Down and Out in Amman
DAVID SCHENKER is director of the Program in Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.See more by this author
Today, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is down, if not completely out. After the Egyptian military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, a ranking Brotherhood bureaucrat, in July, Egypt’s courts charged him with a litany of felonies and the army cracked down, shooting more than a thousand of his supporters and detaining most of the Brotherhood’s leadership. Last week, an Egyptian court issued an injunction to dissolve the group altogether and seize its assets, outlawing “all activities” by the 85-year year-old Islamist movement. As bad as things are for the Egyptian Brotherhood, however, it isn’t the only chapter of the organization that faces setbacks. More than two years into the Arab revolts that saw Islamist gains in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and, at least temporarily, Egypt, Muslim Brothers in Jordan are in the middle of their own crisis.
Once a powerful voice for electoral reform, a vocal critic of palace corruption, and the leading opponent of economic normalization with Israel, lately the Jordanian Brotherhood has seen its local influence and standing erode. Other Islamists, too, are finding it hard to capture the public’s attention. Groups in the Jordanian parliament that are unaffiliated with the Brotherhood tried to push forward a bill to “harmonize” legislation with sharia; the motion failed, gathering just 27 of 150 votes. To be sure, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s authoritarian tendencies, imperious style, and economic mismanagement contributed to the popular alienation of the group. Yet unlike in Egypt, where the military was ultimately responsible for the group’s misfortune, in Jordan the Brotherhood’s setbacks have resulted from both self-inflicted wounds and the changing dynamic of local Islamist politics.