Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan

Year of Origin:

1945

Founder(s):
Abdul Majid Thuneibat (Muslim Brotherhood Society), Ruheil Gharaibeh (Muslim Brotherhood Society)
Place(s) of Operation:
Jordon

Jordan

The Muslim Brotherhood (i.e., the Brotherhood) is Jordan's oldest and largest Islamist organization, with more than 10,000 members in the country. In 2015, the group splintered between a reformist contingent—the Muslim Brotherhood Society (MBS)—and the older Muslim Brotherhood Group (MBG). The two factions are today vying for government recognition and popular support. In September 2016, the MBG’s Islamic Action Front (IAF) party won 10 of 130 parliamentary seats. The MBS candidates that ran with a separate party, the National Congress Party, did not secure any seats.Osama Al Sharif, “Who are the winners and losers in Jordan’s latest election?” Al-Monitor, September 28, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/09/jordan-legislative-elections-winners-losers.html.

The Jordanian Brotherhood was founded in 1945 as the Muslim Brotherhood Society, and was licensed by the government the following year as a charity affiliated with the Egyptian Brotherhood.Khetam Malkawi, “New leaders of Brotherhood demand control over assets,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 7, 2015, http://jordantimes.com/new-leaders-of-brotherhood-demand-control-over-assets. The organization changed its name to the MBG in 1953 after the government issued the group a second license to operate as an Islamic religious organization.Osama Al Sharif, “Unprecedented rift splits Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-revoke-membership-crisis.html. Since then, the MBG has disavowed violence in favor of a strategy of political participation and grassroots demonstration. This strategy led to a decades-long period in which the group operated freely in Jordan with government approval.Jamal Halaby, “Pushing for change, some in Jordan point to king,” Associated Press, November 20, 2012, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/pushing-change-some-jordan-point-king.

At a January 2013 Brotherhood rally in Jordan MBG Secretary-General Hammam Saeed promised that Jordan would become a “state in the Muslim Caliphate”.Jamal Halaby, “Jordan’s Islamists rally for elections boycott,” Associated Press, October 5, 2012, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/jordans-islamists-rally-against-elections. The MBG’s oppositional and Islamist positions have led the Jordanian government to increasingly view the group with suspicion. In a 2013 interview with the Atlantic, Jordan’s King Abdullah II publicly accused MBG leaders of being “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Modern King in the Arab Spring,” Atlantic, April 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/monarch-in-the-middle/309270/.

Despite its pledge of non-violence, MBG rallies have at times descended into violence as protesters have clashed with police. In March 2014 Jordanian riot police held back MBG-led protesters attempting to attack the Israeli embassy in Amman. Several protesters were reportedly arrested. Omar Akour, “Thousands protest Israel in Jordan over killing,” Associated Press, March 14, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/thousands-protest-israel-jordan-over-killing; “Jordan: Not in our interest to cut ties with Israel,” Times of Israel, March 14, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/jordan-not-in-our-interest-to-cut-ties-with-israel/. Meanwhile, Palestinians from the West Bank have been accused of fomenting violence in Jordan on behalf of the Brotherhood movement. In November 2014, Jordanian authorities arrested 31 people accused of being part of a Brotherhood cell passing weapons and money to suspected terrorists in the West Bank. The suspects were further accused of setting up a secret armed wing of the Brotherhood in Jordan.Jack Moore, “Israel: Muslim Brotherhood cell in Jordan 'smuggling weapons to West Bank Palestinians,’” International Business Times, December 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israel-muslim-brotherhood-cell-jordan-smuggling-weapons-west-bank-palestinians-1478561; Roi Kais, “Report: Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan smuggled weapons for attacks in West Bank,” YNet News, December 2, 2014, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4598485,00.html.

MBG leaders have at times also employed extremist rhetoric and endorsed terrorist violence. During the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, Saeed and the MBG praised Hamas’s “heroic resistance” against Israel.Suleiman Al-Khalidi, “Jordanian stage pro-Gaza rally near Israeli embassy,” Reuters, July 20, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/20/us-palestinian-israel-jordan-idUSKBN0FP0UY20140720. In line with its parent group in Egypt, the MBG has also protested Jordan’s relationship with Israel. At a March 2014 protest outside the Israeli embassy in Amman, Saeed called on Jordan to expel the Israeli ambassador, annul the peace treaty with Israel, and declare Jews the “enemies for our nation.”Omar Akour, “Thousands protest Israel in Jordan over killing,” Associated Press, March 14, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/thousands-protest-israel-jordan-over-killing.

