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Islamic Fundamentalists Gain Influence in Jordan

June 18, 1990

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Attacks by Sunni Moslem zealots on banks, breweries and night clubs underline the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalists in one of the most secular Arab states.

In May, an Islamic court convicted journalist Ibrahim Abu Naab, 59, of apostasy, or abandoning Islam, and ruled that he be divorced from his wife and separated from his children.

Abdullah Shamayleh, prosecutor-general of the Islamic Court, urged it during Abu Naab’s trial to permit ″the shedding of his blood.″

That would not appear necessary, since anyone who kills an apostate is immune from prosecution under Islamic law.

Jordan’s civil law does not grant immunity, however, and the civil appeals court probably will overrule the Islamic tribunal’s verdict.

The ″crime″ Abu Naab committed was attending a meeting in Britain of the breakaway Qadiani sect, which is outlawed in many Moslem states, and allegedly converting from the mainstream Sunni sect.

His case reflects the increasing strength of fundamentalists, who became the largest legislative bloc after the November parliamentary elections, Jordan’s first in 22 years. The Moslem Brotherhood won 22 of the 80 seats and Islamic independents got 12.

They have pledged to work for strict application of Sharia, the Islamic religious law, but have said they will work within the constitution and not challenge King Hussein.

Arab leaders worry about increasing fundamentalism among the world’s 1 billion Moslems. Recent moves toward greater democracy in some Arab states are largely an outgrowth of that concern.

Khalil Abdulrahman Khalifa, a 28-year-old engineer, said: ″The Islamic tide is growing these days because the people have lost trust in their governments, which have not moved so far to solve the central Arab issue, the Palestinian problem.

″We want liberation and we want to have an effective role in the world. We want the Arabs to be respected, not ignored. The Islamic parties attract us because they match our outlook.″

Jordan’s fundamentalists are not having it all their own way. A government ban on male hairdressers working in women’s beauty salons, imposed in May because of Islamic pressure, was canceled in two weeks after strong public protest.

The fundamentalists sought to enforce a Koranic law that a woman cannot be touched by a man who is not her husband or a relative.

Even though the fundamentalists ultimately lost, many Jordanians are disturbed about the government of Prime Minister Mudar Badran bowing to the pressure in the first place.

When the prohibition was imposed, the English-language Jordan Times declared: ″It is clear that such a ban will lead to other decisions that will limit the freedom of the individual.″

It said the sole purpose was ″to cater to the whims of some religious or conservative groups which do not represent the majority of the population.″

During street protests in May, after an Israeli civilian killed Palestinian workers in Israel, fundamentalists attacked businesses considered un-Islamic.

Mobs raided banks, the Dutch-owned Amstel brewery and night clubs that serve liquor, causing damage worth millions of dollars. Charging interest and drinking alcohol are forbidden by the Koran, the Moslem holy book.

Several Amman night clubs were attacked in February and March.

State television has been affected. Scenes of actors kissing, or even holding hands, are deleted because the fundamentalists consider them lewd.

Newspaper or poster advertisements showing scantily clad women have disappeared.

Attendance at prayers on Friday, the Moslem sabbath, has grown considerably.

The area covered by prayer rugs on the sidewalks around Amman’s Husseini Mosque in the teeming bazaar district has been extended to accomodate more people.

Fundamentalist strength is on the rise in the Israeli-occupied territories across the Jordan River, challenging the Palestine Liberation Organization. A movement called Hamas, or Zeal, has played a major role in the 30-month-old Palestinian uprising and made major gains in municipal elections in Israel’s Arab towns.

In Egypt, Moslem militants have attacked Christian churches and, in clashes with police this year, 34 people have been killed and more than 70 wounded. Fundamentalism is spreading in Tunisia.

In Turkey, Moslem but secular, fundamentalist violence is increasing and several outspoken champions of secularism have been assassinated.

Earlier this year, the Turkish government was forced to lift a rule against women university students wearing Islamic-style headscarves on campus.

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