In recent years, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has faced a growing threat to its stability from extreme, violent and political Islamic groups. The wake-up call for the Jordanian government came in the form of a pair of events in 2005—rocket attacks on Aqaba in May of that year, and the simultaneous attacks on hotels in Amman that November—both of which were perpetrated by groups affiliated with the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq. Even prior to these attacks, however, the Jordanian regime had waged a wide-scale and determined ideological struggle against radical Islamic organizations on its soil. In this struggle, the Jordanian regime sought to de-legitimize jihadi Salafi ideology while disseminating a brand of moderate traditional Islam as a religious "vaccine" against it.
Political Islam is not a new phenomenon in Jordan. Since the British created the Emirate of Transjordan in 1921 and placed King Abdallah I on its throne, Islam has served as one of the cardinal building blocks of regime legitimacy. The genealogy of the Hashemite family as scions of the Prophet Muhammad’s tribe was an important source of legitimacy for its rule in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, as it had been in the Hijaz. King Abdallah and his grandson Hussein took care to present themselves as believing Muslims, appearing at rituals and prayers, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca and embellishing their speeches with Islamic motifs. The Jordanian constitution of 1952 established Islam as the official religion of the kingdom and mandated that the king must be a Muslim born of Muslim parents. The constitution defines sharia as one of the pillars of legislation in the kingdom, while family law is in the exclusive hands of the sharia courts. However, in contrast to other Muslim countries where Islam plays a pivotal role, the Jordanian regime has hewed to a middle course. It never declared sharia to be the sole source of legislation, nor did it ever attempt to implement the hudud (Islamic penal law).1
The radical Islamic camp in Jordan is composed of two separate—but frequently overlapping—wings. The first is the main body of Jordanian Islamists, which identifies with the Muslim Brotherhood movement that originated in Egypt. The second is the radical jihadi-Salafi movement embodied by al-Qaeda and its ideological fellow travelers within Jordan.
The radical Islamic camp in Jordan writ large draws its strength from diverse and significant sources. Foremost among them are: its own organizational and ideological infrastructure inside the country; indirect influence and public sympathy from the wider Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has deep roots in the Jordanian public—both Trans-Jordanian and Palestinian—and the inflammatory influence of the war in Iraq and the ongoing Arab conflict with Israel. Confronting all of these factors is a weak official religious establishment that lacks popular support and is incapable of mobilizing those with religious authority to defend the regime's views.
The Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood movement is deeply rooted in Jordan, manifested in the country’s political arena through the Islamic Action Front (IAF) party and parliamentary faction, and in civil society (in mosques, labor and trade unions and universities). Since the birth of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Jordan in the 1940s, internal struggles have occurred between a moderate stream that aspires to co-exist and maintain sound relations with the regime, and an extremist wing that draws its ideology from the takfiri doctrine of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb and as a result attempts to confront the regime both politically and ideologically. Throughout most of the movement's history in Jordan, the extremist wing has usually been identified with leaders of Palestinian origin, whose identification with the Hashemite regime was weaker than that of their Trans-Jordanian compatriots.2
In the past, this extremist wing was relatively marginal in the overall operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. In the 1980s and 1990s, it devoted its main energies to the jihad in Afghanistan, and subsequently in Chechnya, Bosnia and other places. More recently, however, this stream has gained in strength and daring, as reflected by the results of the internal leadership elections carried out by the Brotherhood in early 2006, and manifested in particular in the composition of the IAF. The Muslim Brotherhood’s religious rulings, or fatwas, express its identification with the Salafi worldview, identifying with the jihads in Iraq and Israel/Palestine, calling on Arab leaders to raise the flag of jihad and determining that any Muslim who provides support to the "occupying forces" commits an act of treachery (khiyyana) and war against Allah and his Prophet—an act tantamount to apostasy and abandonment of the nation of Islam.3
