Jordan’s King: Muslim Brotherhood Crescent Developing

Mar 21, 2013

            “I see a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey,” Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned in a series of interviews with The Atlantic. The monarch said the Muslim Brothers are not necessarily interested in democracy. They are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Abdullah claimed that the Jordanian branch talks about overthrowing the government behind closed doors. Its leaders do not believe in the Jordanian constitution, he said.

            The king also criticized Islamist politicians abroad. Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan once said that democracy is “a bus ride. ‘Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off,” Abdullah claimed. He said Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi lacks depth and should be focused on Palestinian reconciliation, rather than just faulting Israel.  

            When asked what he would do if 250,000 people food the streets and call for his abdication, Abdullah answered, “I won’t shoot.” King Abdullah was optimistic about the future of Jordan’s monarchy. The king said his plans for government reform have been blocked by conservatives, especially those in the intelligence and security services. But he expects Jordan to be a “Western democracy with a constitutional monarchy” by the time his son Prince Hussein― now a freshman at Georgetown University― takes the throne.

            After several publications published the king’s more controversial remarks from the interview, the Jordanian palace issued a statement saying it included “many fallacies and took matters out of their correct context.” The following are excerpts from the The Atlantic article, based on interviews with King Abdullah II from the past four months.

Islamists

            “When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister.’ Some Westerners argue that 'the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.' My job is to point out that the Brotherhood is run by “wolves in sheep’s clothing…”

            The Muslim Brotherhood is like a “Masonic cult… “[O]ur major fight” is to prevent it from gaining power across the region…

            “I see a Muslim Brotherhood crescent developing in Egypt and Turkey… The Arab Spring highlighted a new crescent in the process of development...”

            “[Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip] Erdogan once said that democracy for him is a bus ride... ‘Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off.’… ”

            “Instead of the Turkish model, taking six or seven years—being an Erdogan—[Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi wanted to do it overnight…”

            “There is no depth there [in Morsi]… I was trying to explain to him how to deal with Hamas, how to get the peace process moving, and he was like, ‘The Israelis will not move.’ I said, ‘Listen, whether the Israelis move or don’t move, it’s how we get Fatah and Hamas”—the two rival Palestinian factions—“together.”

            “[B]ehind closed doors, the Muslim Brotherhood here wants to overthrow [the government]…”

            “They don’t believe in the constitution of Jordan… hey won’t swear on the constitution. They will only swear on the constitution of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their allegiance is to the murshid [their supreme guide in Cairo].”

            “Before Muslim Brothers are sworn into parliament, they get a fatwa —a religious ruling— stating “you can put your hand on the Koran but what you swear on the Koran is nonbinding” when declaring fealty to a secular document.

            “They [Muslim Brothers] were the first people I saw in the Arab Spring… They were the loudest voice, so I brought them in, and they said, ‘Our loyalty is to the Hashemites, and we stood with you in the ’40s and ’50s and ’70s,’ and I said, ‘That is the biggest load of crap I have ever heard.’ And they were like, ‘Aaaargh’—they were shocked….”

            “ ‘My father told me that you guys [Muslim Brothers] watched the way things were going, and when you saw that my father was winning, you went with him.’ I said, ‘This is complete and utter bullshit, and if we’re going to sit here and bullshit each other, then we might as well have a cup of tea and then say goodbye. If you want to have a serious conversation’—we Arabs like to ass-kiss each other for the first half hour of conversation—‘if you want to have a serious conversation, here’s where we start.’ ”

            “I think you’re [Muslim Brothers} part of the Jordanian system, and I think you should be part of the process… I think we all leave this meeting feeling really good, but—I’ll be honest with you—there’s 10 percent distrust from me, and 10 percent distrust from you, I’m sure. But we have good vibes here….”

            “They were in Cairo to see the murshid, and they saw Tahrir Square and the Muslim Brotherhood. We asked Mansour, ‘Who are the three names you’re going to put on the national-dialogue committee?’ ” They did not present any names. “I think they thought the revolution was going to happen in Jordan, and they didn’t need to be part of the national committee… They thought they’d won. They had decided that they had won.”

Domestic Politics and Government Reform

            “My blood pressure goes highest—my wife knows this—when we have to change governments… Whenever we go through that cycle, nobody is going to be happy…”

            “Institutions I had trusted were just not on board… It was the mukhabarat [intelligence and security agencies] and the others, and the old guard.” 

            “I didn’t realize the extent to which the conservative elements had [penetrated] institutions like the GID [General Intelligence Department]… It became apparent in later years how they were embedded in certain institutions. Two steps forward, one step back…”

            “The GID was always problematic… I was naive enough to think—coming from the army, since in the army they said ‘Yes, sir’—the GID would say ‘Yes, sir.’ ”

            “I said, ‘You guys [youth activists] have no concept of left, right, and center. In the American concept, I’m a leftist, or a Democrat, when it comes to health, education, and taxes. I’m a Republican when it comes to … defense, okay? That’s me as Abdullah. How does that fit into the framework of a Jordanian mentality? I want you guys thinking like that. I don’t want you to agree with me. If you agree with me, fantastic, that’s fine.’ In our culture, if you don’t agree with me, you start shooting each other, or at least throwing our shoes at each other...”

