CHARLOTTE, N.C., December 7, 2014 — Could Jordan become the next hot-spot in the Middle East?
Jordan has been relatively peaceful in comparison with its neighbors in the region, but that could be changing. Based on reports out of Jordan, one of the best allies of the U.S. in the Middle East, the Islamic State has slowly been creeping into the country.
Jordanian officials claim the threat is overblown, but in the desert town of Maan, locals have been busy removing black flags from rooftops, whitewashing graffiti off the walls of buildings and tearing down public signs of support for ISIS.
While the Jordanian government downplays the growing support for the Islamic State within the country, followers of ISIS claim the group is merely biding its time after receiving surprisingly strong support last summer during protests there.
That is typical of the tactics employed by Islamic extremists. They lay low and are non-disruptive until they have the numbers to take control. Once they have the power, the extremists move in and take over.
For the moment, Jordanian officials believe that ISIS only numbers in the thousands out of a population of nearly 6.5 million. However, some Islamic militants are confident they will eventually have enough strength to take over Jordan. It is only a matter of time.
Furthermore, the Islamic State has already demonstrated its ability to control large numbers of people with relatively small military forces simply by overpowering weaker, less organized opponents and by using fear to cow civilians.
Like Hezbollah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, ISIS is promising radical change in Jordan if they are able to gain control. It’s an appealing option for those who are unable to find jobs and who are feeling the desperate crunch of inflation.
Combined with the sense that the West has abandoned them and is ill equipped to deal with the internal culture of the country, it is no surprise that Jordanians might lean toward promises of hope offered by the Islamic State.
Estimates are that approximately 2,000 Jordanians are fighting in Syria and Iraq with ISIS.
During the summer, jihadi protests were held in several Jordanian cities where marchers raised black banners and chanted Islamic State slogans. The fear is that rampant poverty combined with anger with the government could rapidly fuel widespread violence in the future.
Studies show that poverty by itself does not cause terrorism. Ironically, researchers say that terrorists are generally better educated and have more money than relatively peaceful and moderate Muslims.
While those studies may be correct, Islam was created in the seventh century as a source of hope for poor, ignorant and disenfranchised desert dwellers. Given the ability of cultural zealots to appeal to the same segments of society as those who were brainswashed by Muhammad 14 centuries ago, there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to be influenced by their peers today.
Such fears were echoed by Maan’s mayor, Majed al-Sharari who said, “My expectation is that because of this pressure, there will be a huge explosion in Jordan. I don’t expect 2015 to pass peacefully. The signs are there.“
Sadly, negative signs also exist in the West where we refuse to acknowledge the danger of expanding Islamic extremism.
As usual, when it finally does erupt, we will be ready with our hand-wringing, our rhetoric and our phony condemnation. In the meantime, ISIS will only become stronger.
President Obama and Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, along with several other Western leaders, continue to insist that ISIS is “not Islam.” However, the Associated Press claims that many people throughout the Middle East have a different point of view, calling the Islamic State “the real Islam.” If ISIS succeeds in Jordan, that will be evidence for the latter view.
ISIS has to be one or the other. It cannot be both. So which is it?
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News; follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod.