Amman (AsiaNews) - "Demonstrations against cuts to gas and fuel subsidies are motivated by economics, but Islamists could use them to impose regime change," Fr Rif'at Bader from the Latin Patriarchate told AsiaNews. "The Muslim Brotherhood wants an Islamic revolution here but the collapse of the monarchy would mean the end of our country," said the clergyman, who heads the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media.
Today, he saw protests against the lifting of subsidies on fuels, which pushed their price up by 30 to 50 per cent. People took to the streets in cities like Karak, Irbid and Maan. In the capital of Amman, some 2,000 people shouting slogans clashed with police with dozens of injured, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.
What worries Fr Bader are the Islamist attacks against Jordan's King Abdallah. The former want to turn the people against the monarchy. "Freedom comes from God not from you, King Abdallah," they shouted.
Without subsidies, gasoline will cost 15 per cent more, whilst diesel and kerosene are expected to increase by 33 per cent.
The decision to remove subsidies was made to cut further losses to the Treasury. Poor in natural resources, Jordan has to import oil and gas from its neighbours, especially Egypt. However, continuous attacks against the Sinai pipeline and the difficult situation in Syria have hampered deliveries, forcing the authorities to buy from more expensive suppliers.
For Fr Bader, the cuts will hurt people. "Except for a small minority of rich people, most Jordanians are poor. With higher prices, there will be less disposable income. Today, the teachers' union launched a general strike. Schools will remain closed for three days."
Protests have been peaceful so far, even though the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to turn them into Arab spring-style protests against King Abdallah.
"People are afraid of regime change," the clergyman noted. "Changing parliament or demanding the prime minister's resignation is legitimate, even useful in some cases. But the monarchy must stay' it ought not to be de-legitimised. We do not want another Egypt, Syria or Iraq here."
Jordan is still a safe place where fundamental rights are protected, Fr Bader explained. "Freedom of thought is guaranteed," he said. "People can express themselves freely, and peacefully show their opposition. Human rights and religious minorities, especially Christians, are not threatened."
However, "Islamists are not interested in all that. They are galvanised by the Muslim Brotherhood's victory in Egypt and Tunisia and are trying to do the same thing in Jordan." (S.C.)