What now for the Brotherhood of Jordan?

What now for the Brotherhood of Jordan?
The arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood's deputy leader in Jordan, and charges of terrorism against other members, pose questions about the group's future.
3 min read
03 Dec, 2014
The arrest of Bani Rushaid led to protests in Amman [Getty]

The arrest of the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Zaki Bani Rushaid, has the potential to define the group's future in the kingdom.

Bani Rushaid was arrested on November 20 for "souring relations with a friendly country" for writing an article that criticised the United Arab Emirates' crackdown on political Islam. He remains in custody.

The Jordanian government and its officials insisted it had acted to contain any fallout with the UAE, and protect the status of approximately 225,000 Jordanians living there.

But the case ignited discussion about the relationship between the government and the Brotherhood, and who was pulling the strings behind the scenes.

The same week saw the arrest of almost two dozen members of the group, including youth leaders, on charges of possessing weapons and planning terrorist acts.

     The arrest of Brotherhood members is not without precedent, but the terrorism aspect of the latest case is of particular significance.

The arrest of Brotherhood members in Jordan is not without precedent, but the terrorism aspect of the latest case is of particular significance: the Brotherhood has recently been listed as a terrorist group in other Arab countries, notably the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Jordan has resisted pressure to do the same, but according to high-level state sources became alarmed in August when members of the group staged a military-style parade in the Tabarbour area of Amman during a rally against Israeli aggression in Gaza.

The state's relationship with the group has been strained by its participation in the war against the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS), a war which the movement believes serves US interests, and the state's support for the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the coup against the Egyptian branch of the Brotherhood.

But that does not mean it will move to ban the Brotherhood. Instead, the state is hoping that internal divisions - including disagreements over its relationship with Hamas in Gaza - will gradually weaken its strength.

International fraternity

There are differences between Jordan and its Arab allies that make an outright ban a difficult proposition.

The Brotherhood has for decades worked within the Jordanian legal and political system and has supported the government when needed. This is in stark contrast to the activities of the movement's branches in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.

Jordan's political system leans towards centrist solutions and moderation and operates with a greater degree of pragmatism than other regimes in the region. Even the leadership of Jordan's security forces has stopped short of calling for a ban, believing the state would rather deal with a known enemy than pushing it underground.

Another reason is the predominance of Jordanians of Palestinian origin in the movement. Making any move against the Brotherhood would be a collective blow that would undermine a large section of Jordanian society.

I am convinced the decision to ban the Brotherhood in Jordan remains unlikely, despite the all-time low in relations.

The challenge that lies ahead for the Brotherhood is domestic - their ability to provide enough cohesion to overcome the current crisis which has drained its strength.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions published in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.