Jordan drives wedge through Muslim Brotherhood

Jordan drives wedge through Muslim Brotherhood
Analysis: One leader's attempt to re-licence the Brotherhood on his terms could split an already fragmented movement in two - much to the private glee of the Jordanian government.
3 min read
19 February, 2015
Jordan's government has sought to undermine the Brotherhood's cohesion [AFP]

The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is living its worst days. There is a conviction among many in leaders from past and present that a split in the group is now inevitable.

The government will not be accused of causing such a split. Publicly it has stood and watched the disputes in and expulsions from the Muslim Brotherhood, but privately it is hiding its glee over the organisation's fragmentation.

Amman has largely abided by the position of the so-called Arab moderate states on the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordan has insisted the Brotherhood was an integral component of the country's national fabric and has not followed Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia in disbanding it, outlawing it, and calling it a "terrorist group".

But it has worked to steadily weaken the organisation and encouraged divisions in its ranks. It has been stoked internal disputes by backing the dissenting minority, which soon evolved into a splinter faction advocating reform of the whole group.

The elements of the Jordanian plan were completed at the end of last week, when a number of elders, or former leaders, led by the former comptroller general and member of the international guidance bureau, Abdul-Majid al-Thunaibat, met government officials to re-licence the group, ostensibly to correct its legal situation.

The Brotherhood already has two licences in Jordan. The first gave it charitable status in 1945. The second declared it a "comprehensive Islamic association" 1954.

However, the Brotherhood leadership saw this move as an attempt to usurp the organisation, convened the shura council, and expelled Thunaibat and supporters on Wednesday.

The chairman of the shura council, Nawaf Obeidat, said its decision was a "natural response to attempts to split and weaken the group".

Thunaibat's move contravened the Brotherhood's internal laws, including its "basic law" which forbids any contact with the government without approval from the group's executive bureau, according to one of its members, Saud Abu Mahfouz.

     The chairman of the shura council said its decision was a 'natural response to attempts to split and weaken the group'.

Abu Mahfouz told al-Araby: "Brother Thunaibat led the group as a comptroller general for 12 years, from 1994 to 2006. Why did he not reform the group's situation during that period if there were flaws?"

Others objected to the expulsion. Nabil al-Kofahi, a Brotherhood leader, described the decision to expel as "liquidation and a kind of extremism".

Thunaibat's licence request can however still be approved by the government, and usher in the creation of a new group, possibly under the name al-Jamaa al-Urdoniya [Jordanian Group] alongside the Muslim Brotherhood Group in Jordan.

Official Jordanian support for Thunaibat's faction cannot be seen in isolation from the official support for the Jordanian Initiative for National Building (Zamzam), which was formed by a number of Brotherhood leaders in November 2012.

At the time, a grand ceremony was held for the occasion, amid official encouragement and the attendance of figures affiliated to the regime and hostile to the Brotherhood.

The leadership of Zamzam is considered among the main supporters of Thunabat's move and an essential part of the reformist committee in the Brotherhood.

In parallel with official support for the "reformists", there is official hostility to the historical leaders of the Brotherhood.

Most recently, the strong man in the group, deputy comptroller general Zaki Bani Irsheid, was sentenced by the State Security Court to three years in prison, reduced to 18 months, for "harming the kingdom’s relations with a foreign state" in his criticism of the UAE.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.