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On its 70th anniversary, Muslim Brotherhood-Jordan struggles to survive

By Khetam Malkawi - Jan 09,2016 - Last updated at Jan 09,2016

AMMAN — As it marks its 70th anniversary, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is facing unprecedented local, regional and organisational challenges.

If not addressed, the group would lose the clout it has enjoyed for years, analysts said. 

No festivities were planned for anniversary of its establishment, due to several reasons, foremost of which is that it is – on paper – an “illegal” organisation, following the registration of the Muslim Brotherhood Society led by Abdul Majeed Thneibat, as the legitimate replacement of the older group. However, observers see that the fragmentation inside the mother group spoiled planning for any celebration.

The original Muslim Brotherhood was licensed in 1946 as a charity affiliated with the mother group in Egypt and was relicensed in 1953 as an Islamic society. 

Attempts to celebrate the day of its establishment were aborted early, when authorities last year banned the group from holding any festival to mark the day on ground that it was “illegal”.

This move came after regional countries, including Egypt and the UAE, listed the Brotherhood as a “terrorist organisation”, leading to weakening the entity across the world. Jordan stopped short of taking an identical step. 

But the group in Jordan is faced with a double crisis, local and regional, and for experts and analysts, now is a “turning point” in the history of the group.

 

The local challenge is related to the recent cracks inside the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF).

Defectors were in the hundreds, including a number of reformists led by Erheil Gharaibeh, who established the moderate Zamzam Initiative. The new registered society and a third splinter, the Elders Group led by Hamzeh Mansour, have dealt a heavy blow to the conservative old guard. 

Although Murad Adaileh, a veteran member of the group and the IAF spokesperson, argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is still strong, trusted by Jordanians and is going on with the enterprise it embarked on 70 years ago, analysts disagree, noting that that the original project is no longer valid.

The Muslim Brotherhood, according to its literature, believes that Islamic governments should be unified as “Islamic Ummah” and revive the caliphate system.

This is no longer valid, if the group only wants to survive and even without retrieving its old glory, one analyst said.

“The group is going through its worst stage,” said Oraib Rentawi, a columnist and president of the Jerusalem Centre for Studies, blaming the group’s shabby state on its failure “to cope with the local and regional developments”.

“Change to reverse that should be substantial, not superficial. Otherwise the Muslim Brotherhood will be no more.”

Both Rentawi and Hassan Abu Hanieh, an expert in Islamic movements, agreed that if the group does not adopt a different approach that is based on democracy, diversity and civil practices, they would lose more than they are losing now.

“The movement will not be as strong as it used to be decades ago, even if it managed to revive its reason d’etre and changed its approach,” Abu Hanieh told The Jordan Times, but he said this perestroika would help the group survive, albeit weak and shabby.

However, he cited the status of the group in Turkey and Morocco as a success story, because Brotherhood leaders there, he said, managed to adapt to the political developments and requirements.

Ghaith Qudah, a Muslim Brotherhood incumbent member, who was dismissed from IAF also agrees.

Noting that the group should adapt to the requirements of the current political stage, Qudah added that one of the main reasons for the group’s weaknesses is its staunch adherence to the 70-year old slogans and dogmas.

He also agreed with other analysts that the movement should believe in diversity and the civil system, which are the basis that one of the Brotherhood splits will adopt in their endeavour to establish a new political parties.

“Any group that starts strong will definitely become weak if it did not revisit its policies from time to time,” Qudah told The Jordan Times, adding that the group should accept citizens regardless of their religious beliefs. 

For Adaileh, the group and IAF now are experiencing “re-birth” stage.

“We are still strong, and all what is being said is groundless,” Adaileh told The Jordan Times.

He explained that many decisions are being adopted to prove that and to re-establish the two “institutions”. These decisions, he said, include approving amendments to the statute of the IAF on Saturday. These amendments include allowing the general assembly to elect the IAF secretary general, which was restricted to the Shura Council, in addition to increasing the number of the executive bureau members to 11 instead of eight. More amendments will be also approved soon, he said.

 

The question remains if any of the hundreds who left the IAF would consider returning to the party after the new reforms.

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