The MBG’s relationship with Jordan continued to deteriorate in late 2014, after the United Arab Emirates designated the international Brotherhood movement as a terrorist organization.Taylor Luck, “Opportunistic move against Muslim Brotherhood exposes Jordan to risk,” Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2015/0319/Opportunistic-move-against-Muslim-Brotherhood-exposes-Jordan-to-risks. Then-MBG Deputy Secretary-General Zaki Bani Rushaid accused the UAE of acting as “the American cop in the region” and being “a cancer in the body of the Arab world.”Rana F. Sweis, “Jordan Gives Prison Term for Criticism on Facebook,” New York Times, February 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/world/middleeast/jordan-sentences-muslim-brotherhood-leader-for-facebook-post.html. Jordanian authoritie sarrested Rushaid under the country’s anti-terrorism law for carrying out “acts harmful to the country’s relationship with a friendly nation” and sentenced him in February 2015 to 18 months in prison.Rana F. Sweis, “Jordan Gives Prison Term for Criticism on Facebook,” New York Times, February 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/world/middleeast/jordan-sentences-muslim-brotherhood-leader-for-facebook-post.html.

The MBG’s ties to the Brotherhood have also opened a rift within the group’s rank and file. MBG reformists have condemned the group’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other regional issues over domestic concerns,Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Modern King in the Arab Spring,” Atlantic, April 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/monarch-in-the-middle/309270/. as well as MBG loyalty to the Egyptian Brotherhood and support for Hamas.Osama Al Sharif, “Defections threaten Jordan’s Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, January 14, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-resignations.html. In 2012, a group of reformists within the MBG created the Zamzam (National Building Initiative) movement to pressure the MBG to sever ties with the Brotherhood and focus primarily on a domestic—though still Islamist—platform.Aida Alami, “Rift deepens within Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al Jazeera, August 17, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/rift-deepens-jordan-muslim-brotherhood-150810121308733.html; Khetam Malkaw, “Muslim Brotherhood Society elects Thneibat as overall leader,” Jordan Times (Amman), January 10, 2016, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/muslim-brotherhood-society-elects-thneibat-overall-leader. In June 2014, the Zamzam called for the removal of Saeed as the MBG’s secretary-general.Taylor Luck, “Former Brotherhood leader faces disciplinary measures,” Jordan Times (Amman), June 7, 2014, http://jordantimes.com/former-brotherhood-leader-faces-disciplinary-measures. The MBG responded forcefully to the protests in February 2015 by expelling 10 Zamzam leaders, including former MBG leader Abdul Majid Thuneibat.Osama Al Sharif, “Jordan takes sides in Islamist rift,” Al-Monitor, May 12, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/jordan-government-side-muslim-brotherhood-society-split.html.

After his expulsion, Thuneibat said that the Brotherhood “must become Jordanian and fall under Jordanian law.”Al Sharif, “Unprecedented rift splits Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/03/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-revoke-membership-crisis.html. In March 2015, Thuneibat and several other former MBG members created the MBS, a separate Brotherhood organization disassociated from the Egyptian Brotherhood.Osama Al Sharif, “Jordan takes sides in Islamist rift,” Al-Monitor, May 12, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/jordan-government-side-muslim-brotherhood-society-split.html; Aaron Magid, “The King and the Islamists,” Foreign Affairs, May 3, 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/jordan/2016-05-03/king-and-islamists. The Jordanian government subsequently licensed the MBS to operate in the country as the only recognized Brotherhood affiliate, in a move that effectively revoked government recognition from the MBG. The move also restricted the MBG from holding public events, prompting the group to cancel a May 2015 rally that would have marked its 70th anniversary.Osama Al Sharif, “Jordan takes sides in Islamist rift,” Al-Monitor, May 12, 2015, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/jordan-government-side-muslim-brotherhood-society-split.html; Osama Al Sharif, “Will Jordan ban the Muslim Brotherhood?” Al-Monitor, April 6, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/muslim-brotherhood-group-jordan-government-tension.html. That July, the Jordanian Department of Land and Survey seized seven MBG properties and transferred them to the MBS.Osama Al Sharif, “Will Jordan ban the Muslim Brotherhood?” Al-Monitor, April 6, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/muslim-brotherhood-group-jordan-government-tension.html.

