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memri
April 3, 2018 No.
7413

Public Debate In Jordan After Muslim Brotherhood Wins Engineers Union Elections In City Of Al-Zarqa And Supporters Shout 'Al-Zarqa Tora Bora'

After the results of the February 16, 2018 elections for the Engineers Union in the Jordanian city of Al-Zarqa were announced – i.e. that the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated White List was the winner – some of the White List supporters cheered and chanted slogans equating the city with Tora Bora, such as "Al-Zarqa Tora Bora" and "Above the mountain, beneath the sewer, bravo Tora Bora!"

Equating Al-Zarqa with Tora Bora, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, sparked apprehensions about Muslim Brotherhood (MB) extremism, and shocked some of those present in the hall, and some walked out in protest. Also shocked were Jordanian journalists and politicians.[1]

In response to these reactions, some White List members renounced the slogans. For example, 'Abdallah 'Obeidat, an MB and White List member, called the slogans "unacceptable" and added that they "do not represent the White List, and those who uttered them don't even belong to it."[2] At the same time, he and others clarified that it was the MB's political rivals who years ago nicknamed Al-Zarqa "Tora Bora," as an expression of the extent of the control and influence of the MB there and of the impossibility of beating it in elections there. He added that the MB rivals also nicknamed the city Kandahar, after Afghanistan's second-largest city and the center of the Taliban's power from 1994 until the organization withdrew from it in 2001.

According to MB members, on the eve of the elections a member of White List political rival faction Numou ("Growth") wrote on his Facebook page that the next day would be the "night of the fall of Kandahar" – meaning that he thought the MB would lose. This, he said, was what had prompted MB supporters to cheer for Tora Bora when the election results were announced, in an attempt to belittle and anger their rivals who had lost.[3]


"Night of the fall of Kandahar" Facebook post, with photos of the Numou faction list (Facebook.com/ahmad.qaryouti.1238)

This report will review the criticism in Jordan of the White List supporters cheering Tora Bora following the faction's electoral win.  

Politicians, Public Figures: Equating Al-Zarqa With Tora Bora Is Shameful And Unacceptable

Former Al-Zarqa mayor 'Imad Al-Momani, of the White List rival faction Numou, who was in the hall when the election results were announced and White List supporters began shouting slogans, said that Al-Zarqa should not be equated to the "terrorist stronghold" Tora Bora and that the violence that had come out of the latter had caused the deaths of innocent people across the world, including in the Jordanian capital Amman. This, he said, was evidence of the mentality of those shouting. He added that the argument that these slogans were only aimed at belittling the losers is unacceptable because "there is no way to justify or defend these people [who shouted the slogans]."[4]

Independent MP Khalil Atieh wrote on his Facebook page: "It is shameful that there are those who shout for joy about Tora Bora in Al-Zarqa; [Al-Zarqa is a symbol of] nobility and dedication of the soul. I felt bitterness when I read that several people who claimed to represent the Islamic movement uttered provocative calls, and [by doing so] hurt the feelings of every free Jordanian... This is sick belittlement, and is incompatible with Islam and Islamic standards of morality, and with the heritage and tradition of the Jordanian people... It is very saddening that we have reached the level of such unwarranted emotional expression, and we expect the Islamic movement to renounce this offensive behavior... Al-Zarqa was and remains Hashemite, a city of military [personnel]... and a city of the national unity of all Jordanians..."[5]


MP Khalil Atieh's Facebook post

Former MP Bassem Al-Batoush expressed his views more strongly, writing on his Facebook page: "We are now paying the price for not fighting the MB and not designating it a terror organization, as the world powers, great and small, want [to do] today. Please, teach your young people that Jordan is a beautiful, precious, and democratic homeland that is protected by the wise, tolerant, and legitimate Hashemite flag..."[6]

Column In Government Daily Al-Rai: The Comparison With Tora Bora Is Idiotic

In his column in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai, journalist 'Abd Al-Hadi Raji Al-Majali called the "Tora Bora" comparison "idiotic" and concluded by suggesting that the young people shouting slogans in favor of places in Afghanistan or Pakistan just be sent there. He wrote: "The calls of the Islamic [elements] in Jordan are familiar: 'Khaybar Khaybar oh Jews, the Army of Muhammad will return' and 'Oh Jews, just wait, Hassan Al-Banna is one of us.'[7] They also shout 'Allah Akbar' at every demonstration. But I don't know what they mean by shouting 'Tora Bora' at the Engineers Union elections in Al-Zarqa...

"Al-Qaeda hid out in Tora Bora during the [international] coalition forces' [2001] invasion of Afghanistan. Tora Bora is seared in the consciousness of the Taliban in the context of the massacre carried out [there] by the Americans... during which the organization lost hundreds of its fighters. This is in addition to the collapse of Al-Qaeda and its armed presence [there]...  

"Had they cheered Hassan Al-Bana, we could say that they were preaching praise for an Islamic thinker and the spiritual father of the MB. Had they even cheered [Egyptian MB ideologue] Sayyed Qutb, we would maybe accept it, and had they cheered  'Abdallah 'Azzam, [the MB-Jordan member who set out the foundations for Al-Qaeda and was Osama bin Laden's spiritual mentor], we would likewise have said that they were cheering a symbol of jihad. But equating Al-Zarqa with Tora Bora is simply idiotic, because the Islamic [elements] consider geography not very important in their ideological framework, but instead [prioritize] da'wa [Islamic outreach] and organization. The geographic location most important to them is Palestine and Jordan...

