A whole city full of misunderstanders of Islam. How did this happen — particularly in modern, moderate Jordan? “Pro-ISIS sympathies simmer in Jordanian city,” by Samira Said, Jomana Karadsheh and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN, September 30, 2014 (thanks to Mike):
Ma’an, Jordan (CNN) — The quiet, sandy streets of the southern Jordanian city of Ma’an belie the pro-jihadi sentiments simmering just under the surface.
Black graffiti showing the ISIS flag defaces walls and shopfronts on the main road, the backstreets where children walk to school, and roundabouts where cars packed with families speed past.
One hundred and fifty miles south of the capital, Amman, Ma’an has always been known as a rebellious city in Jordan. For decades it has been at the center of repeated episodes of violent riots and confrontations with the security forces.
But Ma’an is also an important city, historically a key base of tribal support for Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy.
In recent months, videos of small but vocal pro-ISIS demonstrations have circulated on social media, with some Ma’an residents waving the black flag of the hardline extremist group which has taken massive swaths of land in Syria and Iraq.
Demonstrators brazenly called for an Islamic state and chanted anti-government slogans.
The government says it has the situation in Ma’an under control, despite the apparent tensions.
“The very few Jordanians who carried ISIS flag were arrested,” government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani told CNN on Tuesday of the demonstrations.
According to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity, “the majority of people who showed sympathy with ISIS were arrested.” The official said a total of 71 sympathizers had been arrested over the past couple of weeks across the country.
Key U.S. ally
For years Jordanians have joined the ranks of extremist groups like al-Qaeda in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and more recently in Syria.
Jordan, a key U.S. ally, has been on high alert along its borders with both Iraq and Syria, beefing up security and foiling a number of infiltration attempts, according to the government.
But many in the kingdom fear the threat from within is now only going to rise after Jordan joined the U.S.-led coalition in its fight against the terror group in Iraq and Syria.
Like many Jordanians, the mayor of Ma’an is concerned about the repercussions of the country going on the offensive against ISIS in neighboring countries.
“The Salafi jihadi movement has been in Jordan for years, not just in Ma’an but also in other cities … if this movement in Iraq or Syria declares a war on Jordan, they will not hesitate to carry out operations in Jordan,” Mayor Majed al-Sharari told CNN in his office on Monday….
A few minutes into any conversation, residents will insist on buying juice or soda for visitors, even offer a lunch invitation.
But their famous hospitality does not mask the dark message emanating from the graffiti on the city walls.
“The Islamic State is here to stay,” states one. Another, referring to the leader of ISIS, reads, “Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is our prince.”