In a bid to enhance its position with the Jordanian government, the MBG cut formal ties with the Egyptian Brotherhood in February 2016.“Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood cuts ties to parent group,” Associated Press, February 15, 2016, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/45f7d55fe3b44b449aaaa463ebbdc340/jordans-muslim-brotherhood-cuts-ties-parent-group. Nonetheless, Jordan sustained the ban on the MBG, preventing the group from holding internal elections the following month because it lacked official recognition. That April, the government shut down the MBG’s headquarters.Khetam Malkawi, “Old Brotherhood cries foul as internal elections banned,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 29, 2016, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/old-brotherhood-cries-foul-internal-elections-banned.; Rana F. Sweis, “Jordan Shuts Down Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters,” New York Times, April 13, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/world/middleeast/jordan-shuts-down-muslim-brotherhood-headquarters.html. In response, former MBG leader Salem Fallaht has accused the Jordanian government of “legally dismantling” the MBG and questioned whether the government might soon ban the group altogether.Taylor Luck, “Opportunistic move against Muslim Brotherhood exposes Jordan to risk,” Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2015/0319/Opportunistic-move-against-Muslim-Brotherhood-exposes-Jordan-to-risks.

Citing health reasons, Thuneibat resigned as leader of the MBS in March 2018. Sharaf Qudah was elected overall leader of the MBS later that month. Qudah is a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a Qatar-based organization previously led by Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi until 2018.“Qudah elected Muslim Brotherhood overall leader,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 26, 2018, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/qudah-elected-muslim-brotherhood-overall-leader.

The government’s disavowal of the MBG notwithstanding, the MBG’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), has retained its legal status as a political party. The IAF won 10 of Jordan’s 130 parliament seats in September 2016 elections.Rana F. Sweis, “Muslim Brotherhood’s Political Arm Wins Seats in Jordan’s Parliament,” New York Times, September 22, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/world/middleeast/jordan-elections-parliament-muslim-brotherhood.html?_r=0. Though the party has retained its core Islamist platform, the IAF abandoned its “Islam is the solution” slogan in favor of “renaissance for the homeland, dignity for the citizens” andre focused much of its platform on economics, education, and human rights. In another first, the party included women and Christians in its candidate list in order to demonstrate that the IAF is a national movement, party officials told media.Taylor Luck, “In a first for Middle East politics, Christians and Islamists stump together,” Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2016, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2016/0919/In-a-first-for-Middle-East-politics-Christians-and-Islamists-stump-together; Peter Baker and Rana F. Sweis, “In Appeal to Voters, Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan Soft-Pedals Religion,” New York Times, September 20, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/21/world/middleeast/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-islamists.html. Competing MBS members also ran in the elections alongside the National Congress Party, formed by Zamzam in early 2016. The National Congress Party’s own candidates won five seats, while MBS members running under the party’s ticket did not secure any.Osama Al Sharif, “Who are the winners and losers in Jordan’s latest election?” Al-Monitor, September 28, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/09/jordan-legislative-elections-winners-losers.html; Omar Obeidat, “Members of new Muslim Brotherhood society to join ‘planned Zamzam political party,’” Jordan Times (Amman), November 4, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/members-new-muslim-brotherhood-society-join-planned-zamzam-political-party%E2%80%99; National Congress Party (Zamzam),” Guide to Jordanian Politics Life, accessed March 1, 2017, http://www.jordanpolitics.org/en/parties-view/63/national-congress-party-zamzam/1. The IAF also won several seats in Jordan’s August 2017 local and municipal elections. Although the party did not gain much political power, Oraib Rantawi, the head of the Al Quds Center for Political States, stated that “this [was] a big win for them and indicates that they remain popular and that the policies that were adopted against them did not succeed.”Suha Maayeh, “Jordan local elections provide testing ground for Muslim Brotherhood,” National (Abu Dhabi), August 16, 2017, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/jordan-local-elections-provide-testing-ground-for-muslim-brotherhood-1.620384.

