The L.A. Times is reporting that the rise in global food prices is an opportunity for Islamists groups to gain support through its charity programs and political protest. The report cites the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood as an example despite the groups recent electoral losses:
The smell of freshly baked bread calms the room filled with women in frayed cloaks and worn slippers. Grateful for the assistance, they walk out of a Muslim Brotherhood social service center into the trash-strewn alley, clutching plastic bags packed with flat bread loaves. For five years, the Jordanian government has clamped down on the Islamist group’s electoral ambitions and its charity programs, suspicious it was using good deeds to win political support. But the global food crisis has carved out new opportunities for the Brotherhood and other hard-line groups across the Muslim world. Increasingly unaffordable prices underscore criticism of autocratic governments and drive more people toward fundamentalist groups. Though the Brotherhood fared poorly last year in municipal elections, it has been steadily gaining ground in recent months, sweeping votes for the leadership of Jordan’s professional associations. “We used to win some and lose some. Now, we win all of them,” said Zaki Bani Arshid, leader of the Islamic Action Front, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. “The government which tried to marginalize us politically for years has now given us a big gift.”…In Jordan, the Islamic Action Front has ramped up its charity programs, offering food baskets and financial help to 32,000 families. Requests for help have jumped 30% this year, said Murad Adaileh, who oversees the group’s social services programs. Applications for free bread have jumped 50% since the beginning of the year. On some days, the line outside the food distribution outlet stretches into the streets. The poor come in droves. Wafa Mansour, 39, a cherub-faced mother of two, visits every other day for bread. “Everything is very expensive,” she says. “I can’t buy vegetables or meat.” Opposition elements led by the Islamic Action Front have called for strikes to protest the prices and the government’s privatization plan and are convening a workshop this month to discuss the situation. “The [Islamists] will reap the benefits” of the crisis, said economist Kamhawi. “They will win by default.”
The Brotherhood in other poor Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt seems also prepared to capitalize on the food crisis.