The History Behind Islamic movements in Jordan and the Future Ahead | Yasmine El Gharaibeh, Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Jordanian National Charter, Ishaq Farhan, IAF, Abdul Latif Arabiyat, Mohammaed Abu Rumman, Sharia
The History Behind Islamic movements in Jordan and the Future Ahead Print
Yasmine El Gharaibeh   

“Allah is our purpose

The Quran is our constitution

The prophet is our leader

Jihad is our way”

The core ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is very well summarized in the few lines above taken right from its logo. The Islamic Action Front (IAF) regarded as the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and a major political party in Jordan, adopts a very similar ideology.

The IAF was recognized by the Jordanian government as a legal party in 1992 after the Jordanian National Charter delineated political participation and marked the "re-legalization" of political parties. The party has since played a key role in Jordanian politics. Although the IAF is an opposition party, it has been known to support the monarchy and maintains its reputation as a "peaceful opposition". Unlike regimes in neighboring countries such as Syria that has taken a brutal approach towards Islamic movements, the Jordanian regime allowed the party to operate freely. This relationship of mutual "understanding" was clearly manifested in 1970 when King Hussain appointed the prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Ishaq Farhan as Minister of Education.

Today, the party is led by Jordanians of Palestinian descent. The IAF regards the Palestinian issue as a priority that contributed to increasing the numbers of its supporters in Jordan, a country where half of the residents is of Palestinian descent. However, this is not to imply that the IAF supporters are only comprised of those of Palestinian descent. Jordanian society is generally described as a “conservative” one and although this could me more due to cultural factors rather than religious one, it has nonetheless promoted the acceptance of IAF as a trustworthy, "God fearing" party.  The clear association of the IAF with the Muslim Brotherhood also contributed to the increasing the number of its supporters. The Muslim Brotherhood, who since its establishment serviced underprivileged areas and refugee camps through its charity organizations, has a large number of supporters itself.

In 2010, the IAF utilized its members to put pressure on the government by boycotting parliamentary elections. The main reason for the boycott was the one-person, one-vote system. The system was first adopted by the Jordanian government around 20 years ago to avoid a parliament similar to that of 1989 when the Brotherhood won 22 out of 80 parliamentary seats. Since then, the IAF has rejected the one-person, one-vote system and demanded an electoral system based on population density, which would work in favor of Jordanians of Palestinian descent as well as Islamic movements.

Despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council’s leader, Abdul Latif Arabiyat, announced that party will not be boycotting the upcoming elections, the conflict with the government regarding the electoral system is far from being resolved. Just as a proposed draft of the new 2012 electoral law is still to be voted by the parliament, the leader objected by saying that "whoever engineered this draft will bring chaos back to the country” and insisting that the new law is "merely slightly different from the one-person, one-vote system" and "does not meet the aspirations and ambitions of the public”.

A recent study conducted by the Jordanian journalist and expert in political Islamic movements Mohammaed Abu Rumman, investigates the changes in IAF’s policies after the 2010 elections’ boycott. In his paper, he argues that the party, who has been continuously criticized for giving little attention to internal affairs, has since 2010 shifted its focus to national issues, especially reform. Although the IAF was at first reluctant to address the issue of constitutional monarchy, it later averred that it was not satisfied with recent constitutional amendments, and insisted that Jordan should resort to the elected governments system in order to guarantee democracy. This change can be explained by the pressure exerted by the public on the government for fast and effective economic and political reform.

//A protest organized by the IAF and other movements in 2011 demanding constitutional amendments and economical reform.A protest organized by the IAF and other movements in 2011 demanding constitutional amendments and economical reform.

However, this did not change the perceptions of the IAF opponents who label it as an opportunist group that masters events and shapes circumstances to best serve its interests. For opponents, these views were confirmed in March 2012 when the teacher's union elections proved to be very successful for Islamic movements.  Concerned about the Islamic movements “taking over” as they are the most organized, opponents argue that the movement took an observer stance while the teachers protested and negotiated for months with the government to form a union, and yet they managed to win majority of seats in the first teacher's union elections ever being held.

//Caricature representing the perception of Islamic movements "stealing" other movement’s efforts.Caricature representing the perception of Islamic movements "stealing" other movement’s efforts.

Among other concerns about the impact of Islamic movements on tourism, artistic and individual freedoms, opponents are concerned about the methods the movement will be adopting to implement the Sharia (Islamic Law). How will the Sharia be implemented and adapted to issues that have not been yet studied under a religious light, such as foreign affairs? What will the source of legislations be, the Sharia or the parliament? How will the movement guarantee the rights of religious minorities such as Christians? Questions regarding economical reform also persist, especially since the IAF does not have a clear economical reform agenda yet, something the country is in desperate need for.


Under the pressure of all these variables, and according to Abu Rumman’s study, the IAF is attempting to redefine its “identity, mission, agenda, priorities and positions concerning viable societal and national issues”. Despite the fact that the government formally acknowledges the right of Islamic parties to be represented in the Jordanian parliament and political arena, it is clear that the future of these movements is subject to the seriousness of the government’s promises regarding reform. If these promises are realized, Abu Rumman expects the IAF to “play key political roles, considering its potent influence and wide base of supporters.

Yasmine El Gharaibeh