US embassy cable - 92AMMAN2299

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD GOES ON THE WAGON

Identifier: 92AMMAN2299
Wikileaks: View 92AMMAN2299 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Amman
Created: 1992-02-24 11:27:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV SOCI JO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 241127Z FEB 92
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7075
INFO AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
AMEMBASSY TUNIS
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 02299 
 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PGOV, SOCI, JO 
SUBJECT: MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD GOES ON THE WAGON 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS PRESSING ITS 
SOCIAL AGENDA ONCE AGAIN, BY TRYING TO BAN ALCOHOL. 
THE MB PROBABLY KNOWS THAT THIS EFFORT WILL NOT 
SUCCEED; MORE LIKELY, THE MOVEMENT IS CHAFING UNDER 
THE BIN SHAKER GOVERNMENT'S TIGHT REINS AND WANTS TO 
FIGHT BACK, IF ONLY SYMBOLICALLY.  THE MB IS NOT 
WITHOUT STRENGTH; THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS IT CANNOT 
DIRECTLY CONFRONT THE IKHWAN ON "ISLAMIC" ISSUES LIKE 
A PROHIBITION ON ALCOHOL.  BUT IT CAN -- AND LIKELY 
WILL -- STUDY THE ISSUE TO DEATH.  THE GOVERNMENT HAS 
NO INTENTION OF ALTERING THE ESSENTIALLY MODERATE 
SOCIAL IMAGE OF JORDAN.  HOWEVER, WHILE IT IS WILLING 
TO CONFRONT THE MB ON POLITICAL ISSUES LIKE THE PEACE 
PROCESS, IT WILL TAKE A MORE SUBTLE ROUTE ON SOCIAL 
MATTERS. END SUMMARY. 
 
3. MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD DEPUTIES PUSHED THROUGH 
PARLIAMENT FEBRUARY 15 A MOTION TO ASK THE GOVERNMENT 
TO DRAFT LEGISLATION PROHIBITING THE PRODUCTION, SALE 
AND DISTRIBUTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IN THE 
KINGDOM.  THE MOVE WAS SUPPORTED BY 34 DEPUTIES 
(INCLUDING THE MB AND INDEPENDENT ISLAMISTS), WITH NO 
OBJECTIONS AND 20 ABSTENTIONS.  SEVERAL DEPUTIES LEFT 
THE CHAMBER BEFORE THE VOTE.  THE DEBATE ENGENDERED 
HARSH WORDS BETWEEN AN ISLAMIST DEPUTY AND TWO 
PROMINENT LEFTISTS, ONE OF WHOM RETORTED, "FOR THOSE 
WHO WANT AN ISLAMIC STATE, GO FORM ONE SOMEWHERE 
ELSE."  HOWEVER, EVEN THESE DEPUTIES DID NOT OPPOSE 
THE MOTION TO SEND THE ISSUE TO THE GOVERNMENT. 
 
4. DESPITE SIGNIFICANT PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION TO A 
BAN ON ALCOHOL, FEW DEPUTIES SPOKE AGAINST THE MOTION/ 
REFLECTING THE GENERALLY CONSERVATIVE, MUSLIM NATURE 
OF SOCIETY HERE.  AS ESTABLISHMENT DEPUTY ABD AL-RAUF 
AL-RAWABDEH TOLD US FEBRUARY 20, NO DEPUTY WANTS TO BE 
SEEN OPPOSING A MEASURE WHICH IS POPULARLY VIEWED AS 
AN ISLAMIC DUTY.  RAWABDEH SAID HE WAS CERTAIN THAT IF 
A POPULAR REFERENDUM ON PROHIBITION WERE HELD IN HIS 
CONSTITUENCY OF IRBID, ALCOHOL WOULD BE BANNED.  THE 
DETRIMENTAL ECONOMIC EFFECTS ON TOURISM AND FOREIGN 
INVESTMENT WOULD BE NO MATCH FOR A CITATION FROM THE 
QUR'AN. 
 
5. DESPITE HIS OPPOSITION TO PROHIBITION, RAWABDEH 
VOTED IN FAVOR OF THE MOTION.  HE AND OTHER DEPUTIES 
EXPLAINED THAT THE BEST SOLUTION WAS TO ALLOW THE 
GOVERNMENT TO STUDY THE MATTER, WHICH IS ALL THE 
IKHWAN WERE ASKING.  THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF 
PROHIBITION WOULD BE INCLUDED IN SUCH A STUDY, AND THE 
ISSUE WOULD BOUNCE BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE 
EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES UNTIL IT WAS 
FORGOTTEN.  IN THE MEANTIME, NO MUSLIM DEPUTY WOULD 
OPEN HIMSELF UP TO CHARGES OF NOT BEING FAITHFUL TO 
HIS RELIGION. 
 
