries before forwarding names to the party leadership.
Although Brown’s observations are correct, IAF’s internal disputes have come into the open. Persistent press reports in 2010 indicated that the divisions were deep; and could lead to resignations and the creation of other groups.
Various MB/IAF leaders tend to downplay such press reports. Although they acknowledge differences do exist, they argue that in the end, they come together. I suggest that the parties with competing factions are usually more interesting to follow, and their structure tend to be more democratic. If the disputes lead to a split in the IAF or MB, it will not be an unprecedented matter in the Arab world, or elsewhere.
IAF: The First Campaign Manifesto
The manifesto for the elections of 1993 is a comprehensive document in that it refers to the goals of the party, an assessment of the performance of the MB members in the HoD (before IAF was created), and the electoral programme. The latter is divided into four parts. One deals with domestic issues, listing eighteen of them; another covers the question of Palestine; the third covers the issues of Arabic and Islamic unity; and the fourth addresses foreign policy and international relations (IAF manifesto 1993).
The elections manifesto lists a number of achievements, categorised under two headings: (a) legislative achievements; and (b) monitoring the executive branch of government. In the first category, it lists seven achievements, the first of which is amending the law of the supreme court, which repealed the clause that made some of the administrative decisions unchallengeable (IAF manifesto 1993, pp. 4-6).
Another achievement in the legislative arena was to amend the law of the Court of State Security, whose decisions were unappealable. The amendment introduced a right of appeal, which would be heard by five judges. The amendment of this law had tangible consequences, and spared the lives of some people who were tried and convicted of organizing a coup. When the appeal was introduced, these people were found innocent (IAF manifesto 1993, pp. 4-6).
A third achievement was repealing the ‘law of defence’(5) adopted in 1935, and enacting a new one which can be used in emergencies only. A fourth achievement pertains to legislation that did not go through all the stages, such as a bill to fight corruption, creating a trade union for teachers, and a bill which bans alcoholic beverages (IAF manifesto 1993, pp. 4-6).
In the category of monitoring the executive branch, the list of achievements included returning hundreds of people to their jobs after being removed for political reasons. Similarly, thousands of confiscated passports were returned to their holders(6) (IAF manifesto 1993, pp. 4-6).
With regard to domestic issues, it is unnecessary to quote IAF’s stand on the eighteen issues listed in the manifesto. I have chosen two issues pertaining to freedoms and gender equality, as these are often cited as a cause of concern if the Islamists come to power.
The manifesto pledges to work towards making sure that the state provides the citizens with all public freedoms, including those concerned with belief, religion, politics, press, and science. However, this pledge is based on the religious notion that preserves for the human being his life, mind, freedom, money, and honour. Included in this section on freedoms is the right to preach and to promote virtue and prevent vice. The right is fine if the preacher belongs to any religion or belief. However, the wording in Arabic indicates that it is to be exclusively a right for the Muslim preacher, which makes it problematic (IAF manifesto 1993, p. 10).
The issue of gender equality is listed within the policy regarding ‘special social care’. With regard to women, the manifesto talks about ‘enhancing the status of women as decided by Islam, away from imported customs, or stagnant traditions’. The manifesto promises ‘to activate the laws that are fair to women, and to complete the enactment of laws that reinforce women’s rights’ (IAF manifesto 1993, pp. 22-23). As regards the latter promise, neither the government nor the IAF demonstrated enough courage to enact a new law, or to amend the existing one, to eliminate the lenient sentences given to the killers of their female relatives under the pretext of protecting the honour of the family.
One cannot ignore the use of the terms ‘Jew’ and ‘Jewish’ in the manifesto, such as in referring to abstention from giving a vote of confidence to the ‘governments which negotiated with the Jewish enemy’ (IAF manifesto 1993, p. 5). In any state, not all segments of the population approve of the agreements negotiated by the government, and may take to the street in protest. In the US, for instance, NAFTA was opposed by some Americans. In the case of the Jordanian-Israeli treaty, preferring to use the term ‘Jewish’ instead of Israeli or Zionist firmly bases the matter on old religious grounds, instead of keeping it a political matter.