"If this is the case, what do these Tora Bora slogans mean? Are they aimed at recalling the [2001] defeat? The terrible exodus [of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban from there]? Is Al-Zarqa [really] like Tora Bora?...

"In Pakistan there is an area called Rawalpindi [part of the capital Islamabad], and I hope that in the next election they will cheer that. Or, if the young people want to [be there so badly], they can be sent there."[8]


'Abd Al-Hadi Raji Al-Majali (Source: Al-Rai, February 17, 2018.)

Jordanian Media Figure To MB: Don't Try To Harm Jordan's National Unity

In an article in the online newspaper Almontasf.com, media figure and academic Mustafa 'Ayrout said that those who shouted "Tora Bora" should be prosecuted, and called on the MB to carefully consider what they do, and not to play manipulative games, hold demonstrations, or issue threats. He wrote:

"Al-Zarqa is a Jordanian city loyal to the Hashemite dynasty. If the reports on the Internet about what took place after the MB win in the Engineers Union elections in Al-Zarqa are true – that is, equating the city to Tora Bora, Afghanistan – we are facing a dangerous, frightening, and satanic crossroads, and must speak out against it.

"Al-Zarqa is a Jordanian paragon of a united family [whose children] love each other and are loyal to the homeland Jordan and to the Hashemite leadership. Its fabric will not allow anyone, no matter who, to play with this. This matter [of the slogans] must be investigated immediately, and testimony must be taken from all those who were present [in the hall and heard the shouting]... and all those who shouted these things must be prosecuted... Additionally, all Al-Zarqa residents should be warned about opportunists who might attempt to destroy the unity and influence the people...

"The MB must recognize that its last stronghold in the Arab world is in Jordan,[9] and therefore it must carefully consider its actions and operations. A manipulative game, particularly in Al-Zarqa, is very dangerous, and anyone planning to [play such a game] needs to know that the state is stronger and that its rule is one of law and justice...

"Everyone needs to calm down and to remain a single national bloc that refuses to be split up... and to support, as always, the Hashemite leader King Abdullah II in dealing with the challenges facing Jordan on the political, financial, economic, and security level, in light of the frequent incidents and the burning region... [We] must not allow [among us] any pawn implementing the policy of foreign elements and conveying intelligence to them with the aim of harming the unity and strength of the domestic [Jordanian] front...

"Perhaps we all should learn a lesson from what happened in countries as a result of the so-called 'Arab Spring.' The global MB organization and its local branch [in Jordan]  are therefore advised to think before they act or take a step, and to know that Jordan is very strong... and the new generation of young MB members everywhere must realize that the temptation to turn to a formula of demonstrations, sit-down strikes, threats, and refusal to listen to the other in order to apply pressure will bring them [only] fleeting populist achievements, but ultimately this will not benefit them – neither in Jordan nor anywhere else they are found..."[10]

Former Jordanian Minister: Don't Politicize The Religion

In his February 20 column for the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, the daily's board chairman and former minister Muhammad Doudiyya condemned the slogans that combine politics with religion, both from the MB and from its rivals. He wrote: "I oppose the politicization of the religion, its inclusion in every election, and [its use in the slogan] 'Islam is the Solution' in the parliamentary elections, that was copied and stolen from the MB in Egypt. [I also] oppose the heretical and filthy slogan 'Al-Zarqa Tora Bora,' and the one that is just as miserable and degraded, 'The Night Of the Fall of Kandahar.'

"In Kandahar, in [the ISIS stronghold in Syria] Al-Raqqa, and in Tora Bora, [there were only] only death,  destruction, dictatorship, oppression, guillotines and crematoria. In Tora Bora and Kandahar, there are no elections, freedoms, humanity, rights, or good [as there are in Jordan]..."[11]


Muhammad Doudiyya (Source Al-Dustour, February 20, 2018)

 

[1] Assawsana.co, February 17, 2018. It should be noted that Jordan is currently seeing a wave of protests over the government's new austerity measures, and that the opposition – of which the MB is major part – is fanning the flames of these protests. On this, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.1376,  Protests In Jordan Following Austerity Measures – Including Elimination Of Bread Subsidy,February 21, 2018.

[2] Khaberni.com, February 18, 2018.

[3] Khaberni.com, February 18, 2018; Facebook.com/yaser.o.jadallah, February 17, 2018.

[4] Khaberni.com, February 18, 2018.

[5] Facebook.com/khalil.atieh50, February 17, 2018.

[6] Ammonnews.net, February 17, 2018.

[7] In Arabic, "Khaybar ya Yahoud, jaysh Muhammad sawfa ya'oud"  referring to the Prophet Muhammad's defeat of the Jews of Khaybar in 629, and "Ya yahoudi istana istana, Hassan Al-Banna wahad minna." Hassan Al-Banna, preacher and teacher, established the Muslim Brotherhood Association in Ismailia, Egypt in 1928; within a decade the organization had become the Muslim Brotherhood, which is highly influential in politics and society in Egypt and other Arab countries.

[8] Al-Rai (Jordan), February 17, 2018.

[9] In recent years the MB's power has declined, following the failure of the Arab Spring uprisings in several Arab countries, primarily in Egypt, where the movement briefly rose to power in 2013 but is now outlawed and persecuted by the Al-Sisi regime.

[10] Almontasf.com, February 17, 2018.  

[11] Al-Dustour (Jordan), February 20, 2018.