Developments in the Palestinian theater have exerted influence over Islamism in neighboring Jordan, and specifically in the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood in its attempts to rally support within its constituency. These attempts, however, have inevitably drawn the movement into greater conflict with the Jordanian government and other political parties. For example, the movement leveraged protests by Hamas over the Egyptian fence, built to prevent smuggling of weapons to and from Gaza, into a domestic political issue, with the “fatwa committee” of the IAF issuing a religious decree prohibiting the construction of what it called the "Egyptian-Israeli-American wall."4 Two key arguments served as the basis of the prohibition: 1) humanitarian arguments that the fence would strengthen the blockade of Gaza, undermine the lives of its inhabitants, damage their health, and halt Gaza's reconstruction; and 2) a political argument that the fence would undermine the jihad for the liberation of Palestine, because it would prevent the transfer of weapons to the mujahideen in Gaza. Therefore, the fatwa implies that by turning to the Americans and Israelis for its protection, Egypt becomes one of them, and hence the Egyptian government should be considered “apostate.” This religious ruling by the IAF incorporates two central tenets of the Salafi jihadist ideology embraced by al-Qaeda. It accepts the approach that liberating all occupied Islamic territories, especially Palestine, is the “individual duty” of every Muslim, which must be carried out either by actively participating in the jihad or by providing the weapons and money needed for it. It also promulgates the view that a Muslim regime that works with the Jews and the Christians should be seen as “apostate.”
In March 2006, the IAF's Shura Council elected Zaki Bani Irsheid as its Secretary General after receiving the approval to do so from the Muslim Brotherhood's Shura Council. Zaki Irsheid is an Irbid businessman, born in al-Zarqa' in 1957. Irsheid’s election was anathema to the regime, due to his close ties with Hamas and his militant record. However, the Brotherhood leadership balanced Irsheid's election by elevating (in March 2006) two relatively-moderate leaders to senior leadership positions: Sheikh Salim al-Falahat as Inspector General and Hamza Mansour as head of the IAF's Shura Council.5
The regime's early concerns regarding Irsheid’s political and militant approach, as well as his radical support of Hamas, were validated, as he quickly became a prominent oppositionist and a harsh, extremist critic of the regime's domestic and foreign policies.6 Irsheid's radicalizing effect on the IAF's political doctrine was rapidly apparent: in July 2006, the party's Religious Sages Committee issued a religious ruling, stating that "it was obligatory to assist Hezbollah's mujahideen against Israel" in the Second Lebanon War.7 At the same time, the Committee condemned Saudi religious sages, who characterized Hezbollah as heretical, and called for the group to be ostracized.
Irsheid similarly spearheaded the transformation of the IAF's platform for the country’s November 2007 parliamentary elections. The new platform emphasized that the IAF's views and objectives stemmed from "Islamic religious law.” On domestic issues, the new platform outlined a series of proposed constitutional reforms, including a new election law loosening regime control of mosques and restrictions on religious preaching. In foreign policy, the platform rejected Israel's existence and called on Jordan and Egypt to annul the peace treaties with Israel in favor of “active resistance” to any kind of normalization of relations. It also called for "providing comprehensive assistance, including military assistance, to the Jihad forces and the Resistance" that are acting against Israel in order to "fully liberate the land." At the same time, it attacked the United States, accusing it of "striving to gain control over the Arab countries and the Islamic world," and calling on Muslims to act to liberate countries “occupied” by the United States—specifically Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.8
In the subsequent parliamentary elections, however, the IAF made a poor showing, with the number of its seats plummeting from 17 (out of 110) to a mere seven. The loss contributed directly to the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council later the same month.9 In its statement regarding the dissolution, the Brotherhood blamed the Jordanian government and its agencies for rigging the elections and defaming the movement through biased state media.10
Subsequently, in February 2008, the Brotherhood held elections for a new Shura Council, choosing Abd al-Latif Arabiat, a moderate, as Council head. The internal power struggles associated with the election moderated the movement’s drift toward radicalization, and eventually brought about a balanced division of power in the Muslim Brotherhood's institutions. The "hawkish" stream and the "Fourth Stream," which is affiliated with Hamas, gained control over the Council and won a combined 28 Council seats, while the "dovish" stream won 22 of the Council's 50 seats. Subsequently, the "hawks" accepted three seats in the Executive Bureau, which is in charge of conducting organizational policy, while the moderates won the remaining five.11
However, this balance proved only temporary. On April 30, 2008, the Brotherhood’s new Shura Council elected a radical Islamist and longtime power broker, Dr. Hamam Sa'id, as the organization's fifth Inspector General. The election of Sa'id, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, was the product of a coalition between hawkish factions within the organization.12 With Sa’id’s appointment, and the earlier appointment of Zaki Bani Irsheid as IAF Secretary General, the Brotherhood’s internal issues and overall policy directions became dominated by charismatic, activist leaders with the most uncompromising views.
