Islamic Action Front
ISLAMIC ACTION FRONT
Jordanian Islamist political party.
Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami (Islamic Action Front, IAF) grew out of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood. The two overlap in membership and outlook but are not synonymous. The IAF has maintained a strategy of loyal opposition, emphasizing reformist rather than militant tactics, and is by far the largest and best-organized political party in the kingdom.
The Muslim Brotherhood operated with tacit state approval for decades but was technically registered as a charity. After Jordan's political liberalization process began in 1989, the Brotherhood was the best-organized movement in the country. Its candidates won twenty-two out of a total of eighty seats in the new parliament, with twelve more going to independent Islamists. The IAF was founded in 1992, immediately following the legalization of political parties in Jordan for the first time since the 1950s.
The IAF is known for its regressive social views regarding the rights of women but is also active in charitable work for the poor. The party has been a vocal opponent of U.S. policy in the region, especially regarding Palestine and Iraq, and opposed the Jordanian peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Following the treaty, the IAF organized an ongoing campaign to prevent normalization of relations with Israel at any level.
The IAF has developed increasing levels of support among the lower classes and especially among urban Palestinians of various classes. Hence the IAF sees its electoral strengths in urban, Palestinian-majority communities such as Irbid, al-Zarqa, and most districts of Amman. Yet Jordan's electoral laws favor rural areas and traditional sources of support for Jordan's ruling Hashimite family. To the surprise of the regime, however, Islamists dominated the 1989 elections and Islamist leader Abd al-Latif Arabiyyat even served as the elected speaker of the parliament from 1990 to 1993.
Before the 1993 elections, changes in the elections laws and the unpopular performances of Islamist leaders as cabinet ministers led to a decrease in IAF electoral success. The IAF took sixteen seats and six more went to independent Islamists. IAF secretary general Ishaq Farhan did manage to keep his parliamentary seat, but Arabiyyat lost his reelection bid. In recognition of his importance and influence in the Islamist movement, however, the king appointed Arabiyyat to the upper house of parliament.
The IAF and most opposition parties, from the secular left through the religious right, demanded a revision of the electoral law. When no changes were made, the IAF led a coalition of eleven opposition parties from across the political spectrum in an electoral boycott. As a result, no IAF members were seated in the 1997–2001 parliament, but six independent Islamists did secure seats, including former IAF members Abdullah Akayla and Bassam Ammush. Since IAF figures had been successful within Jordan's professional associations, winning key leadership posts, these associations took the lead, in the absence of the IAF from the 1997–2001 parliament, in maintaining IAF activism on such issues as the antinormalization campaign.
The IAF returned to full electoral participation in 2003, despite a new electoral law that increased the number of deputies to 110 (including a minimum of six seats for women) and maintained uneven electoral districts. The party negotiated its participation with the palace, fielding only thirty candidates. Secretary General Hamza Mansur and Shura Council president Arabiyyat (president of the party's Shura or consultative council) decided not to run themselves, and also excluded controversial IAF figures such as Abd al-Munʿim Abu Zant. Abu Zant, who shortly thereafter won a seat as an independent, was expelled from the IAF for running anyway. The party gained eighteen seats in the election, including one for Haya al-Musaymi, the only woman candidate in the IAF, who won the largest vote of any woman candidate. An additional six seats went to independent Islamists, many of whom, like Abu Zant, were former IAF members. Having returned to parliament, and with a solid base in the professional associations, the IAF pursued its agenda: abrogating the 1994 peace treaty; preventing normalization of relations with Israel; supporting Palestinian aspirations; countering U.S. dominance in the region; and establishing shariʿa and more traditional roles for men and women in Jordanian society.
see also amman; hashimite house (house of hashim); irbid; muslim brotherhood; shariʿa.
Boulby, Marion. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Kings of Jordan 1945–1993. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999.
Kilani, Saʾeda, ed. and trans. Islamic Action Front Party. Amman, Jordan: Al-Urdun Al-Jadid Research Center, 1993.
Schwedler, Jillian, ed. Islamic Movements in Jordan, translated by George Musleh. Amman, Jordan: Sindbad Publishing, 1997.
Wiktorowicz, Quintan. The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and State Power in Jordan. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.
curtis r. ryan