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Hunger Helps Muslim Brotherhood

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Faraz al-Mazrawi runs a Muslim Brotherhood social services organization in the Jabal al-Nasr district of Amman, Jordan. The long food queue outside the center’s kitchen every morning attests to the poverty of the neighborhood, which is made up primarily of Palestinian refugees.

Jordan, like other developing countries, has been badly hit by the global rise in food prices. The price of meat has risen by 25%; tomatoes, a staple of low-income households here, cost five times what they did a short while ago.

To counter the crisis, the government has cut import tariffs on some foodstuffs, and increased public sector salaries by 20 percent. But that has meant little for the plight of Jabal a-Nasr’s 150,000 residents, among whom unemployment stands at over 20%; life there has become, in some cases, a struggle to get enough food to survive.
Fawaz says he’s seen increased criminality in his neighborhood and families foraging in the trash for food.

That’s where his Muslim Brotherhood center comes in. Every morning at 9 am, the kitchen hands out parcels of freshly baked bread. On the Thursday morning I visited, a butchered cow had been donated to the center the previous day, and beef stew was on offer. For many of the families I spoke to, this was the first time they’d eaten meat this month. But here the food comes with a caveat. To receive food aid you must register at the center, one of 60 across the country, and attend classes advocating the imposition of Sharia law. Members of the Jabal al-Nasr center are also expected to conform to Islamist mores. In this video you will see Farwaz checking with one woman to see how long she¹s been wearing a Burka.

The Muslim Brotherhood was originally set up in Egypt in 1926 with the aim of establishing the Koran and Sunnah, the recorded deeds of the Prophet, at the heart of government. Subsequent groups flourished across the Middle East, often in conflict with the region’s secular regimes.

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has been allowed to stand in elections for the country’s weak but vocal parliament, although the government has often displayed its distrust of the organization, arresting members, and as Fawaz describes, regularly harassing donors attending meetings at his center (local donors provide the center with most of its food and money, Fawaz claims).

Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Islamic Action Front, don’t hide their hopes for increased recruitment because of the food crisis after a disappointing showing at last year’s elections.

“There’s no doubt that high prices are sending people towards our organization,” said Zaki Erheid, the Islamic Action Front¹s Secretary General. “There¹s a lot of anger among the people, and they want answers that only Islam can provide.” In Jordan, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the provision of food and support is an important act of patronage. Such politicking is a world away from the concerns of most of the families I spoke to, but as their frustration with the government grows, so too will their willingness to listen to more radical voices.

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Comments (29)






Most modern Christian mission organizations do not require any participation in religious activities to receive services, though religious instruction is always offered. Thus, the worst case is that the receiver has to hear a few words about Jesus before going home, which last time I checked does not kill anyone. Thus most Christian charities (though unfortunately not all) are not any more coercive than a billboard. This muslim organization, however, crosses that line.

It is fashionable to prove how smart we are by exposing the tricks of religion as mere coercion, but I would like to ask pragmatically - if the religious groups disappear, how do these people eat? For all atheism's self-righteous proofs it seems they would rather people starve than hear that there might be a God. That's just closed minded and cold.

muscat friend:

why would a woman's right to wear a bikini have anything to do with crime in America?

another interesting article by Mr. Fairweather.

Ibrahim Mahfouz:

There is an Arab saying that “to every bird there is a different trap”. Those same Muslim Brotherhood who are proselytizing the poor Palestinians in Jordan with a bowl of soup are paying huge sums of money to female public figures, especially in the entertainment industry in Egypt, to look Islamists. The well known Egyptian belly dancer, Zizi Mustafa, admitted that she was given a large sum of money to wear the Hijab, and also that she was delegated to talk the late famous Egyptian actress, Suad Husni, into wearing a Hijab in return for paying her medical bills while in London for back injury treatment.

So biased:

This article is so biased. The translation is so bad, it seems it's been made by MEMRI, they are good in putting words in peoples' mouth.