In the years that followed, the two leaders steered the organization onto a more confrontational course with the Jordanian regime. Sa'id, for example, supported a militant approach that advocates turning Jordan into "a country where military force is to be concentrated and a military outpost for the war against the heretics."13 In other words, Sa'id not only advocates the central demand of his party and the Muslim Brotherhood that the regime abrogate the peace agreement with Israel, but goes as far as embracing the Takfiri jihadist approach that demands Jordan be transformed into a launchpad for military confrontation against nearby Israel. This opinion, voiced publicly on broadcast media, depicts the Palestinian issue as a Jordanian one.
On May 30, 2009 Zaki Irsheid was forced to resign his post as IAF's Secretary General. The 120 members of the IAF’s Shura Council accepted his resignation, and those of eight members of the party's Executive Bureau (responsible for formulating party policies). Thereafter, they unanimously elected Dr. Ishak al-Farhan as the party's new Secretary General, and approved the list of eight new Executive Bureau members proposed by him.14 Al-Farhan fulfilled the Brotherhood’s pressing need for a transitional Secretary General; he was acceptable to many circles and on good terms with the government. Al-Farhan, in turn, promptly outlined a transitional plan to prepare the party for its next internal elections. He underscored the need for a pacific settlement of internal disputes, and vowed to take steps to harmonize relations with the government.15 This more conciliatory line continues to be pursued by the party today.
The institutional infrastructure of Salafi-jihadi Islamism in Jordan is diverse. It includes popular mosques not under the regime's supervision and bookstands that serve to propagate a radical, exclusionary religious worldview. The many websites of global jihadist groups provide a means for mass dissemination of this ideology. Jihadist activists arrested by authorities have been found to be indoctrinated via these outlets.16 This indoctrination, in turn, has been facilitated by the presence of what anecdotal evidence suggests is a significant minority within Jordanian society that supports the Salafism and facilitates the recruitment of members by jihadist organizations—a proclivity illustrated in public opinion surveys conducted in recent years in Jordan.17
The Muslim Brotherhood movement in general, and its extremist wing in particular, plays a pivotal role in the dissemination and acceptance of the Salafi-jihadi message in Jordanian society, especially among the younger generation of citizens. Outbreaks of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly in the Gaza Strip, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, likewise have served to strengthen Salafi sentiment in Jordan. Extremist organizations, chief among them al-Qaeda in Iraq, appear to enjoy both support and admiration among a considerable percentage of the Jordanian public, which sees the group and its broader ideology as the principal standard-bearer in the war against the enemies of Islam.18
The ebb and flow of jihadist activity in Iraq profoundly affected Islamist organizations in Jordan. The 2006 killing of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Coalition successes against the group thereafter (as a result of the “surge” strategy adopted by the Bush administration), along with local Jordanian pressure, all served to create fissures in the Jordanian jihadist movement. The result was the emergence and rise of a more “pragmatic” wing of the movement, led by the prominent Salafi cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Since his release from Jordanian prison in 2008, al-Maqdisi has consistently criticized the school of thought epitomized by al-Zarqawi, which sanctioned intra-Muslim conflict due to ideological and political differences. Al-Maqdisi did not change the principles of takfir, the declaration of Muslims as heretics or apostates. However, he presented a case against jihadist attacks inside Jordan, thus revising his own views about the permissibility of collateral casualties among Muslims (or even their direct targeting) if necessary in order to kill “infidels.”19
