Skip to main content

What do Jordanians really think about the war on IS?

Once fragile support for the anti-IS coalition has been replaced by widespread calls for vengeance - but is the unity real?
People took to the streets of Amman on Friday 6 February 2015 (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)

AMMAN: The Jordanian capital Amman erupted in protest on Friday with thousands of people taking to the streets to show their support for the family of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kasasba, who was burnt alive by his Islamic State captors.

While Kasasba’s capture in December initially further divided Jordan, with critics saying that the Hashemite kingdom should withdraw from the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, Kasasba’s killing seems to have reignited support for the military intervention and also for Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Kasasba’s father Safi, who only weeks before had told NPR that he "strongly condemn[ed] our participation in the coalition" and believed that the army was for "defending Jordan" and not spreading through the world like America, demanded revenge, telling reporters on Friday that “the least Jordan could do now was to destroy Islamic State”.

Tribal leaders, who had only days before doubted Jordan’s involvement, also attended the rallies in large numbers to demand a fierce response and pledge allegiance to the king on behalf of their tribe. The army promised to oblige and deliver “an earthshaking retaliation.”

Some protesters privately voiced hatred for what they called ‘Islamist’ parties and groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood which is a legal party in Jordan. However, while a few lone protesters tried to shout public slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood, march organisers were quick to shut these down, telling people that the rally was not political, but merely intended to show solidarity for Kasasba’s family. Others refused to point fingers, and urged for all Jordanians to unite against IS. All over the world, various clerics including those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood have denounced Islamic State actions, but this has failed to ward off all criticism. 

The mood in Amman has been tense ever since footage of Kasasba being burnt alive first surfaced earlier this month. Some men with recognisably religious attire have complained of being confronted in restaurants or in the street by people shouting derogatory terms at them or accusing them of supporting IS.

Resentment against the release of Abu Qatada, an al-Qaeda-linked cleric who was found not guilty of terrorism charges by a Jordanian court in 2013, was also high as was that concerning the case of Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi released just days before.  

With sentiments changing so quickly, however, Middle East Eye went to find out how the Jordanian street really feels and how the residents of Amman can justify such a rapid public opinion shift.

Feras al- Abbadi - Head of the Islamic Shura Party

Feras al- Abbadi (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)
(The party was founded last year and avows loyalty to the Jordanian state, but claims to be independent of the monarchy.)   

“We are here to send a message to the whole world and that message is that all Jordanians have one heart.”

“What ISIS [another term for the Islamic State] did is an act of terrorism that offends Islam and Muslims, and this act made Jordan more determined to support the Hashemite kingdom and to bring an end this organisation.”  

“As a party, in the beginning we said this war was not ours, but after the criminal act done by ISIS the war became our war. We are now one solid fortified wall. The acts committed by ISIS is a replica of what happened to the Muslims of Burma.

“Only God punishes with fire! Islam is a religion of forgiveness and compassion. ISIS is a group of mercenaries and they have no religion. A homeland you don’t protect is a homeland you don’t deserve to live in. All of us are ready to be martyrs.”

Yasser Al-Saied Nour, a professor at Cairo's al-Azhar University, who attended the rally in Amman

Professor Yasser Al-Saied Nour (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)

“We have high hopes that this [Islamic State] problem will end soon. Muath is one of the first martyrs that unified the leadership, which will put an end to this group of criminals.”

“And this problem will end soon - not in five or ten years like the US says. We hope with god’s grace that this group will be finished in one year because this group is very far from Islam.”

Mohammed Abu Hammad, a protester

Mohammed Abu Hammad (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)
"[This is] the most inhumane thing to happen to a person. We came here to stand against terrorists and terrorism. All of us are Muath al-Kasasba. We were always for Jordan’s military intervention but now we support it even more, and their [IS] end will come soon."

Father Rif’at Bader – General Director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media

Father Rif’at Bader (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)

“We are very hurt by the way this hero left us. We suffered two tragedies: the first is that he was killed, and the second is that he was killed in a dreadful manner. This horror shows the true image of this rogue band.”

“They don’t consider the sacred dignity of man and they spread corruption in many Arab countries. Jordan is a ship and it suffered high waves which have caused a sadness in all of us, but the ship will keep on sailing as long as we have a brilliant captain, and a wise leadership.”

“Internally we must strengthen our lines and our unity, we might not embark on a ground invasion [of Syria] but we are facing a radical mindset in our enemy that is built on hatred. We know that they will try to infiltrate us, but Jordanian society is aware enough to resist thanks to our wise leadership.”

“IS is an organisation. It is not a state so it will be easy to eradicate them, whether we use the military approach, or the intellectual approach. The younger generations should be educated not to listen to the calls of these groups, which utilizes religion to murder humans.”

“Religion is peace and love and familiarity, so I think after this hideous crim,; anyone who was thinking of sympathising with such organisations and their dogma will now be forced to take a step back and say: ‘I’m with the idea of living and I won’t ever be with the idea of death, murdering and suffering.”

“It may take time, but we will beat this abhorrent group.”

Mohammed Abdul Hameed, taxi driver who did not attend the rally

“Muath [Kasasba] is the man who unified the Arab and Islamic nation - now we are becoming aware of the situation in Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and the entire world. He was sent to us from god to confront those ignorant people, [who] have no regard for humanity.”

“They have created disorder in Islam, but Islam has nothing to do with them. By doing what they did they drove all of the people away from them - their end is nigh.”

“If all of the neighboring countries stood up together, then this will be the beginning of the end for them. Their only mission is to spread blood and death. This incident made Jordanians stronger than ever.”

Fares Nafe’ - A Christian from Mosul in northern Iraq who attended the rally in Amman

Fares Nafe' (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)

“Since the 1980s, we have been losing our young men. The Islamic State came to Mousl and we were forced to flee in June 2014."

"We have seen so many of these groups rise up over the last eight years and these armed groups have had so many names, but the latest installment is IS.”

“Your only choices are to become a Muslim or pay tribute or to be butchered. We stayed in our homes under the shelling and heavy bombardment but in the end when ISIS were no more than five minutes away from us we left.”

“I have young daughters so I was afraid for them. Many families also fled because of them. We fled to Kurdistan, but our homes were taken and our belongings stolen - such a sad thing to work your whole life for something to lose it all in one day.”

“Living in Jordan though has been great. We are safe here and the church has been taking care of us.”

Sami Fakhori, media professional

Sami Fakhori (MEE / Arwa' Debaja)

“Jordan is a home for patriots. But I say that the Muslim Brotherhood are not patriotic. In their most recent statement they called Muath al-Kasasba the ‘deceased’ and they did not say ‘the martyr’. We refuse this word! Kasasba is a martyr whether they like it or not.”

“This vigil was perfect but some people didn’t like talking about Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. I say they should declare their patriotism and loyalty to King Abdulla, and then we will respect them! As long as they are against Jordan, then we will not like them or respect them.”

“Their position is not clear. Even Hamza Mansoor [the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan] when asked by a TV reporter whether IS was a terrorist organisation, refused to answer. He just said ‘All of the organisations are terrorists’ but he he did not specify that IS was a terrorist organisation and or admit that they were terrorists. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.