Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1283, (18 - 24 February 2016)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1283, (18 - 24 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood cuts ties with Egypt group

A fragile Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to strengthen its weakened internal front by disassociating itself from its Egyptian parent organisation

Al-Ahram Weekly

Following a series of defections and internal divisions, Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood organisation ended its affiliation with the mother group in Egypt on Sunday.

A spokesman for the group said the organisation modified its bylaws, removing a phrase that has affiliated it with Egypt’s Guidance Council since 1945, when the Jordanian organisation was founded, as part of reform efforts ahead of internal elections next month.

According to Murad Adeileh, spokesman for the group’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the amendment was proposed three years ago and has been debated ever since. He told the Jordan Times that the move had “no relation with the recent crisis” of the Brotherhood, which has seen hundreds leave the organisation.

But observers say the decision aims at both enticing defectors to return to the group and to send a reassuring nod to the Jordanian authorities on their political position. Although the Jordanian branch has been susceptible to defections throughout its history, it was the fall of Egypt’s Brotherhood that affected its already volatile unity.

In December 2013, Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, criminalising affiliation with the organisation — a step that had regional implications, including in Jordan, an ally of Egypt. In 2014, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group.

These measures increased calls inside the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood to cut ties with the parent organisation, which was becoming a liability. Last Ramadan, Jordanian authorities for the first time banned the group from organising public prayers.

In February 2015, a Jordanian court sentenced Muslim Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Irshad to 18 months in prison for criticising the United Arab Emirates on social media.

In the past year, the group witnessed a split between pragmatists and conservatives: the former demanding that the party cut international ties with the group both in Egypt and with Hamas, resulting in the IAF expelling a dozen members who, in turn, formed the new Muslim Brotherhood Society, which has the government’s support.

Disagreements also focussed on whether to participate in elections in Jordan. In December 2015, around 400 members resigned from the IAF, including Hamzeh Mansour, a former secretary-general of the organisation.

In 2012, a group of Muslim Brotherhood figures launched the Zamzam initiative that emphasised a domestic agenda, called for more cooperation with the state and a “renewal” of Islamic discourse. Boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood group, the initiative has yet to create a grassroots presence, but served as a manifestation of the 71-year-old organisation’s internal crisis in failing to reconcile reformists and conservatives on how to steer the group.

Muslim Brotherhood-Jordan was licenced in 1946 as a charity and relicenced in 1953 as an Islamic society. In 1992, Muslim Brotherhood-Jordan formed the IAF, which became the largest opposition bloc in parliament.

Unlike the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Jordanian branch never clashed with the monarchy and maintained a relatively loyal posture, which facilitated its legal and political existence in the kingdom for decades.

The group is expected to hold internal elections in April to choose a new leader and expand membership of its executive council. The elections, say observers, might address some aspects of the group’s internal crisis, but others are sceptical of meaningful change through votes.

“The group’s problem is bigger than this,” said Mohamed Abu Roman, a Jordanian writer who specialises on Islamist groups.

A large stream inside Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood is still stuck in the moment of the Arab Spring’s high point and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s ascendance to power, he wrote in an article published in the London-based Al-Araby newspaper. This stream is in “denial” about the many changes that have happened since.

“The current leadership doesn’t feel the need for self-revisions or that the Egyptian Brothers made any mistakes, or that the situation calls for a reassessment of the group’s relationship with the [Jordanian] state,” he added.

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