Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Existential dangers in Jordan - Dr. Efraim Herrera

by Dr. Efraim Herrera

In addition to this internal threat, Jordan is facing a clear and present threat along its border with Syria.

Until December 2015, Abu Salah was Islamic State's finance minister. An American airstrike turned him into a martyr. 

Nahed Hattar, a Christian Jordanian author, thought it was a good idea to post a cartoon to his Facebook page depicting Salah having fun with two virgins in heaven with Allah (God) himself standing at the entrance to the tent. In the cartoon, Abu Salah commands Allah to bring him wine (which is forbidden in Islam, but permitted to Muslims in heaven) and cashew nuts and to send someone in to clean the place, and reminds Allah to knock before coming in. 

That was enough for the Jordanian government to launch criminal proceedings against Hattar, but someone far less patient took matters into his own hands, assassinating the author outside a courthouse in Amman on Sunday.

The assassination highlights the overriding sentiment on the Jordanian street, despite the government's efforts to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood and rig elections to keep the movement's representation to a minimum -- and still the Brotherhood apparently won 16 of the 130 seats in the Jordanian parliament this week. 

When elections are completely free, the outcome is different. In 2002, the Muslim Brotherhood won all 12 seats in the Jordanian Engineers Association. The Brotherhood's hatred of the Hashemite government is nothing new: Jordan is an artificial country, born from the San Remo conference in 1920, when control was handed to then-king of the Hejaz, Abdullah I bin al-Hussein, in exchange for his support of the British. He didn't last in power for very long and was murdered in Jerusalem, apparently at the behest of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Palestine. 

In addition to this internal threat, Jordan is facing a clear and present threat along its border with Syria. Several points along the border are under the control of Islamic State or its supporters. ISIS has denounced the Jordanian government as idolatrous and has declared it a religious duty to overthrow it. A Jordanian pilot was burned alive after falling captive to ISIS. The group justified the manner of execution, which is supposedly forbidden in Islam, with a Quranic verse requiring that an enemy be put to death in the same manner in which he has killed Muslims. The Jordanians are partners in the anti-ISIS coalition.

Along with the external threat posed by Islamic State and the internal threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood, there is the imported threat -- in the form of around 1 million Syrian refugees joining a population of only 8 million. The Syrian refugees, save for a few thousand, have not been given work visas, and the economic aid promised by the West has been sparse at best. The result is a powder keg that also threatens the government. Meanwhile, because one of Islamic State's stated war strategies is to embed terrorist cells among these refugees, we can expect large terrorist attacks to take place soon in Jordan, which has already suffered two such attacks in the past year. 

Alongside all these threats is the demographic situation in the kingdom. The majority of the population is Palestinian, and only through government-imposed affirmative action are Bedouin tribal representatives able to remain in key positions.

Israel is certainly interested in the survival of King Abdullah's Jordan, which keeps the Islamists away from its eastern border, and will help the king in any way possible. The West, too, is enjoying its ability to bomb Islamic State from Jordanian air bases, and will continue supporting the kingdom. It is doubtful, however, that this help will suffice in the long run.

Dr. Ephraim Herrera is the author of "Jihad -- Fundamentals and Fundamentalism."


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