Two days before the parliamentary election in Jordan, relations between the Royal Palace and the Muslim Brotherhood have hit a new low. While the government has invested much to ensure a good turnout in the election, the Islamists are calling for a boycott. Heated exchanges between the two sides have now reached the point where official threats have been uttered to disband the Brotherhood if they continue with their current political approach.
Political sources in Amman confirmed to Aljazeera.net that a senior government official met with the Muslim Brotherhood earlier this month and passed on what is understood to be a threatening message from the Royal Palace to the movement. According to the same sources, the official conveyed a message from King Abdullah to the Islamic movement stating that the Palace considers the group as “saboteurs of the country” and that Jordan has “overindulged the group”.
In response, a Muslim Brotherhood source told the news network that the movement’s executive council has discussed the King’s message and decided not to read too much into its content. They intend to continue with their current political campaign without any changes.
Zaki Bani Irsheid, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy Leader in Jordan, told Aljazeera, “We have not found anything new in these letters, as this is not the first time we have been faced with threatening language. We have been threatened for years, and whenever there has been a conflict between the opposition and the regime, the regime resorts to sending threatening letters.” Moreover, he said that he considers the presence of a file on the group’s disbandment on the desk of decision-makers to be an on-going matter. “We are used to files being opened regarding the legitimacy of the group,” he asserted.
Bani Irsheid reminded the Jordanian regime that the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy has been the subject of many negotiations, debates and bans in other Arab countries. “Especially Egypt,” he pointed out, “where the group was banned for decades but still rose to power.”
Moreover, he explained that using the law to ban the Brotherhood does not, in any way, mean the end of the group or its extinction. “It does, however, complicate the situation when dealing with a rational opposition that has clear goals and can control its courses and strategic vision.” He said that any party acting “irrationally” towards the group would risk matters leading to unexpected avenues which might be “difficult to control”.
Furthermore, Bani Irsheid noted that there are other aspects of the Hashemite Kingdom that need to be discussed openly before any discussion on the legitimacy of the Brotherhood. “There are institutions which claim to have constitutional legitimacy but are in need of in-depth review,” he insisted, “and reviewing their legitimacy is in the best interests of Jordanians.”
In response to a question regarding the attempts of mediators to set up a dialogue between King Abdullah and the Brotherhood, Bani Irsheid said, “I believe that the language of threats contradicts the language of dialogue, and the group has voiced the slogan of reform and called for serious and official dialogue to bring about national harmony. It does not aim to create a state of disarray, as in the parliamentary elections. Dialogue is the best way to build the future of Jordan and to preserve the integrity of Jordan.”
In conclusion, the Brotherhood official said that if the government of Jordan wants to start a “high-risk game”, as others have done in the past, it must take responsibility for the consequences. “We believe that the Jordanian people are the source of all official and national legitimacy, and they are able to control the future of such legitimacy.”
Commenting on the situation, one Jordanian political analyst said that the content of these messages confirms that the relationship between the King and the Brotherhood is tense. “We are witnessing an unprecedented state of crisis,” said Dr Mohammad Abu Rumman, “and I do not know what the rules of this new game between the two parties are.” He believes that neither party will change basic the rules of the game, though. “The Brotherhood will not resort to overthrowing the regime, nor does the regime want to delegitimise the group, as that will result in dozens of legal claims to be dealt with.”
The researcher added that the options before the Brotherhood and the Jordanian regime have become completely contradictory. “The King is concerned about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Dr. Abu Rumman. “Just a few days ago, he expressed his fear of the rise of Islamic dictatorships to replace dictatorships that have fallen, and his unease about the so-called radical Islamic axis.” The monarch, he noted, feels that he has done what was requested of him in terms of reform, culminating in the parliamentary elections.
“As for the Muslim Brotherhood,” concluded Abu Rumman, “it is motivated by the fact that Islamists have risen to power in Arab Spring countries. However, despite their devotion to the reform of the system, they reject any reform path that does not end in constitutional amendments which affect the powers of the king.”