The King and the Islamists

Jordan Cracks Down on the Muslim Brotherhood

Leader of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Hammam Said (C) in Amman, January 16, 2015. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein of Jordan is not afraid to show his animosity toward the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular Islamist group founded in Egypt with a number of international chapters and broad support in the Hashemite Kingdom. In a 2013 interview with The Atlantic, King Abdullah called the Brotherhood a “Masonic cult . . . run by wolves in sheep’s clothing.” But in recent months, Amman has escalated from harsh rhetoric to a major crackdown, culminating in office raids and the closure of the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters on April 13, as well as other offices in Madaba, Karak, and Mafraq, cities not far from Amman.

What precipitated this crackdown was a new 2014 law that required parties to register or renew their license. This law enabled a new Muslim Brotherhood wing, which had been challenging the older group’s legitimacy, to register itself as the Muslim Brotherhood in March 2015. The group was led by Abdel Majid Thnaibat, who explained that the new offshoot opposed the original movement’s ties with regional Brotherhood chapters, especially after Egypt labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Thnaibat also emphasized that his wing was solely Jordanian in identity. Consequently, the government accepted the newer group’s registration. In late April 2015, the Jordanian government prevented the old Brotherhood from holding its 70th-anniversary rally. A few months later in July, the Department of Land and Survey began transferring ownership of properties that were worth millions from the old Muslim Brotherhood group to the new wing. Then over a month ago, on March 29, Amman banned the Islamic movement from holding internal elections, without which the old Brotherhood would not legally be allowed to select new leaders.

And yet the older group has been operating lawfully in Jordan for over 70 years, including as members of Parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood had previously registered with the government twice: in 1946 and again in 1953. King Abdullah himself met with the group’s leaders in 2011 to discuss the movement’s calls for political reform after the outbreak

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