At odds with ‘Iraq’s Jordanian jihadis’

Well, the first thing that I did this sunny Sunday morning was to read a 12-page feature in the New York Times entitled "Iraq’s Jordanian Jihadis." Trust me, this not a good way to start your weekend. Here is one excerpt:

Now we know that the quiet kingdom was producing the man thought to be spearheading the deadliest aspects of the Iraqi insurgency — and who brought the fight back to Jordan in three hotel bombings last December: Ahmed Fadeel Nazal al-Khalayleh, better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after his hometown of Zarqa, a poor city an hour’s drive north of Amman. How the quiet kingdom of Jordan could produce a man who has become known as the Sheik of the Slaughterers is a question at the heart of contemporary jihad.

Zarqawi is exceptionally cruel, but he is otherwise not such an exception. Jordan is home to many jihadis, young men from much the same milieu that produced Zarqawi, and especially since the United States invaded Iraq nearly three years ago, Jordan has increasingly become a not-so-quiet place, a place where local Islamists cross easily into Iraq and back, a place where a jihadist underground can seem almost a normal part of a nation’s life. And if such an underground can become normal in quiet Jordan, what is to keep it from becoming normal in any Muslim country?

I’m fully aware of the existence of jihadis in Jordan, but this feature makes Jordan look like one big jihad incubator! I’m sure this piece would cause the average American reader to think twice before visiting my country! Ok, here is a quick message to those that have already read the artilce: Yes, Jordan has its issues. But it is still a safe place with extremely friendly, helpful people and stunning scenery.

16 thoughts on “At odds with ‘Iraq’s Jordanian jihadis’”

  1. As St. Paul describes it in 2nd Tim; Jihad in itself is not bad; the bad in it if it is used in the wrong way as anything else. Paul says at the end of his life; ‘I fought the good fight- translated in the Arabic Bible as ” Jaahadto aljihaad al 7asan” , but we know from his life, and the core of Christianity, that the fight is spiritual. Other religions use the same term to refer to the intimidation and violent jihad to reach out to others.

  2. I spent a summer in Irbid, supposedly jihadi central, and didn’t even realize it until I started following news accounts when I got back. Really, if it were that dangerous, you’d hear about it all the time in a more high-profile way.

  3. This story would not keep me from visiting Jordan.Other than the hotel bombings last Fall,there really haven’t been any terrorist attacks that I am aware of.That Zarqawi is not the only jihadist from Jordan should not surprise anyone,but at least they don’t do their dirty work at home.Besides,Jordan is not the only country that breeds muslim jihadists.They can hail from anywhere,including Europe and the possibly the US.

  4. I love to learn about the country I grew up in from people who probably never visited it; Irbid is also known as Jihadi Central? This is news to me.
    I didn’t mean you Brian when I said “people”, I hope you enjoyed your stay in Jordan and hope you visit again.

  5. well said Hamzeh 🙂 they got the jihad in wrong way!!
    and its just people surprised from what happened coz its the first time, Jordan is a peacful country and it will stay like this, Jordan under God’s protection not people 🙂

  6. That Zarqawi is not the only jihadist from Jordan should not surprise anyone,but at least they don’t do their dirty work at home.
    As someone who longs to visit Jordan, I’m not certain this is comforting. It reminds me that so many Jordanians supposedly think that terrorists blowing up Iraqis is okay, but “In Jordan? Why that’s an outrage!”
    Jihadis have to start somewhere, and why not close to home? I’m sure it is safe for you, Natasha, but are you saying it would be safe for an American who wasn’t verrrry careful to disguise himself as errr…Bulgarian or something?

  7. “And if such an underground can become normal in quiet Jordan, what is to keep it from becoming normal in any Muslim country?”
    mmmm…. I don’t know, maybe stop invading and occupying neighbouring countries?!?!?!

  8. hi, as the author of this article, i understand why it would disturb jordanians, and regret that. although what i wrote was true, certainly saudi arabia is a far more dangerous exporter of both the jihadi salafi ideology and of the fighters themselves. unfortunately because of space limitations a very important point i was trying to make was left out. the point was not so much that jordan is responsible for this phenomenon, but that between the american occupation of iraq and the brutality associated with it, and the israeli occupation of palestine and the brutality associated with it, jordan is experiencing some of the blowback of being caught in the middle of the two most painful crises in the arab world. thats not to say that there are not internal problems, but the real danger is the reaction throughout the arab and muslim world to the US war on terror and the anger this has caused.

