Abdul Majid Thuneibat

Abdul Majid Thuneibat is the former leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood Society (MBS), the reformist organization that broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood Group (MBG) in 2015 and declared itself Jordan’s only official Muslim Brotherhood representative.Khetam Malkawai, “New leaders of Brotherhood demand control over assets,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 7, 2016, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/new-leaders-brotherhood-demand-control-over-assets. In March of that year, the Jordanian government legally recognized the MBS as the country’s sole Brotherhood organization and transferred MBG-held property to the new group.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. Thuneibat was first elected to lead the MBS in 2015.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. He resigned in March 2018, citing health reasons.“Qudah elected Muslim Brotherhood overall leader,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 26, 2018, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/qudah-elected-muslim-brotherhood-overall-leader.

Thuneibat led the MBG for 12 years in the 1990s and early 2000s.“Pragmatists Lead Muslim Brotherhood’s Leadership Race, But Feel Pressure After Hamas’ Victory,” WikiLeaks, February 16, 2006, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06AMMAN1177_a.html. As the group’s leader, Thuneibat condemned violence,“Jordan Islamists reject violence,” United Press International, October 26, 2004, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2004/10/26/Jordan-Islamists-reject-violence/33151098799181/. but also called on the Jordanian government to revive its relations with Hamas after the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood offshoot won Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006.“Jordan Islamists seek new start with Hamas,” United Press International, January 28, 2006, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2006/01/28/Jordan-Islamists-seek-new-start-with-Hamas/54011138468993/. Thuneibat condemned Israel’s 2004 assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin as a “cowardly act which targeted an old and crippled religious man,” and warned that Yassin’s assassination would not “intimidate Palestinians or stop resistance” against Israel.“Jordan warns Israel over Arafat safety,” United Press International, March 22, 2004, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2004/03/22/Jordan-warns-Israel-over-Arafat-safety/51891079957502/. In January 2006, Thuneibat announced his intention to run for another four-year term,“Pragmatists Lead Muslim Brotherhood’s Leadership Race, But Feel Pressure After Hamas’ Victory,” WikiLeaks, February 16, 2006, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06AMMAN1177_a.html. but withdrew from the election two months later.“East Bank Moderate Elected Leader of Muslim Brotherhood,” WikiLeaks, March 7, 2006, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06AMMAN1692_a.html.

Thuneibat was among a group of Brotherhood reformists who in 2012 created the National Building Initiative—also known Zamzam—to pressure the Brotherhood to cut ties with the Egyptian Brotherhood and focus on a Jordan-first agenda.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, Thuneibat began holding so-called “reform” summits, in which he and other reformists called for an overhaul of the Brotherhood and the removal of leader Hammam Saeed. In response, the Brotherhood promised to take disciplinary action against Thuneibat for “inciting insurrection.”Taylor Luck, “Former Brotherhood leader faces disciplinary measures,” Jordan Times (Amman), June 7, 2014, http://jordantimes.com/former-brotherhood-leader-faces-disciplinary-measures. This led to the February 2015 expulsion of Zamzam members from the MBG,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. which Thuneibat and his supporters protested as illegal.Khetam Malkawai, “Brotherhood internal feud puts group at historic crossroads,” Jordan Times (Amman), February 28, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/brotherhood-internal-feud-puts-group-historic-crossroads. That June, Thuneibat declared that there was “a strong will for change in the movement [among its members],” and that he would “export the uprising from the north to the south.”Taylor Luck, “Brotherhood dissenters declare ‘uprising’ against leadership,” Jordan Times (Amman), June 3, 2014, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/brotherhood-dissenters-declare-uprising%E2%80%99-against-leadership.

After several Middle Eastern countries labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist organization in early 2015, Thuneibat told the Jordan Times that the Jordanian Brotherhood was affected by “any decision taken against” the parent group, and that the Jordanian branch wanted “to avoid being labelled as a terrorist group.”Khetam Malkawai, “Brotherhood internal feud puts group at historic crossroads,” Jordan Times (Amman), February 28, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/brotherhood-internal-feud-puts-group-historic-crossroads. That March, Thuneibat and other former MBG members created the MBS in a move to sever ties with the “terrorist group in Egypt,” referring to the Brotherhood’s parent body.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.

In March 2015, the Jordanian government recognized the new MBS,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.
which elected Thuneibat as its interim leader three days later.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. Notwithstanding legal challenges from the MBG, Thuneibat declared the MBS “the legal representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood now.”Khetam Malkawi, “New leaders of Brotherhood demand control over assets,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 7, 2016, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/new-leaders-brotherhood-demand-control-over-assets. After the international Muslim Brotherhood disavowed the new group, Thuneibat told Jordanian media that the new society shared the same ideology as the international Muslim Brotherhood, but that it could “live” without its recognition.Khetam Malkawi, “New Brotherhood says it can live with international isolation,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 10, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/new-brotherhood-says-it-can-live-international-isolation. According to Thuneibat, the MBG had been the only global Brotherhood branch that didn’t act independently of the Egyptian branch. He further accused the MBG of a “policy of exclusion” against internal calls for reform.Khetam Malkawi, “New Brotherhood society claims ‘secret group’ worked behind the scenes to control old movement,” Jordan Times (Amman), April 26, 2015, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/new-brotherhood-society-claims-secret-group%E2%80%99-worked-behind-scenes-control-old-movement. Since the Jordanian government licensed the MBS as a charity in 2015, the government has seized MBG propertyOsama 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. and banned the MBG from holding internal elections.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. MBG leaders have expressed fears that the government is “legally dismantling” the Brotherhood and could 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.

In January 2016, the MBS elected Thuneibat to a four-year term as its leader.Khetam Malkawi, “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. On March 22, 2018, Thuneibat announced his resignation as MBS leader due to health reasons. On March 24, the MBS elected Sharaf Qudah as its overall leader.“Qudah elected Muslim Brotherhood overall leader,” Jordan Times (Amman), March 26, 2018, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/qudah-elected-muslim-brotherhood-overall-leader.

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