Future of the Monarchy

            “Well, where are monarchies in 50 years?... No, members of my family don’t get it… They’re not involved day-to-day. The further away you’re removed from this chair, the more of a prince or a princess you are. That happens in all royal families, I think. The further you are from this chair, the more you believe in absolute monarchy. That’s the best way of describing it. And that just doesn’t work…”

            “[W]hen I reached my 10-year anniversary, I remember sitting down with members of my family and my close friends and saying, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore...’ I just said that I was so depressed because of all the forces I was dealing with on the inside [domestically]… It wasn’t the outside—the outside, I understood. It was inside.”

            “Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in‑laws are like—oh my God… I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars. I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights. I’m trying to be that example.”

            Family sensitivities “become irrelevant. If you catch my son being corrupt, take him to court. I’ve said that quite clearly from day one. What I’m trying to say is that everybody else is expendable in the royal family. Does that make sense? That’s the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”

            “[W]e don’t believe anyone should kiss my hand, we’re all human beings…”

            “When I made him [Hussein] crown prince, I don’t think he was very happy… He was 15, and I don’t think he was happy with me at all... I didn’t want to do this to a young boy… He’s matured a lot over the past couple of years. He understands the responsibility. He won’t have the life I had… “

            “As a teenager, as a young officer, nobody was looking at me. They didn’t care who I was. I had the ability to develop, and make friends, and see the world without having … people taking pictures of [me] left, right, and center. The title is going to follow him around. So I didn’t do him any favors…”

            “The monarchy is going to change. When my son becomes of age and becomes king, the system will be stabilized and … it will be a Western democracy with a constitutional monarchy… even with all the changes I’m doing here, there is still going to be a monarchy… [My son] is not going to have to work his butt off for the rest of his life. I hope he works hard, but not with the same pressures…”

            “I don’t want Hussein to take the throne in a situation where he’s “in the position of Bashar today…” I want him to become king of a Jordan where “he people are happy, and they love the monarchy, just like you saw with the outpouring toward Queen Elizabeth in England…”

What if Jordanians call for the fall of the monarchy?

            “My character is, I won’t shoot… I don’t think we as Hashemites shoot. If you, as a monarch, have created a situation in which half the population rises up and wants you out, then you’ve done something wrong...”

            “I said to take the weapons away [from demonstrators]. I was coordinating with all the commanders about how the first demonstrations should be handled, and Rania said, ‘You know what you should do? Hand out water and juice to all the demonstrators—have the police hand them water.’ That was a good idea, and I called them and said, ‘Rania’s idea is to do this.’ And the police did it. That was the flavor of the demonstrations…”

Syria

            “The minute you get a Syrian coming across, there’s no way you can turn them back and say our border is closed…”

            “I had offered a couple of times to get his [Bashar Assad’s] wife out… and they said, ‘Thank you very much, but why don’t you worry about your country more than you worry about us?...”

            “I went to visit him [Assad} and I said [in 2000], ‘There’s the opening of the United Nations in September, please come—I can set up lunches and dinners…”

            “The World Economic Forum was doing something, and I said, ‘You’ll be the belle of the ball: everyone wants to meet you, you’re the new guy, you can have some interviews…

            “And he was like, ‘There’s no need—I have Syrian businessmen who can go on my behalf and get the contracts and investments.’ And I was like, ‘No, when you show up at the UN, everybody will come because you’re the flavor of the month.’ But he said he wouldn’t go…”

            “There was a dinner with me and him and the king of Morocco, at the king’s residence in Cairo. And so Bashar at dinner turns to us and says, ‘Can you guys explain to me what jet lag is?’ He never heard of jet lag…”

            “He’s a smart guy, he’s married to someone who lived in the West… The fathers are two very different people… The way his father ruled Syria, and the way my father ruled this country, and the relationship between the people and the ruler, were just very different.”

Israel and the Palestinians

            ““I don’t want a [Jordanian] government to come in and say, ‘We repudiate the peace treaty with Israel.’… My relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “very strong. Our discussions have really improved.”

            “It could be too late already for the two-state solution… I don’t know. Part of me is worried that is already past us…”

            “Apartheid or democracy” will be Israel’s choice if it doesn’t agree to a Palestinian state. “The practical question is, can Israel exert permanent control over Palestinians who are disenfranchised ad infinitum, or does it eventually become a South Africa, which couldn’t survive as a pariah state?..”

            “The only way you’re going to have a Jewish part is if you have a two-state solution. That’s the Jewish part…”

Islam

            “Obviously there’s a tremendous sense of responsibility [being a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad]. It makes you feel very sure of yourself. I’m very comfortable in myself. I inherited this from my father, and he inherited it from his father. I pray five times a day—but I don’t have to keep telling everybody that I pray five times a day…”

            “You see that black mark on the forehead —to show off that you pray five times a day?... “Why do that? That’s complete nonsense. I feel like having a black magic marker just to annoy people, to put a mark on my head.”

            “My view of Christians and Jews, because of my father’s teachings and the family teachings—I was always brought up to believe that they are part of the larger family. Does that make sense? I don’t have that extremism…”

 

Click here for the original article in The Atlantic.

 

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Overview

The Islamists Are Coming is the first book to survey the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring.  Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties.  They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.

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