I suggest that basing the objection to the peace treaty on political grounds is more legitimate, because the religious one is founded on the erroneous belief that the enmity between Muslims and Jews is as old as Islam itself, and overlooks the historic facts that show that Muslims and Jews lived and worked together throughout the centuries. Moreover, if one were to use Islamic terminology, Christians and Jews, are ‘people of the book’ and also people of dhimma. The Islamic rule in treating them is ‘they have our rights and duties’ (lahom ma lana, wa ‛alayhem ma ‛alayna).
Moreover, even though Israel refers to itself as the ‘Jewish State,’ and even though Israel commits acts of aggression, no one should fall into the trap of using the term ‘Jewish’ to condemn Israeli actions, as not every Jew approves of this. This is the same principle that makes it wrong to condemn Islam and Muslims because of the acts of some Muslims who engage in terror in the name of Islam.
When one looks at the reform programme published by the MB and IAF in 2005, the issue of equality is outlined in more detail (pp. 48-52). There is more emphasis on the equality of men and women in many aspects. In this document, verses from the Qur’an are cited to support the argument of equality, such as 49:13, 1:4, and 16:97. After the emphasis on equality in rights and duties under Islam, the document lists six specific rights which treat a woman as a complete independent person. For instance, a woman has the right to work, own property, and choose her husband without pressure or coercion. She also has political rights which include expressing her opinion in all aspects of life (p. 51).
A fair comparison of the two documents will discern a substantial improvement in the use of language. Significantly, the use of the term ‘Jewish’ has disappeared from the section on education which in the manifesto of 1993 (p. 12) talked about keeping a psychological barrier towards the Jews: ‘the enemies of God and his messenger’. This is absent from the document of 2005, which uses Zionist instead of Jewish in the section on Arab-Israeli conflict (pp. 75-77).
IAF/MB Internal Divisions
Like all parties, the IAF would like to present a united front. However, generally speaking, there are two wings in the IAF and MB, referred to in the Jordanian press as the ‘doves’ and ‘hawks’. Abu Rumman (2011) identifies four currents. The hawks are those who follow Qutb’s line, such as Hammam Sa‛id and Muhammad Abu Fares. The doves are those who follow Rachid al-Ghannouchi’s line, such as ‛Abd al-Latif ‛Arabiyyat and Ishaq al-Farhan. The centrists are a new generation of leaders such as Salem al-Falāhāt and Rohile Gharaybeh. The members of the fourth current, such as Zaki Bani Irshaid, split from the centrists and are considered close to Hamas. I shall outline below the issues that have caused internal disputes.
One issue that causes internal conflicts is the relationship with the government and how to handle the disputes with it. Occasionally, the relationship between the MB/IAF and the government deteriorates. Sometimes, the IAF/MB may make a statement that antagonises the government. The old formula to resolve a dispute with the government was to leave the matter to the ‘wise people of the movement’,(7) who usually meet the king or prime minister, and give assurances that they care about Jordan and its supreme interests.
Increasingly, however, the government seems to be escalating the disputes with the MB/IAF. One case of heightened tension with the government and within the IAF and MB was the issue of the ‘constitutional monarchy’. The Deputy Secretary-General of IAF, Rohile Gharaybeh, attended a conference in the US in 2009 and called for turning Jordan into a constitutional monarchy. Numerous articles in Jordan condemned the call itself, and criticised making it in the US instead of Jordan.
Some commentators suggested that the Jordanian opposition was emulating the Iraqi opposition, which encouraged the US government to invade Iraq. One commentator, Maher Abu Tayr, argued in the Jordanian daily, Ad-Dustour (14 March 2009) that the proposed notion of constitutional monarchy is ‘dangerous and unacceptable’. However, if one leaves politics aside for a moment, there is nothing revolutionary in Gharaybeh’s call for a ‘constitutional monarchy’. The constitution of Jordan states that Jordan’s ‘system of government is parliamentary with a hereditary monarchy’ (article 1 of Jordan’s constitution).
