The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is in the throes of a civil war. On March 6, defectors announced they had formed and licensed a “new” Muslim Brotherhood — a Jordanian political movement with no ties to the mother organisation.
With two Brotherhoods now standing side by side, the original group is on the brink of dissolution in Jordan, and it needs to look no further than its own leadership for the reasons for its downfall.
The current Brotherhood civil war dates back to the mid-1990s, when rival factions began to clash. Many objected to the secretive and undemocratic inner-workings of the Jordanian Brotherhood leadership, rumoured voting fraud in internal elections and its strong ties with Hamas.
For most of the 2000s, the Brotherhood’s leadership gave the Palestinian cause priority over domestic issues, fervently following every development in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and championing the armed resistance of Hamas, while letting the issues facing Jordanians fall by the wayside.
Brotherhood moderates pushed the leadership to talk and act as a Jordanian movement rather than a movement that happened to be in Jordan.
They felt that the focus on Palestine and unwillingness to take part in Jordanian parliamentary elections pushed the Brotherhood further into the political wilderness.
The divide was highlighted by the Brotherhood leadership’s decision to boycott the country’s parliamentary elections in 2013 – a decision that did not sit well with members anxious to ride the wave of post-Arab Spring dissent.
The crisis escalated when several of the movement’s leaders formed the Jordan Building Initiative, or Zamzam.
Fearful that the new political coalition was beginning to rival the Brotherhood, the leadership took action in March 2014, expelling Zamzam members.
Rather than calm tensions, the decision tore open the festering schism.
Some members pounced on the Zamzam expulsion to mount a rebellion against the leadership, organising “reform summits” across the country.
The rebellion culminated in the surprise formation of the “new Muslim Brotherhood”.
The prospect of two separate movements dividing Brotherhood members was a scenario Jordanian authorities were all too willing to comply with.
Those behind the newly-licensed organisation insist that theirs is the true Brotherhood movement. Meanwhile, Hammam Saeed, the overall leader of the original Jordanian Brotherhood, has remained in his post, lobbying the international organisation’s Guidance Office to cut all ties with the rebels.
The Guidance Office has so far only said that it “does not interfere in internal policies” of its branches.
A house divided cannot stand. And so, the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood will fall.
Yet the consequences of its collapse will reverberate well beyond its Amman offices. Jordan has stood as the international Brotherhood’s last foothold in the Arab world. While the movement had been banned in most of the Gulf states and Egypt, it has remained active in Jordan.
The absence of a strong Brotherhood also alters the balance of power in Jordan. Since 1989, the Brotherhood has lent the country’s opposition a voice and a potent organising force.
No movement could mobilise thousands to the streets like the Brotherhood. Groups ranging from leftists to tribes would rely on the Brotherhood to press the government for change. Not only would a Jordanian opposition without a united Brotherhood be without a voice, but it would be an opposition in name only.
But the Brotherhood have only themselves to blame for their downfall.
Taylor Luck is an Amman-based political analyst and journalist