The guy first asks: "where is kartek" which means: "where is your card?" NOT where is your voucher. there seems to be a membership thing going on here. Members of the islamic brother's party.
It is good that someone is feeding these people and that there is an organization to feed them. If you want to weeken the islamic brothers, then give aid to Jordan to take care of the many poor people who live in it.
For the person who said they are an Israeli problem since they are Palestinian refugees. I say: "when did you here of Israel trying to help the Palestinians?" Google strip searching at Israeli airports where they look inside women's vaginas.


The translation is not accurate. I also think that this guy knows that that woman puts the cover on her head to get food and takes it off after that. I don't think it is as strict as some people think and poverty is poverty.

Jean Wall:

A dog trainer taught me to exert dominance over my dog by witholding food and only allowing him to eat out of my hand.To treat humans the same way is an act of degradation, not an act of charity.
Hunger has been a mechanism of political and religious domination since time out 0f mind.
"Charity" with any strings attached is not charity at all...cherishing another human being requires no religious impetus...the worlds religions have ,wisely, tried to encourage the BEHAVIOR of cherishing by attaching religious merrit to it.The practitioners of the world's religions have ,perniciously turned that bit of spiritual bribery around.


I ask: why did israel do it! the crisis is a palestinian refugee crisis.


Hunger also helped many Christians evangelicals in Indnoesia and Moslem Africa too!!

Oral Roberts:

The translation is terrible and puts words in the guy's mouth that he simply does not say.

Michael D. Houst:

TANSTAAFL, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." Robert A. Heinlein had it right in his 1966 novel, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

In this real life, 2008 instance, the price you pay to eat is to endure Islamic prostelytizing. Not any different from a Salvation Army, or christian soup kitchen.


To Ted bAines,
Violence in the middle east is related to political issues not Islam.
What I would ask you is, why in your country, where women are free to dress in bikini, have only 2 kids, and eat well, random violence is killing every year more than the number of Americans killed in the war in Iraq?


First thing to notice is, the Arabic subtitles are so wrong in translation. Secondly, the Arab governments, who are supported by Europe and the Americans, are so busy securing their power and wealth that they have no time to provide the basic needs for their people. What I don't understand is what in this video shows that this organosation is a radical organosation, is it because it's an Islamic organisation?

D. Edward Farrar:

Wasn't it in George Bernard Shaw's play "Major Barbara" that it was said: "It is cheap work converting starving men with a Bible in one hand and a slice of bread in the other." The turn of the century industrialist Andrew Undershaft was speaking of the British Salvation Army when he said it.

Religious organizations have a long and despicable history of exploiting human misfortune and using food and medical care as bribes to buy conformity to their creeds. There is no need to pick on the Muslim Brotherhood. Here in the US we have convicts in our prisons who are promised more favorable chances of an early parole if they attend Bible study while they are behind bars.

The only thing new and important here is that with Muslim radicals seeking to bolster their ranks in this way it is very clear that a foreign policy built around actively fighting hunger in the third world will be an effective tool against them. This is something that should have been considered long ago.


It is certainly reprehensible to tie charity to belief, to exploit hunger by forcing observance to a particular faith or tradition.

However, don't forget that as this is taking place in Jordan's poor neighborhoods Christian missionaries, in Africa, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, whether by Franklin Graham or by a Marine passing out coins bearing Christian scripture on them in Fallujah to people dependent on that Marine for security, are doing the same thing. Food, medicine and security have been currency for proselytizing for centuries.

There have even been examples in America of faith-based organizations, financed by the US government, using similar coercive measures.


It is not charity what the Muslim Brotherhood is doing. It is pure and simple blackmail on hunger of the poor.


To the Beltway Insider

the charity can be distributed to any one, regardless of their religious belief. thats part of the humanity of Islam, and of course other religions.


Yes Beltway Insider you are right, according to Islam charity is for all. You cannot hold back food, water or any other item based on people's religion, race or nationality.