The Islamic movement in Jordan enjoys a broad popular base among both the country’s Trans-Jordanian and Palestinian populace. In recent Pew polls, support in Jordan for the enactment of sharia law, including the hudud (stoning and amputation of limbs), measured at some 50 percent in support of segregation between men and women in work places, 58 percent in favor of stoning for the crime of adultery and 86 percent approval for capital punishment for apostates.20 In recent years, Islamic dress—particularly for women—has become more and more ubiquitous. Islamic bookstores selling radical tracts now can be found near almost any mosque in Amman. Furthermore, at 34 percent, favorable attitudes toward al-Qaeda in Jordan are the highest in the Arab world.21
The Palestinian issue ranks high on the agenda of Jordan’s Islamist groups, in particular the Brotherhood and IAF, for a number of reasons:
- The presence of a large number of citizens of Palestinian origin in the Brotherhood leadership.
- The Muslim Brotherhood’s view of Jordan's large Palestinian population as its key constituency, not only for parliamentary elections, but for strengthening its positions in the trade unions and local authorities.
- The Palestinian issue is a perennial issue of interest in Jordan's politics and of major interest to the public.
- Traditional organizational ties with Hamas, stemming from the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and its Palestinian counterpart were part of same organization in the past.22
Moreover, the institutions and membership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and the Palestinian Hamas movement overlap considerably. One of the more obvious links is the existence of offices in the Gulf States that represent both organizations, staffed by officials of Palestinian origin. The bureaus are important to both organizations because they serve as means of raising funds from wealthy sources in the Gulf.23
This relationship, however, is in flux. In the second half of 2009, disputes, accompanied by a great deal of tension, broke out between the "hawks" and "doves" in the Muslim Brotherhood leadership regarding the ties between the movement in Jordan and Hamas. The moderate stream in the Brotherhood leadership in Jordan demanded the immediate severing of organizational ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, claiming that this state of affairs goes against the Brotherhood's rules and regulations as well as against Jordan's constitution and the Political Parties Law.24 The "hawks," on the other hand, supported a preservation of the status quo. The Brotherhood's Inspector General, Hamam Sa'id, ultimately took the position that the status quo should endure, but qualified his statement by describing the relationship as one between two independent organizations.25
The common denominator among the various Brotherhood factions is that the Palestinian issue is an integral part of their agenda in Jordan, and that ongoing consultations with Hamas are only natural. The Brotherhood, one official has explained, “has a religious and national obligation to support the Palestinians and their problem.”26 The current Inspector General, Hamam Sa'id, has gone further, stating that the Brotherhood‘s involvement in the Palestinian arena serves to provide "the Palestinians [with] jihadist assistance and support."27 Like the Palestinian issue generally, the Brotherhood’s relationship with Hamas remains an important element of Islamist expression in Jordan.
