Jordan, which has long stood apart from other Muslim nations for its more secular political outlook, may be moving in more religious directions due to the rising Muslim revival taking place among the country’s Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians are estimated to represent a majority of Jordan’s 5 million inhabitants. The Washington Post (Jan. 28) reports that it is in the impoverished refugee camps where the call for Islamic activism and rejection of American policies is the strongest.
The intractable nature of the refugees plight has drowned out the once-powerful influence of secular nationalism. “Islamic currents carrying messages of unity and defiance have filled that vacuum,” writes Anthony Shadid. Aid workers say that a decade ago in the main refugee camp of Baqaa only a small minority of schoolgirls wore the hijab or veil.
Today, practically all of them do. The union that represents the camp’s 4,500 teachers is now solidly in the hands of the Jordan’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood (which is increasingly Palestinian). In doing extensive polling in the country, Mustafa Hamarneh of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies estimates that the brotherhood’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front, would today draw twice as many votes in the camps as elsewhere in Jordan.