King of Jordan Severs Historical Ties Muslim Brotherhood
Now I am not well informed on the situation in Jordan, so I don't what other power bases are available to the King to counter the reaction of the Brotherhood. If you know, please comment.
Amman, from Georges Malbrunot [via today's edition of L'Orient-Le Jour]
Update: Here is the original article @ Le Figaro
The main force behind the opposition, the Islamic movement, is denouncing draft legislation designed to reduce the influence of professional associations in the kingdom. Longtime partners in power in Amman, the Islamists are divided on the appropriate response to the kick in the snout from King Abdullah II. Mohammed Abu Farès believes he is being monitored. My car is tailed and my telephone is bugged, says this Islamist MP, who is barred from preaching at the mosque because of his criticism of Israel and the United States.
A pillar of the régime for five years, the partnership between the Hashemite monarchy and the Muslim Brotherhood is in crisis. Recent draft legislation aiming at regulating professional associations has kindled hostility in a country where power factions have replaced political parties, which have been reduced to a mere façade. [I wonder if this is rather like Lebanon--Nur].
According to the text of the legislation, all meetings must be authorized by the Government and the way in which association officers will be elected will favor rural districts, loyal to the monarchy, over urban centers where the Muslim Brotherhood is strongest. We only head three professional associations out of 14. Interference from the government is unacceptable, says Ali Abu Suker, a Brotherhood MP and ex-President of the Engineers Association. Because we represent the main political opposition, this law is meant to hamper us. Human rights advocates see the law as a reversal of the democratic reforms promised by Abdullah II.
Over the last few months, many imams have been arrested and detained for several hours and subsequently forbidden from delivering sermons. Censorship is enforced. Around the mosques, Islamic activities such as the sale of Korans have been banned. Not long ago, we controlled most of the 1,800 mosques in Jordan, says Abu Suker, but we have been marginalized because we've mounted political opposition and backed the nomination of some Salafist imams. It is a big mistake because the mosques are not easy to control.
Abdallah has caved in to pressure from the United States, which no longer views the old rules under which were permitted to criticize their Israeli friends as acceptable, says a Jordanian familiar with the situation. Abdullah was upbraided by Condoleezza Rice during their recent meeting. She forced him into it.
The social compact with the "beaded ones" is being revised. In shops and business, the zakat collection boxes have been discretely removed. The Waqf, the Ministry of Religious Assets, has replaced them. The objective? To better control the finances of the social services linked to the Islamists.
Until recently, the Brotherhood was permitted ample latitude for its instructional and social activities in exchange for its loyalty. A division of roles was understood: To the king, the conduct of business and commercial activities. To the Brotherhood, social undertakings.
Thanks to aid pouring in from the Gulf, the charity networks of the "beaded ones" were expanding. Its premier recipient, the Islamic Hospital of Amman, employs 1,000 people of whom the majority is members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Association of Islamic Centers constitutes a parallel social infrastructure with hundreds of installations throughout the country. The Ministry of Religious Assets has only 26. The vocation of the Muslim Brotherhood is to satisfy the desire for religious faith among Jordanians while discrediting extremists, says researcher Frédéric Maulon. The Brotherhood took up the banner and the cause of young King Hussein [Abdullah's father--Nur] in wrestling with Arab nationalists back in the '50s. Their inclusion reached its zenith in 1991 when the Brotherhood controlled four ministries of prime importance, such as Education and Social Affairs. Jordan was admired for its ability to dominate the Islamic menace through cooperation while its Egyptian and Syrian neighbors opted for a policy of bloody eradication.
The merging of interests seems to have ended. Islamists complain of being hindered in their activities at universities. A new law permits only half the number of student representatives as before. Another law restricts the right of assembly. Any meeting of more than five people must be approved by the Government.
Jordanian Islamists have struggled against gerrymandering which results in their under-representation in Parliament. Absent from government and restricted in the assembly, the limitations imposed on professional organizations and institutions of civil society can no longer be ignored; they represent repeated kicks in the groin. There is no benefit in total divorce, says Ali Abu Suker. In any case, we do not consider ourselves an alternative to monarchy.
Abdallah is not happy with just dividing them, as his father did. He wants to kick them in the balls, says a diplomat. Regular reporters at the royal palace recall very well the King's martial arts flourish which suggested, I shall not let my country fall into their hands. Begun in the 90s after the signature of the peace treaty with Israel, the neutralization of the Islamists has provoked a division between hawks and doves. And several of the Brotherhood's members have been sanitized and admitted into the Jordanian Government. Under King Hussein, we were able to infiltrate our men into the highest levels of the movement and we knew their every move, recalls a confidant of the late king.
Differences which opposed the Brotherhood to Abdullah over Iraq and which led to cooperation with their Muslim brothers in Palestine, Hamas, have caused fault lines within the organization. The gulf between Mohammed Abu Farès, who would favor Jihad and not blanch before a women, and Abdel Atif al-Arabyat, a far more moderate MP who believes that Palestine should not intrude on Jordanian politics, is enormous.
Worrisome for the regime, the division between moderates and radicals masks another breach. The hawks tend to have Palestinian roots while the doves are Jordanian. A long shadow is cast over the stability of the "Kingdom of the Sands."