Salafi jihadi organizations in Jordan remain under intense pressure from the Jordanian government, which has succeeded in disrupting numerous attempted terrorist attacks inside the Kingdom in recent years. It has done so through the imprisonment of large numbers of jihadist activists and sympathizers, in the process wreaking havoc on their respective organizations and restricting their activities. A high point was the January 2009 trial of twelve members of a Salafi-jihadi group for attacks on a Christian church and cemetery, and for their involvement in the shooting of a group of Lebanese musicians performing in downtown Amman.28
Also notable was the December 2009, trial of twenty-four Islamists on criminal charges stemming from their management of the Islamic Centre Society (ICS), which had been dissolved three years prior. Before its dissolution, the ICS had served as the Muslim Brotherhood's financial arm, administering assets worth over a billion dollars, running scores of schools, health establishments and social centers. In 2006, at the height of internal tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the IAF, the government of former Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit dissolved the ICS. The government at that time charged ICS officials with corrupt practices, but Brotherhood leaders contended that the step was designed to deprive the Islamic Movement of the financial backing it had traditionally received. The move was widely believed to have been one of the key reasons behind the IAF's downturn in the November 2007 elections.29
Jordanian authorities, however, have also seen its fair share of defeats. On December 30, 2009, a suicide bomber killed seven CIA agents at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province of Afghanistan; an officer of Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) was also killed in the attack.
The real challenge facing the Brotherhood, moderates and radicals alike, appears to be the far-reaching reforms of the internal political system announced by King Abdallah in late November 2009. After the dissolution of the parliament, a new government headed by Samir al’Rifa’i was established for a transitional period, until the required parliamentary elections by the last quarter of 2010. The elections have a mixed effect on the Brotherhood. On the one hand, they now have the opportunity to regain their status in Parliament, following their crushing defeat at the November 2007 parliamentary elections. On the other hand, they have doubts about the regime’s intention to implement the genuine political reform it had promised the political system and the public. From the Brotherhood’s point of view, the implementation of a thorough political reform that would repeal the principle of "one person, one vote" and pledge to hold "honest and fair elections" are basic conditions for translating their potential electoral power into a significant quota of parliamentary seats and for subsequently making political and public gains.
The “Arab Spring” has not seriously undermined the Jordanian regime, at least so far. However, the fall of the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes and the unsettled situation in Yemen and Libya have encouraged the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood to increase its pressure on the regime. This has been expressed in demonstrations under increasingly radicalized slogans, along with the classic demands for an end to corruption and abrogation of the peace treaty with Israel. These demonstrations escalated in March 2011, resulting in a number of casualties (though far less than in other Arab countries). The vanguard of the protests in Jordan appears to be more the Salafi jihadi movement than the Muslim Brotherhood itself. The violence has also exposed divisions between this contingent and the larger Salafi movement. The regime, however, accuses the protestors of receiving orders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. The threat to the regime has also undermined the normally quiescent attitude of the East-Jordanian political leadership. According to various reports, tribal leaders have warned the King that they will not tolerate a light hand in dealing with the threat, which they perceive as a Palestinian attempt to topple the Hashemite entity.30
 See Shmuel Bar, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan,” Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies Data and Analysis, June 1998, http://www.dayan.tau.ac.il/d&a-jordan-bar.pdf.
 Ibid., 50-52.
 Website of the Islamic Action Front, August 14, 2004, http://www.jabha.net. Nadwah al-Majali summarizes how the jihad stream, on one hand, and the Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, have a stranglehold on the state and seek to undermine its foundations: "One stream attacks the regime through violence, confrontation, takfir and bombing attacks, while the other stream gently tunnels below the regime's foundations, penetrates the society and its institutions, mobilizes the street against it and raises doubts about its direction. Al-Rai (Amman), June 27, 2006.
 Website of the Islamic Action Front, January 24, 2010, http://www.jabha.net.
 Al Hayat (London), March 19, 2006.
 Al-Quds al-Arabi (London), March 22, 2006.
 Al-Qods al-‘Arabi, Al-Ra’I, Al-Ghad, 7 July 2006.
 Website of the Islamic Action Front, October 27, 2007, http://www.jabha.net.
 The Shura Council is the Movement's highest-ranking body, which outlines policies in cooperation with the IAF Shura Council.
 IslamOnline, November 30, 2007. The Brotherhood decided at the last minute not to participate in the local council elections held that year, out of concern that the elections would be biased in the regime's favour.
 Al-Haqiqa al-Dawliya (Amman), April 30, 2008; Al-Hayat (London), May 4, 2008.
