November 13, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6216

Jordanian Columnist In Response To Shooting At Police Training Facility, In Which Two Americans Were Killed: A Horrific Crime That Demands Soul-Searching; A Result Of A Social-Cultural Crisis In Jordan

November 13, 2015
Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 6216

On November 9, 2015, Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Al-Momani said that a Jordanian police captain, Anwar Abu Zaid, had opened fire at the Al-Muwaqqar police training facility east of Amman, killing five people who worked there: two Jordanians, two Americans and a South African. He added that police officers present on the scene had killed the shooter, and that an investigation into the incident and the shooters' motives had been launched.[1]

Reports published hours after the incident revealed that Abu Zaid, a 29-year-old father of two, lived in the Jerash Governorate and was the nephew of former Jordanian MP Suleiman Al-Sa'ad, a prominent member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. It was reported further that Abu Zaid had recently requested to leave the police force, but had been denied.[2]

Since the shooting took place on the tenth anniversary of Al-Qaeda's hotel bombings in Amman, the media speculated that ISIS or some other terror organization was behind it; some of the reports noted that Abu Zaid had become more devout in recent months and that he had taken several minutes to pray before opening fire.[3]

Abu Zaid's funeral, held on November 12, 2015, was attended by thousands, and mourners described Abu Zaid as a martyr and called slogans of "with blood and spirit we shall redeem you, o martyr," as well as "death to Israel" and "death to America."[4]

The Jordanian press published only a handful of articles responding to the incident. A prominent article was by journalist Ibrahim Gharaibeh, a columnist for the daily Al-Ghad, who directed harsh criticism at Jordanian society, calling upon it to examine itself and check how such a horrific crime could take place within it. He wrote that the Al-Muwaqqar shooting was as shocking as the horrific murder of the seven Israeli schoolgirls on the Israel-Jordan border in 1996. He added that Jordanian society suffers from a deep social and cultural crisis which creates a climate that fosters extremism, terror and hatred, and that eradicating these phenomena requires not only security measures but also examining Jordan's education, religion and state institutions.

The following are excerpts from his article:[5]

Ibrahim Gharaibeh (image:

"The criminal murder of the Jordanian and foreign workers at the security training center in Al-Muwaqqar should shock us deeply, as a government, a society, and as individuals. If this turns out not to be a turning point in the worldview underpinning [our] environment of life and work, then [we will be unable to] pick up signals and messages indicating changes and cracks in the system of mutual trust that underpins [common] interests and relations. This crime is shocking and terrifying, like none other, though the shock at the murder of seven Israeli schoolgirls on a 1996 field trip may come close.

"The worst thing about these crimes is that they are not the work of organized groups! How can we ensure that such a crime does not recur?...

"We know that strict and tough security and administrative steps are taken during military and security activity. [But] we should be shaken up when an atmosphere fostering crime and hatred is created in the work and day-to-day environment; when people lose their [moral] compass and reason, that allow them to think logically and make sound decisions; and when a society cannot provide its members with the rational thought they need to be aware of dangers [and to be able to tell] right from wrong, truth from lies, and good from evil.

"It is not enough to say that such crimes happen. If we recall other crimes [that happened previously], we can point out how they are essentially different from the crime in Al-Muwaqqar - which  makes it necessary to reexamine and rethink [the matter]... I believe that we should acknowledge the full range of social and cultural crises [afflicting us], and which create an environment that pushes people to commit crimes. We must gather our courage and be honest with ourselves. The torrent of condemnation of extremism and extremists emanating from antiterrorism committees and symposia... is no longer enough - and perhaps even should not be accepted.

"It is clear that the solution cannot be just on the security [level]. The security measures have already reached their peak. It is also clear that educational and societal institutions have failed to construct a rational system and rational trends, positions, and ideas. I will also risk saying that curricula and education, religion, and state institutions no longer operate as they should in order to [actualize] society's goals - and that is putting it mildly.

"Crimes such as these have not yet created such a shock on individual and societal levels [among us] that would push us to probe and investigate. Crimes such as the [November 9, 2005 Amman] hotel bombing did not shock the individual and collective conscience, and prompted no reaction against terrorism and hatred, no recognition of the crisis we are undergoing, and no investigation into the causes and roots of terrorism that is meticulous and properly understands the crime and its dimensions. Many [of us] still think the murder of the seven Israeli schoolgirls on a field trip was an act of heroism.

"The most difficult question [arising] from the shock to the conscience that we should experience is to what extent students and citizens - in their everyday lives, in their behavior in society, and in their work and [educational] institutions - are committed to the state's agreements, can internalize them, and can respect the social pact that normalizes relations among [the state's] citizens, its guests, and its residents.

"[Likewise,] are such crimes sufficiently [grave] to make us reexamine the religious role of the state? This role, which is in fact not demanded by the religion itself, includes [giving] religion classes in school and administering the mosques, [conducting] da'wa, and [issuing] fatwas. [These are all] excessive religious embellishments that the state swamps us with, when they are not [part of] the religion [at all]!

"Are we actually acknowledging the massive stockpiles of devastating hatred that are flooding people, societies, children, and [entire] generations? Have we done enough to deal with hatred, or are we increasing it, or [even] making it worse? Who today can differentiate terrorists from non-terrorists? How can the West tell a moderate Muslim from a Muslim terrorist when we can't even do it [ourselves]?

"Let us ask ourselves honestly: Do terrorists believe different things than we do? Do terrorists learn different things than students learn from Education Ministry curricula and from shari'a schools at official [state] universities?"




[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 9, 2015.

[2],, November 9, 2015.

[3] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 9, 2015; Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 10, 2015;  Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 10, 2015.

Abu Zaid's family expressed doubt that he was really the shooter and denied that he was connected to any terror organization. His uncle, former MP Suleiman Al-Sa'ad, said that the family was refusing to burry him until the investigation was completed and the circumstances of the incident came to light. He rejected the reports that his nephew had been a religious extremist, adding: "We are followers of the wasati stream [i.e., of the moderate stream of Islam] and Anwar prayed like any other Muslim in this country." He stressed that his nephew was a good and reliable man and had passed the police screening, and called to check every possibility without ruling anything out.

Abu Zaid's funeral was eventually held on November 12, though the findings of the official investigation have yet to be published. According to some reports, the authorities pressured the family to burry him (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, November 9, 11, 2015;, November 9, 2015, Al-Sabil (Jordan), November 12, 2015).

[4] Al-Sabil (Jordan),, November 12, 2015.

[5] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November  11, 2015.

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