Middle East

Jordan's Islamic Front rallies Muslims
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - Despite Jordan officially being pro-United Sates in the current showdown with Iraq, the country has seen a marked rise in anti-US sentiment among its population, with the main beneficiary being the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thus, once the US attacks Iraq, the tiny Arab state, which currently acts as a delicate counter balance in the region, could become a nucleus of Arab Islamic movements.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its sister concerns - which exist largely as clandestine but militant groups marked by their rejection of Western influences - have been busy tapping into the anger raised in the Arab street by the US designs on Iraq.

This correspondent was in Jordan when the Islamic Action Front declared a jihad in favor of Iraq and Palestine if the US attacks Iraq, and in mosques, universities, colleges and other places across the region people have been signing on to fight the US. Their numbers have been estimated as high as 100,000.

Jordanian society is a complex mix of contradictions. Jordan comprises 55 percent Palestinians, but radical Palestinian groups such as the Islamic Jihad and Hamas are banned. Since elections under the constitutional monarchy in 1989, Islamic forces, initially in the garb of the Muslim Brotherhood and later in the shape of the Islamic Action Front, have emerged as a political force, and especially so after September 11, 2001.

The Muslim Brotherhood was established in Jordan in 1940 (the organization was originally founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna in opposition to secular tendencies in Islamic nations and in search of a return to the original precepts of the Koran). It soon spread to Syria, Sudan and Arab nations, and then to Jordan.

Today, the Islamic Action Front is the only force to openly challenge the monarchy in its ties with Israel and its role in the US-led war on terror and against Iraq.

In late February, Asia Times Online spoke to Hamza Mansoor, the chief of the Islamic Action Front, at the Front's headquarters in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

ATol: Could you please tell me the program and the background of the Islamic Action Front?

Mansoor: We are an Islamic political party and consider Islam as the fundamental way of thinking. We have a program to enforce Islam in society by peaceful means because we believe Islam can give us happiness and we look forward to bringing out the best for all members of society, including men, women and children. We work for freedom for all and human rights for society and we are against any bad conduct at any level, especially in the government. And we are against the people in charge in Jordan and want a complete political change. This party [Islamic Action Front] was founded in 1992 with 350 initial members. Engineer Ahmed Azaida, Dr Ishaq Farhan and Dr Abdul Latif Arabiyat were the main initiators of the movement.

ATol: Jordan is crucially located in the region. On one side is Israel, on the other side is Iraq. The majority of the population is Palestinian, many of whom sympathize with the Intafada against Israel, but King Abdullah has friendly ties with Israel. How do you view this situation?

Mansoor: Let me first clarify some basic things. The population of Palestinians in Jordan is 55 percent, but they are not considered as foreigners. The West Bank and the East Bank were one before the 1967 Arab-Israel war. That is why we are all one. As far as Arab neighbors [Iraq] are concerned, they are no danger. They are our people. The danger is from the Zionist identity and the US. We do not want our government to build policies on political balances. We want to build policies of democracy in Jordan and carry out a program which will at the end lead to the unity of Arab and Islamic countries because we believe Muslims are one nation. We believe this unity is the need of the hour; besides, it is our religious obligation. We believe that Muslim nations have broader grounds and factors to unite than Europeans, who have managed to unite. If they can make a union despite centuries-old differences, why not Muslims?

ATol: After September 11, the Muslim world has faced the wrath of the US. The first victim was Afghanistan, and now it is Iraq. How do you analyze this situation?

Mansoor: Had the September 11 incident not happened, the US administration would have invented a similar crisis themselves because the US authorities want to make a pretext to fulfill their designs. The problem is not al-Qaeda and Saddam [Hussein]. The problem is within the US administration itself. The present US ruling administration has a strange religious feeling, which is to beat and conquer other populations, especially the older civilizations, and it has unlimited greed to take over the wealth of other nations. Afghanistan or Iraq are not their last stops. Iran would be the next. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries would be next in line. That is why we call all Muslim countries to unite against the dangerous threats and we believe that a government which offers the US any help against the ummah [community of Muslims] is not an Islamic government and Muslim subjects have every right to change this sort of a government.

ATol: The Salafi [Wahhabi] branch of Islam, to which Osama bin Laden subscribes, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan's most powerful Islamic party, are portrayed in the West as the real enemies of the West and the inspiration for al-Qaeda. What is your viewpoint?

Mansoor: I invite Western intellectuals to prove their ideas and the truth behind these theories. I ask them to think in a free environment, away from the psychology of the Crusade, away from the way of thinking of colonial powers, and liberate their opinions from the influence of the Zionist propaganda machinery. The Islamic movements, especially the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the Arab world, the Jamaat-i-Islami, the Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Turkish and Sri Lankan Islamic movements are moderate parties. The US does not take Islamic movements as enemies, but it takes Islam as its enemy. Anybody who represents real Islam, be it an individual or a party or a society, the US declares war on them and considers them terrorists.

We refuse to be enslaved by the US. We want to be treated as free men and we want relations with the US based on mutual respect. But the US wants us to be its slaves and to treat us like conquered people. At the same time, I ask those Western intellectuals, especially those from the US, about religious extremism in the US carried out by Jews and Christians, and I ask them just to look at the Zionist crimes in Palestine and American terror in Japan, Vietnam and Latin America before calling others terrorists.

ATol: I was in Iraq recently. I personally observed that the Saddam regime is against the ideology that your party projects, and he is brutal against those who have tried to form religious parties. People have very limited religious freedom. So why does your party support Saddam these days?

Mansoor: We do not support Saddam Hussein and have never supported his aggressive designs against Iran and Kuwait. In fact, we support the 25 million Iraqi people against US aggression. At the same time, it is not strange that people, whether they are rulers or commoners, revise their relations with Allah and God is very kind to forgive them.

ATol: What is the attitude of your party to the US waging war against Iraq?

Mansoor: Islamic movements in Jordan or in Pakistan or elsewhere take their principles from the same source, that is the Koran and Sunnah [life of the Prophet]. That is why Islamic scholars invite the whole ummah to face up to US aggression, whether it is in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan or anywhere. The rule is the same. However, every country has its own special situation and the conditions for jihad in each country differ. Depending on the situation of a country, it can choose a way to struggle against the enemy, be it by boycott or directly on the battlefield.

ATol: It is a common concern among Islamic movements that dictatorships in Muslim countries prevent such movements from contesting elections. There are theories that the movements should consider other ways of grabbing power and instead of indulging in politics should concentrate on dawah ( preaching of Islam). What is your opinion?

Mansoor: We respect all opinions and we believe that we can join more than one way at the same time. We believe in the dawah to reform people and we believe in developing Islamic institutions. We believe in election politics. If the elections are free and fair, we are sure that our people will put their trust in us. We do not believe in the use of force, except against external enemies.

ATol: What future do you foresee for Islamic movements and Muslims?

Mansoor: The future is for Islam because this is a religion of basic human values. Since other ideologies have lost out, it is noticeable that Islam is spreading, despite the weakness of some Muslims. This emphasizes and proves the saying of the Prophet Mohammed, praise be on his name, that this religion will fill the whole earth. This is the promise of Allah, that this religion will overwhelm all.

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Mar 7, 2003

A 'third force' awaits US in Iraq (Mar 1, '03)

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