------------------ 
THE MB'S RATIONALE 
------------------ 
 
6. THE MB'S ANTI-ALCOHOL MOTION SYMBOLIZES THE GROUP'S 
CURRENT PREDICAMENT.  THE MB, MORE ASSERTIVE DURING 
THE PREVIOUS MASRI GOVERNMENT, HAS BEEN HAMPERED BY 
THE MORE POWERFUL BIN SHAKER GOVERNMENT'S WILLINGNESS 
TO CLAMP DOWN ON MAJOR ISSUES LIKE THE PEACE PROCESS. 
THE GROUP ALSO REALIZES THAT ITS 1989 IMAGE HAS BEEN 
TARNISHED BY ITS LACK OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN PARLIAMENT 
AND IN THE BADRAN GOVERNMENT.  THE PARLIAMENTARY 
MOTION IS THUS A MEANS OF RE-POLISHING THAT IMAGE 
WHILE EMBARRASSING THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS SUPPORTERS. 
 
7. WHETHER ALCOHOL IS ACTUALLY BANNED APPEARS TO BE A 
SECONDARY PRIORITY FOR THE MB.  ONE EMBASSY CONTACT 
WAS TOLD BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE PARLIAMENTARY 
COMMITTEE HANDLING THE ISSUE THAT MB DEPUTIES SEEMED 
RELATIVELY DISINTERESTED IN PUSHING THE GOVERNMENT TO 
BEGIN ITS STUDY.  ALTHOUGH THE PARLIAMENTARIANS HAVE 
THE AUTHORITY TO DRAFT THE LEGISLATION THEMSELVES, THE 
MB HAS CHOSEN TO ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO DO SO.  THIS 
WINS THE BROTHERS SOME POINTS WITHOUT HAVING TO TAKE 
ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF DRAFTING A MEASURE WHICH 
COULD THEN BE ATTACKED FOR ITS IMPRACTICALITY OR 
ECONOMIC INADVISABILITY.  INSTEAD, IT CAN SIT AND TAKE 
POT SHOTS AT THE GOVERNMENT FOR DELAYING THE 
IMPLEMENTATION OF LEGISLATION CONSISTENT WITH THE 
QUR'AN.  THE MB REMEMBERS HOW MEASURES IT PROPOSED 
WHILE IT HELD MINISTRIES UNDER THE BADRAN GOVERNMENT 
LARGELY BROUGHT RIDICULE UPON THE MOVEMENT. 
 
-------------------------- 
SEGREGATED EDUCATION NEXT? 
-------------------------- 
 
8. WE HAVE RECEIVED AN UNCONFIRMED REPORT THAT THE MB 
IS ABOUT TO BRING BEFORE PARLIAMENT A REQUEST TO 
SEGREGATE MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIVERSITIES.  AGAIN, WE 
SEE THE MOVE AS A POLITICAL PLOY RATHER THAN A REAL 
ATTEMPT TO ACHIEVE THE MB'S SOCIAL AGENDA. 
 
-------------------- 
LONGER-TERM REACTION 
-------------------- 
 
9. THE GOVERNMENT HAS PREDICTABLY STAYED SILENT ON THE 
PARLIAMENT'S ALCOHOL MOTION, PRESUMABLY PREFERRING TO 
KILL IT BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.  HOWEVER, ONE CONTACT 
TOLD US FEBRUARY 23 THAT THE PRIME MINISTER WAS NOT 
AMUSED BY THE IKHWAN'S TACTICS.  HE REPORTEDLY SENT A 
MESSAGE BACK TO THE MB THAT THE GROUP SHOULD 
UNDERSTAND THAT "JORDAN IS NOT ALGERIA."  COMMENT: WE 
CANNOT CONFIRM BIN SHAKER'S ALLEGED REMARK, BUT IF HE 
DIDN'T SAY IT, HE PROBABLY THOUGHT IT. END COMMENT. 
 
10. THE MB'S PARLIAMENTARY MOVES ARE DESIGNED TO 
RESERVE FOR ITS MEMBERS THE ISLAMIC HIGH GROUND. 
CENTRISTS HAVE LONG BEEN TELLING US THEY NEED TO PUT 
UP CANDIDATES IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS WHO CAN COMPETE 
WITH THE IKHWAN IN STANDARDS OF ISLAMIC PIETY.  THE 
CENTRISTS ARE BEGINNING TO GET A TASTE OF THE KINDS OF 
ISSUES THEY WILL BE FACING IN THE NEXT CAMPAIGN. 
 
 
KEENE 

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