Jordan gets tough with ISIL sympathisers
“We are with the Islamic State and you are with Obama and the infidels,” Ahmed Abu Ghalous a big, angry-looking man in blue prison overalls, shouts after being sentenced to five years in jail for “promoting the views of a terrorist group” on the internet. The outburst earns him a further 50 dinar (£45) fine for contempt of court.ISIL is an existential threat to modern civilization and any state that aspires to modernity. Jordan is wise to deal with this threat before it consumed by it.
It is a sunny morning in Amman and the three uniformed judges in Jordan’s state security court are briskly working their way through a pile of slim grey folders on the bench before them. Each details the charges against 25 or so defendants accused of supporting the fighters of the Islamic State (Isis), now rampaging across Syria and Iraq under their sinister black banners and sending nervous jitters across the Arab world.
Thamer al-Khatib, convicted on the same charge, protests too: “Why is it all right for people to express sympathy for [Syrian president] Bashar al-Assad when he is killing women and children?”
His question goes unanswered but it resonates for Sunni Muslims far beyondJordan as they watch western governments and their Arab allies mobilise to fight the jihadis while Assad gains the upper hand and Israel maintains its occupation over the Palestinians.
Security is tight inside and outside the building, guarded by a bewildering collection of soldiers, policemen and gendarmes. Relatives watch as prisoners in handcuffs and leg irons shuffle past. The no-smoking signs that flank the obligatory pictures of Hashemite monarchs past and present are ignored by court officials and black-gowned lawyers alike. Chants of “Allahu Akbar” can be heard from the holding cells. Like every other prisoner escorted into the narrow metal cage that serves as a dock, Khatib and Abu Ghalous wear the bushy beard of the devout Salafi.
In recent weeks these scenes have become routine as the kingdom has moved swiftly to crush the slightest sign of sympathy for or involvement with Isis and other extremist groups – especially Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida. “We want to deprive these terrorist organisations of any ideological basis they have,” explains Mohammed al-Momani, the government spokesman.