A major thought leader in jihadist terror is Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi (aka Assem Barqawi), a West Bank-born Palestinian who co-founded the Al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan. Al-Maqdisi was detained in Jordan for several years. In 2014 he was put under house arrest. Media observers suspected the tactic behind this was that he could have a moderating influence on radical jihadists. The strategy is controversial: some observers believe that Al-Maqdisi has not changed his position on the past. In April 2020, the portal MEMRI, Al-Maqdisi spreading online reported the invitation, Muslims should be glad if “infidels” at the Corona virus would die.
The extreme violence in Iraq and Syria has increased the influx of armed extremist groups across the region, which is also felt in Jordan. The fragile, conflict-prone situation in the neighboring states represents an enormous challenge for the Jordanian security authorities. In December 2016, a total of 14 people were killed in a serious armed conflict between security forces and suspected terrorists. According to official information, this prevented a major terrorist attack. In a rented apartment in Qatraneh (approx. 80 km south of Amman), weapons and explosive belts, among other things, were found. When security forces arrived, the residents opened fire, fled by car to the neighboring town of Kerak and attacked a police station there. At least 7 security guards, two Jordanian civilians and a Canadian tourist were killed in hours of fighting in and around the crusader castle of Kerak. In addition, according to the Jordanian authorities, at least four of the attackers died.
Religious policy measures as an attempt at containment
In the fight against radical Islamists, the Jordanian state relies on the one hand on armed violence and repression, on the other hand on appropriation and arguments and, increasingly, on internationally sponsored prevention and dropout programs.
King Hussein I wanted to counter the influence of the Islamists ideologically by placing all mosques and preachers in the country under state supervision (Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Religions) and subjecting Friday sermons to censorship.
Since his enthronement, King Abdullah has initiated the following religious policy measures, among others:
- the establishment of the Al Al Bayt Institute
- the national religious modernization project “Amman Message”, which is to be taken into account in all areas of politics
- the Royal Center for Interreligious Studies RIIFS, under the patronage of Prince Hassan
- Since 2016 reforms in the education sector, among other things with the aim of modernizing religious education
Importance and organization of civil society
According to dentistrymyth, the party landscape in Jordan is not very well developed. Most parties have only a weak human and material base. Their programs are usually not suitable for mobilizing large numbers of people. Exception: the Islamic Action Front IAF. According to experts, it is the only political formation in Jordan that can be compared with a party based on the western pattern, as it is organized on a local, regional and national level and, unlike the other parties, has a coherent program.
NGOs, foundations, associations
The establishment and activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations and associations in Jordan are regulated by the Association and Foundation Act of 1966, which has been reformed several times since then and which puts Jordanian civil society on an ever shorter leash. It is almost impossible to found independent associations with socio-political objectives, which for example advocate the observance of human rights or the improvement of women’s rights. Such groups sometimes try to circumvent the law on associations by registering as trading companies. The most culturally and politically influential NGOs in Jordan are the Muslim Brotherhood. They are not identical to the Islamist party IAF, but both organizations are closely linked in terms of personnel and ideology. The”Old” Muslim Brotherhoods were dissolved by the Jordanian government in 2014, and a new association was founded in 2015 under the same name.
There are several reasons why independent NGOs are hindered in Jordan: On the one hand, they want to control and limit politically and socio-politically relevant activities. On the other hand, those in power are interested in channeling development funds in their own interest. In no other country in the region are there so many and so powerful quasi-NGOs (bogus NGOs that are in fact controlled by state power) as in Jordan. Some of these NGOs are more powerful than ministries. However, the royal NGOs do not cover the entire spectrum: According to the Jordanian Ministry of Social Affairs, there are currently around 2000 associations across the country that deal with sport, culture, environmental protection, medical care, education, poverty reduction, tourism promotion and much more. Foundations also play an important role. Shoman Foundation, currently the main financier of the Amman City Library, which also offers adult education courses.
How do the future elites of the country think about democracy and political engagement? In the wake of the “Arab Spring”, the German political foundations – including the Konrad-Adenauer- Stiftung – stepped up their activities in relation to the subject of “civil society” in Jordan. A policy paper by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Amman outlines the framework conditions for political education work with students at Jordan’s universities.