 Al-Haqiqa al-Dawliya (Amman), April 30, 2008.
 As cited in Al-Iman, September 24, 2009.
 Al-Farhan had been the IAF's first Secretary General and had also been the Muslim Brotherhood's Shura Council head. Born in Jerusalem in the mid- 1930's, but of Palestinian origins, al-Farhan joined the Muslim Brotherhood while he was still in high school. He obtained an MA in literature from the University of Columbia in the United States and a Ph.D in Cultural Studies. In 1970, after working in the Ministry of Culture for about fifteen years, Wasfi al-Tal asked him to join his government as Minister of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs. Al-Farhan later held this office in the governments of Ahmad al-Lozi and Zeid al-Rifa'i. In 1989, he was elected to the Senate for four years and then headed the University of al-Zarqa. Throughout his career, al-Farhan held various political, public, and academic offices.
 Mafkarat al-Islam, May 31, 2009.
 A prominent example is Abed Shahadeh al-Tahawi, who is considered a source of religious law among extreme Islamic groups in Irbid. He preaches the takfir doctrine in mosques in the Irbid region. He was arrested and brought to trial. See Al-Dustour (Amman), May 23, 2005; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 6, 2005.
 According to a one survey conducted prior to the attacks in Amman on November 9, 2005, some 64 percent of the Jordanian public sympathized with the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq led by al-Zarqawi. Al-Hayat (London), December 15, 2005. However, this sympathy dropped sharply after the attacks in Amman. In a survey conducted immediately after these attacks, 72 percent of the sample believed that this organization is a terror organization, 20 percent believed that it is not a terror organization and 15.6 percent believed that it is a resistance organization. But after the killing of al-Zarqawi in June 2006, the percentage of those who regard the organization as a terror organization dropped to 54 percent, while 20 percent still believed it is not a terror organization. It should be noted that the data shows that 10 percent of those surveyed in 2004 believed that the al-Qaeda organization led by bin Laden is a terror organization, compared to 49 percent in 2005 and 41 percent in 2006. This indicates that there is greater sympathy for bin Laden's organization than for the al-Zarqawi organization. Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 10, 2006.
 Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah,” December 2, 2010, http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/; See also Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Osama bin Laden Largely Discredited Among Muslims in Recent Years,” May 2, 2011, http://pewglobal.org/2011/05/02/osama-bin-laden-largely-discredited-among-muslim-publics-in-recent-years/.
 See al-Maqdisi's website, http://www.tawhed.ws/, and the subsequent debate with other Jihadi authorities such as Ma'asari. For a summary of these debates, see Joas Wagemakers, “Reflections on Maqdisi’s Arrest,” Jihadica, October 2, 2010, http://www.jihadica.com/reflections-on-al-maqdisis-arrest/.
 Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah.”
 Al-Haqiqa al-Dawliya (Amman), December 29, 2009. According to a senior source in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Brotherhood's Inspector General, Hamam Sa'id, and two members of the Brotherhood's Executive Bureau are also members of the Hamas Shura Council and participate in its debates. See Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), September 2, 2009.
 Al-Siyasa (Kuwait), October 23, 2009; Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), September 2, 2009.
 Al-Sharq al-Awsat (London), September 2, 2009.
 Al-Kifah al-Arabi (Beirut), December 21, 2009.
 Dar al-Hayat (London), January 28, 2009; al-Ghad (Amman), January 28, 2009.
 “Two Dozen Islamists Go on Trial on Corruption Charges,” Deutsche Press-Agentur, December 24, 2009, http://monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1521391.php/Two-dozen-Islamists-go-on-trial-on-corruption-charages.
 See, for example, Tim Lister, “Jordanian Tribal Figures Criticize Queen, Demand Reform,” CNN, February 6, 2011, http://articles.cnn.com/2011-02-06/world/jordan.monarchy_1_jordanians-king-abdullah-ii-tribal-leaders?_s=PM:WORLD.