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Muslim Brotherhood’s choices

Apr 29,2015 - Last updated at Apr 29,2015

The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is planning to celebrate its 70th anniversary on Friday in spite of public refusal of the Jordanian government to allow this event to take place.

In Palestine, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliate, Hamas, won the elections for student council at Bir Zeit University. Student elections are often seen as a signal of general public sentiment.

In Yemen, Egypt and Libya, supporters of the Brotherhood did not disappear despite very strong repressive and violent action against them.

Jordan’s leading opposition figure Laith Shbeilat posted on his Facebook account an open letter to King Abdullah, calling on him to allow the Brotherhood to hold their celebrations and reminding him of earlier cases in which repressive attempts against the Muslim Brotherhood actually made them more popular.

Many arguments have been circulated to justify the repressive attempts against the movement.

In Egypt, they are accused of being in fact a terrorist group dressed in sheep’s clothing. In Palestine and Libya, they are accused of being undemocratic and that they merely give lip service to democratic principles only to gain power.

Once in power, the Brotherhood is accused of procrastinating and often refusing to allow the transfer of power.

In Jordan, a conflict has evolved over the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. 

A split within the movement has provided the government a chance to take sides, even though the prime minister insisted in Parliament that the government does not take sides in this internal conflict.

The conflict brought forward the fact that the mother Brotherhood group has not been licensed officially. This gave an opportunity to the more moderate opponents within the mother organisation to split and apply for the coveted licence as the official representative of the Brotherhood in Jordan.

The government quickly approved the licence request and declared the mother organisation illegal.

A host of assets — rich organisations and charities — are owned by the mother organisation and the issue has caused major conflicts as to who will ultimately control many of these organisations and charities, which include hospitals and clinics.

The government declared the demonstration planned for Friday illegal, since it is being organised by a group it considers illegitimate.

Human rights activists and jurists insist that the 2011 amendments to the Constitution and the various regulations and practices since have removed the need for a licence to protest and replaced it with the need to inform the relevant government agencies of such intention.

This was done; now it remains to be seen if the government will violate the Constitution by banning the demonstration.

Regardless of what happens Friday, it is clear that the dream of many in the Arab world to see the Brotherhood disappear or at having it replaced by a more moderate version will not be easy.

Established in the Egyptian city of Ismailia, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by Hassan Al Banna in March 1928 as an Islamist religious, political and social movement.

Traditionally, the Brotherhood and pan-Arab nationalists have been at loggerheads in various political fields. They often compete at all levels, including student councils, professional associations and general elections.

In Jordan, the Brotherhood was accused of becoming too radical and very close to the Palestinian Hamas movement.

The number two man in the mother organisation, Zaki Bani Irsheid, was convicted of damaging Jordan’s relations with a friendly country. Bani Irsheid criticised the United Arab Emirates on his Facebook page for declaring the Brotherhood in the emirates as an illegal terrorist organisation.

He was tried at the Security Court, although many jurists and media activists feel that this was simply an exercise of the freedom of expression and not a “terrorist” issue.

Whatever happens in Jordan and nearby Arab countries, one thing is clear: It is impossible to obliterate a movement that has popular support.

In fact, the more repression it faces the more popular it becomes.

A more logical approach is to allow it to work and allow the public to decide whether it has what it takes to rule or share the power.

Naturally, such ideas are regularly opposed by people, citing examples in which supporters of the Brotherhood hijacked the government once they won in a democratic process, such as in Gaza, Egypt and Libya.

The argument goes on and on without anyone being able to find a mechanism that protects the government from any such actions without negating the rights of citizens to support an organisation or a movement of their choice.

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