Fatwa urges Jordanians to refrain from street protests

Department of Ifta did not ban Jordanians from demonstrating, but said people should not protest if there are other ways to express themselves through 'calm dialogue with community leaders and decision makers'.

AMMAN // Jordan's government body for issuing religious edicts has urged people away from street protests and towards a government dialogue as the only means to achieve reform.

While the department of Ifta did not go as far as to ban Jordanians from demonstrating, it said people should not protest if there are other ways to express themselves and that is through a "calm dialogue with community leaders and decision makers".

However, Jordanians took to the streets for the 10th straight Friday yesterday demanding reforms, although in smaller numbers than in recent weeks. A demonstration of about 150 people organised by the youth movements Jayeen and Youth For Change called for amending the constitution to allow for an elected prime minister and other reforms.

"We will continue with the protests," Walid Laham, 22, a filmmaker said. "We do not want a dialogue with the government, but negotiations. The fatwa is part of the system."

Smaller protests held by opposition groups and trade unions were reported in four other cities calling for mainly for economic reforms. At least two were rallies were held showing support for King Abdullah II.

The fatwa, issued on Thursday by the Ifta department's Islamic Studies and Research Council, warned against demonstrations that "cause more harm than good or disturb public order".

"Demonstrations and sit-ins should not sow the seeds of discord between society members or undermine Jordan's security or ignite social violence or instigate sectarian and regional discord," said a statement posted on the department's website. It was signed by Jordan's Grand Mufti and six other religious scholars.

The fatwa comes after the government last month set up a committee headed by the senate president, Taher Masrti, tasked with starting a national dialogue on political reforms.

Prime minister Marouf Bakhit said on Thursday that the members of the committee would be announced by today.

The Islamist-led opposition, the Brotherhood and its offshoot the Islamic Action Front, however, said they will not take part in the reform dialogue unless the government heeds their demands. They also gave the government a two-month ultimatum to carry out the reforms.

They, like other opposition groups and independent movements, have been calling for constitutional amendments that would curb the king's powers.

Jamil Abu Baker, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said: "The fatwa is not binding and represents the government views. Just last month brotherhood scholars issued a fatwa that sanctions such protests."