At the time of the prophet muslims were eating the same stuff with their prisoners of war.Something nobody ever achieved since then (even Muslims)

Another example is the slavery, eventhough Islam didn't abolish the slavery completely it made it very difficult. According to Prophet Mohammad's sayings "you need to give the slave ( pow- that's only way a person can be slaved by the way according to Islamic law) the same thing you are eating, and you need to wear the same stuff, so on so on" . So this made slavery unbeneficial for many practically eventhough Muslims (after Prophet Mohammad) didn't keep up his words and sunnah (actions) that well and unfortunately over time Islam has acquired many foreign things into itself that are not based on Quran nor Prophet's sayings.

So what you are seeing nowadays in many Islamic countries is probably % 80 Arabic Culture + distortion of the message over in 1500 years. Otherwise how come the early muslims could expand to such an enormous areas just in 30-40 years. Some orientalists try to explain this with sword or wars, but you cannot explain this phenomenon only with that.

Charity, good deeds were the top reasons for the rapid spread of Islam. According to historical resources 20-30 years after Prophet, it was impossible to find a poor person in the vast Islamic state to give any money, or to help them as Islam encourages or even commands to help the needy and poor regardless of their religion.


Re: Cut 'em off:

First, OPEC isn't Muslim. 6 out of 13 member countries aren't even Arab.

Second, Jordan isn't an oil-exporting country, and it isn't in OPEC. In fact, they produce hardly any oil at all.

Third, OPEC probably couldn't produce much more oil even if they wanted to. It used to be that OPEC would set a price target and then each producer would "cheat" a little (as predicted by economic cartel theory) which would keep the price below the target. Recently, they haven't been able to pump more so the prices have been far above their targets, and they've been increasing their targets.

Fourth, it's not your oil, and you don't have a right to it at $70 or any other price. They have a right to get whatever price they can get. Deal with it.

Beltway Insider:

One of the "pillars" of Islamic law is charity. I have never heard that its distribution should be based on a test of religious orthodoxy nor practice.

Anyone more familiar with Islam, please comment -- is charity just for Muslims, or should it be available to all, according to Sharia?

Cut em' off:

Let's stop US Gov't funded food shipments to OPEC States immediately until they begin producing enough oil to lower prices back below $70 a barrel. If they fail to do so, then we have enough surplus crop to support ethanol/bio-diesel production at home. We, too, can play hardball.


I think we fail to recognize the fact that we, the US, have played a critical role in the displacement of Palestinians, as well as Iraqis, that place a significant burden on the social safety nets (good or bad) in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Until we decide to play a real role in addressing the plight of the Palestinians, our allies, and others, will be overwhelmed with the needs of refugees.


This has been going on in poorer African Nations for decades. Muslim mosques and schools are set up on the outskirts of local villages, along with a new bore for fresh water. If you want fresh water, you have to attend the mosque and learn how to read the Islamic scriptures (according to the teacher's take on it - and never in your own native tounge).

There are some humanitarian and Christian mission organisations trying to stop this by drilling bores, no strings attached in villages not yet 'occupied', but with the Billions of Petro-dollars flooding from Islamic states, it is a loosing battle.


Where are the incredibly wealthy Saudis and Gulf States in all this?


Where are the incredibly wealthy Saudis and Gulf States in all this?


Citizens of wealthy countries would love to donate directly to non-partisan groups supplying food. Are there any non-partisan groups within Jordan currently?

Jag Rao:

It is highly unlikely that a person with an empty belly will engage in abstract reflections on religion, secularism, righ or wrong. A hungry belly means desperation and therefore opportunism. They will go to whosoever provides food and basic servies.

The question that Mr.Fairwether should be more relentlessly asking is why the Jordanian government has failed to provide safey nets and basic services to the poor. Why is it that this government, that is held as a model of modernization, failed in the basic tasks that any modern government is supposed to do? Is it because that the country --- a monarchy with unrepresentative concentration of power has a weak vocal parliament and no true democratic representation of the various interest and class groups within Jordan?


So they are using famine and fear to bolster the ranks of their radical movement, how surprising.

Where are the organizers for the secular movement, why have they not provided similar succor to the needy? Or are we just not hearing about it?

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.