  9. Wow, Mr. Rosen. That’s an extremely important point to have excised don’t you think? Hearing it now, it sounds like your editor (perhaps you) was working a more sensationalistic angle, an angle that works to the decided detriment of Jordan and its citizens. While those of us reading your article who’ve lived in Jordan for some time — or are Jordanians — have been smirking over the idea of Irbid as “Jihadi Central” that really misses the hard reality you’ve created. Read a few of the “potential visitor to the kingdom comments” here and you’ll get some idea of what I mean.
    I think, seeing the length of the article and its location in the long form portion of the Times, it is hard to accept that cutting such an important facet of the article was due merely to “space limitations.” The few sentences you’ve added here provide such an important nuance to the story that I’d think any reader would feel a bit cheated knowing this point was lost to them. Your editor, perhaps with your input, made an error in cutting this bit out … truly he/she/you did. And just think, it would have only cost you four or five sentences.
    That said, I do respect the fact you came here to add this information. At least you’ve put it out there for those interested and resourceful. That says something. You’d have done yourself one better to have made sure it stayed there. I certainly hope your soon to be released book conveys its points adequately, with each and every nuance intact.

  10. i dont think i ever claimed irbid was “jihadi central” but it is certainly a center for jordanian salafis going to iraq. having attended several trials of accused terror suspects and many were from irbid, and i visited a mosque in irbid where jihad was advocated and where young salafis met to plan attacks. the article was not accusing jordan of being the main exporter of jihadis, but its still an important phenomenon that deserves attention

  11. Nir, it’s too bad you got hung up on what was really just an aside to the main point here: the editing/cutting of the points you mention. That edit really changed the tenor of the article, such that it does seem like Jordan is the primary exporter of jihadis. That’s really the problem isn’t it? I think you might just feel similarly, judging from your responses here and elsewhere. You seem disturbed that something you say you wanted kept in the article was edited out. If what you are saying here was cut, then I’d have to agree. The context you provide in your first comment here is very important. You agree I’m sure, as it’s your point. The problem is that these points are NOT in the published article. That said, it’s good we get to see them … and it’s interesting to know that they were cut by the NY Times.
    As to all things Irbid, that’s just the thoughts of many who’ve been to, lived in, or been educated in and around Irbid. I’m certainly not decrying or trying to debunk your research. I think it is excellent. But part of it reminded me of an article by Robert Fisk, a journalist I’d long admired, describing protests near the Israeli embassy in Amman’s Rabieh neighborhood. Fisk, describing his arrival in Amman from Jerusalem, spoke of seeing a city clouded by the smoke of protestors’ fires. Well, I was there that day and, aside from the smoke of the odd little grass fire, there was no cloud over the city. None. The sky was azure blue. I decided to put Fisk’s description into that gray literary category: poetic license. But it disappointed, as it painted a scene far more dangerous than reality. I think that’s what I, and many others felt when reading your article. But that’s just my opinion and nothing for you to get hung up about.
    The real issue here is how the context and information you provided in just a few short sentences on this blog could have provided a more complete picture of things in Jordan and in the region generally. It would have been helpful to your readers, not that your job is to assist with Jordan’s PR, and not that this story seeks a touristy angle. I just think many are tired of seeing Jordan cast in “jihadi” light (a tip of the hat to Mr. Zarqawi). Considering all that Jordan has to offer, it just sucks to see another story about Jordan and jihad. I fear Jordanians open their doors and their hearts in a way that sometimes let’s others take advantage. But that’s Jordan plight at present: Between Iraq and a hard place ®

  12. i think the point of the article was that jordan is a moderate country where nobody expects to find this phenomenon, hence its important to recognize it there. its not a surprise to find salafis in saudi arabia, since salafism is the enshrined by the establishment. i was in no way describing jordan as the key country in all of this, nor irbid as the key city for this in jordan. thats the point, that in otherwise quiet jordan, and in otherwise quiet irbid, you can find these guys, urging young men to go kill shias in iraq.
    as for robert fisk, in my experience he tends to make up what he writes, and though i agree with him ideologically on most things, i do not think he is a real journalist. i do think jordan is in a difficult position, and i certainly cant offer a solution other than an immediate american withdrawal from iraq (though jordan profits from the occupation) and an immediate israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines and compensation to the palestinian refugees and recognition of the right of return.
    while i wish there was more space in the article for the other points i wanted to make, the important part of the story was there, that this is going on, even in jordan, so imagine what its like elsewhere.
    in fact, i think one of the most important points of the article was azzam’s anecdote from falluja, where he supports the thesis that it was american aggression that provoked the resistance.

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