Since its split with the MBS, the MBG has continued to face internal dissent and opposition from former members. A wave of more than 400 MBG and IAF members resigned in December 2015. On October 31, 2016, they filed paperwork to register as a political party called the Elders Group. According to party leaders, the Elders Group is predicated on secular principles and does not share any of the Brotherhood’s ideologies.Khetam Malkawi, “Brotherhood defectors apply to register political party,” Jordan Times (Amman), October 31, 2016, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/brotherhood-defectors-apply-register-political-party. Following the wave of December 2015 resignations, MBG leaders told media that the group recognizes it is “going through a crisis” but that moderate forces within the MBG are working to heal the divide by promoting “reconciliation, unity and reforms.”Osama Al Sharif, “Defections threaten Jordan’s Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, January 14, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-resignations.html.

The future of the Brotherhood in Jordan remains uncertain as the MBG and the MBS compete for primacy. The MBS has called on the Jordanian government to dissolve the MBG altogether,Osama Al Sharif, “Will Jordan ban the Muslim Brotherhood?” Al-Monitor, April 6, 2016, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/muslim-brotherhood-group-jordan-government-tension.htm. while the MBG has accused the MBS of being a government puppet.Aida Alami, “Rift deepens within Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al Jazeera, August 17, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/rift-deepens-jordan-muslim-brotherhood-150810121308733.html. As the two Brotherhood factions remain in conflict, observers have questioned the viability of the Brotherhood in Jordan, as well as whether the division could push conservative Jordanian Islamists toward violent Islamist groups such as ISIS.Taylor Luck, “Opportunistic move against Muslim Brotherhood exposes Jordan to risk,” Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2015/0319/Opportunistic-move-against-Muslim-Brotherhood-exposes-Jordan-to-risks.

History

 

Violent Activities

The Jordanian Brotherhood has publicly eschewed violence as a means to establishing a caliphate. Nonetheless, some Brotherhood members have been arrested and charged with violent crimes. In November 2014, Jordanian authorities arrested 31 people after receiving intelligence from Israel that they are part of a Brotherhood cell passing weapons and money to suspected terrorists in the West Bank. The suspects—primarily Palestinian students from the West Bank—were also charged with setting up a secret armed wing of the Jordanian Brotherhood.Jack Moore, “Israel: Muslim Brotherhood cell in Jordan 'smuggling weapons to West Bank Palestinians,’” International Business Times, December 8, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israel-muslim-brotherhood-cell-jordan-smuggling-weapons-west-bank-palestinians-1478561
Roi Kais, “Report: Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan smuggled weapons for attacks in West Bank,” YNet News, December 2, 2014, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4598485,00.html.

Brotherhood protests in Jordan have at times turned violent as well. For example, MBG members clashed with Jordanian police during March 2014 protests outside of the Israeli embassy in Amman. MBG members also reportedly attempted to violently break through police lines in order to attack the embassy.Omar Akour, “Thousands protest Israel in Jordan over killing,” Associated Press, March 14, 2014, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/thousands-protest-israel-jordan-over-killing. Nonetheless, MBG leaders have routinely insisted that their protests are peaceful.Associated Press, “Jordan police stations attacked by gunmen during protest,” Guardian (London), November 14, 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/15/jordan-police-station-attack-protests. During the 2011-2012 protests, the MBG blamed violence on police brutality.Suha Philip Ma'ayeh, “Muslim Brotherhood calls for Jordan's PM Marouf Bakhit to quit,” National (Abu Dhabi), March 27, 2011, http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/muslim-brotherhood-calls-for-jordans-pm-marouf-bakhit-to-quit.

Designations by Governments and Organizations

Jordan has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. For a full list countries that have designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, please see the Designations section of CEP’s Muslim Brotherhood report


For a complete list of countries and organizations that have designated the Muslim Brotherhood, please see the Muslim Brotherhood's full report

In Their Own Words