The link with Hamas resurfaces often within the MB/IAF and causes tension. At one stage, the MB of Jordan and Palestine were united, but in 2006, the Palestinian MB (which also means Hamas) sought independence. However, Palestinian and Jordanian members in the Gulf were not separated into different chapters, and continued to belong to the MB in Jordan. Because of their impact on elections and policymaking in MB/IAF, the issue became a source of internal division. An attempt to resolve it occurred in 2010 through a decision made by the ‘Guidance Council’ of the international MB organisation.
Moreover, Zaki Bani Irshaid, who was elected as IAF’s general secretary in 2006, is seen by some MB/IAF members as well as the government as too closely linked with Hamas. His leadership was challenged internally, and eventually the entire executive council of IAF resigned in 2009 to avoid the risk of a split.
After Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, the leader of IAF’s bloc in the HoD, ‛Azzam al-Hunaidy, said that the MB/IAF were ready to govern as well. He was roundly condemned by pro-government writers in the Jordanian press for making such a remark, although whether Hamas won or not, it is legitimate for a political party anywhere to aspire to govern, and seek to do so through democratic means.
Four members of MB/IAF incurred the wrath of the government when they went to offer condolences to the family of Abu Mus‛ab al-Zarqawi, after his death in Iraq in June 2006 was confirmed. Such an action would probably have passed unnoticed had Zarqawi restricted his ‘jihad’ to Iraq, which became Zarqawi’s new base after the US and its allies toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Zarqawi chose to bring carnage to Amman on 9 November 2005, when suicide bombers attacked three hotels in the capital, one blowing himself up at a wedding party.
Amongst the many victims was the Syrian-American director, Mustafa al-‛Aqqad, who directed in the 1970s a film about Islam called the ‘Message’ and another film about ‛Umar al-Mukhtar of Libya. If one compares two examples of Muslims, and the services rendered to Islam, one reaches the well-founded conclusion that al-‛Aqqad, served Islam and its image and that al-Zarqawi damaged them considerably.
Two of the four people who went to offer condolences made speeches in the tent of condolences. The government immediately acted and put the four on trial. Two were acquitted because they made no speeches, and the other two, ‛Ali Abu Sukkar and Muhammad Abu Fares, were given prison sentences. They were transported to al-Jafer prison, a notorious jail, where political prisoners were detained in the 1950s and 1960s. It is located in the southern Jordanian desert. After rapprochement between the government and the MB, the two were released in 2006.
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(1) Mitchell mentions four categories of membership as of 1935: musa‛id (assistant); muntastib (related); ‛amil (active); and mujahid (fighter or struggler). In 1945, there were only two types: taht al-ikhtiyar (under examination; tentative); and active (p. 183).
(2) Although Shbailat is an Islamist, he is the son of Farhan Shbailat, who served as the chief of the royal court in 1950s, and a professional engineer who was elected as the chief of the Association of Engineers.
(3) Personal interview. Amman, 9 March 2010.
(4) Personal interview. Amman, 25 March 2010.
(5) The full name of the law is ‘The Law of Defending Transjordan, 1935.’ It gives the Amir sweeping powers in situations of emergency. The Britons in Jordan at the time were exempt.
(6) Confiscation of passports was widespread. It prevents a citizen from travelling, and hinders employment in the public sector in particular.
(7) Moderate, prominent figures in the MB, from the older generation. In 2007, Prime Minister, Ma‛ruf al-Bakhit, called upon the wise people of the movement to save IAF from the radicals after a decision by IAF to withdraw from the municipal elections, six hours after they started.
Adli Hawwari (2020). Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan, 1989-2019 : A Critical Reexamination of the Incompatibility Paradigm. London: Ud Al-Nad.
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