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Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People
    (Arabic original; selected English translation by Mohammed Ali Musawi, in pdf format, in html format)
Common goods in Islamic and Arab law - Question of fire (oil)
    (original français; English; Turkish)
Wie begegnen wir dem Islamismus?, NZZ-Dossier, Kommentare

1 Sep 11   In Libya, Former Enemy Is Recast in Role of Ally, NYT, ROD NORDLAND
18 Jul 11   Exiled Islamists Watch Rebellion Unfold at Home, NYT, SOUAD MEKHENNET et al.
30 Jul 10    Is Islamism Islam's Cure or Curse?, Foreign Policy, Iconoclast, comment
30 Jul 10   As Some Young Muslims Turn to Radicalism, Concern Grows, NYT, Souad Mekhennet
23 Jul 10   The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's revisions: one year later, Magharebia, Camille Tawil
21 Jun 10   Al-Qaeda losing supporters in jihadi groups across Arab world, Al-Shorfa , Camille Tawil
2 Jun 10   Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces prospect of becoming a marginal group, Al-Shorfa , Camille Tawil
29 May 10   Former militants battle within Libya to discredit al-Qaeda, WP, Sudarsan Raghavan, comments
10.Apr 10   Wider den Jihad: Bekehrung libyscher Islamisten, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Victor Kocher
30 Mar 10   Libya closes the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Al-Shorfa.com, Camille Tawil
23 Mar 10   Libya frees more than 200 Islamist prisoners, BBC
10 Mar 10   Fatwa outlaws "terrorism and suicide bombings", CentralAsiaOnline.com, Rajeh Saeed
1 Feb 10   Learning From Dropouts, Foreign Policy, MICHAEL JACOBSON
11 Jan 10   Refuting Al-Qaeda: Former jihadists on ideologies, Quilliam roundtable with Noman Benotman
15 Dec 09   Al-Qaeda yet to respond to corrective studies forbidding killing of civilians, Al-Shorfa, Camille Tawil
15 Dec 09   Libya's coup: Turning militants against Al Qaeda, LAT, Borzou Daragahi
13 Nov 09   Terrorist suspects released from house arrest after peace deal, Daily Telegraph, Duncan Gardham
10 Nov 09   New jihad code threatens al Qaeda, CNN, Nic Robertson & Paul Cruickshank, video
29 Oct 09   Infamous Islamist Imam Forswears Terror, Der Spiegel, Yassin Musharbash & Andreas Ulrich
29 Oct 09    Mohammed El Fazazi: 'Germany Is No Battle Zone', Der Spiegel
16 Oct 09   Noman Benotman: Reflections on Jihad by a former leader, GWU-HSPI. F.J.Cilluffo et al., comment
15 Oct 09   Statement on the Release of Detainees, Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation
14 Sep 09   A First Look at the LIFG Revisions, Jihadica, Vahid Brown
12 Aug 09   Strategic briefing: Al-Qaeda affiliated group to revise jihadist ideology, Quilliam Foundation
22.Aug 08   Generationen des Zorns, NZZ, Volker Perthes
15.Aug 08   Der Kampf um die Bedeutung des Islam, NZZ, Sadik Jalal al-Azm
7.Aug 08   «Wenn du deinen Gegner und dich selber kennst . . .», NZZ, Bruce Hoffman
30.Jul 08   Die Gewalt neutralisieren, NZZ, Abdelwahab Meddeb
21.Jul 08   Weder «Kampf» noch «Dialog» der Kulturen, NZZ, Olivier Roy
16 Jul 08   Turning their backs on jihad, salon.com, Britta Sandberg
11 Jul 08    Maajid Nawaz: “Uniting Against Extremism”, GWU Homeland Security Policy Institute, F.J.Cilluffo
11 Jun 08   The Unraveling: The Jihadist Revolt Against bin Laden, New Republic, Peter Bergen et al.
13 Nov 07   Noman Benotman: Advice to Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, counterideology.multiply.com



counterideology.multiply.com    November 13, 2007

Noman Benotman, Advice to Dr. Ayman Zawahiri

Noman Benotman is former Afghan mujahid and a member of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Syura Council. He is currently Director of Research, Libya Human and Political Development Forum. For more information about him, please visit http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?issue_id=3271
Below is his letter to Ayman Az-Zawahiri of November 6, 2007 (translated into English).

Advice to Dr Ayman Zawahiri
We tell what you need to know, rather than what you like to hear

In recent statements you announced that the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) has joined the Qaeda. You raised a number questions seeking answers. In these exceptional circumstances, I feel it is my duty to counsel you and give you the support you need, rather than you wish for, by advising you with my opinion and giving you my consultation.

Let us continue from where we let off.

My dear Dr Ayman,

Let me remind you of the most important issue I raised in our Kundahar meeting in the summer of 2000. This was attended by a number of the most prominent leaders of the Jihadi Islamic groups, lead by Sheikh Usama bin Laden. I was then speaking on behalf of the (LIFG).

I made it very clear that the experience of the Jihdi Groups had failed in all Arab countries with [out] exception, which surprised all present, including my colleagues in the LIFG.

The overall message of the Jihadi media machine and public message is divisive rather that inclusive; it is aggressive and sentimental and intimidating. It does speak to the Muslim people, the Ummah, it speaks to and of itself.

I, and my colleagues in the LIFG delegation, emphasise that to continue intimidating the USA will inevitably lead to the destruction of the state of Talban in Afghanistan. Any non-conventional attack of America will lead to the occupation of the whole area, and not Afghanistan alone.

It is crucial to remember here the effort made by al-Qaeda to acquire Weapon of Mass-Destruction, as emphasised by Sheikh Usama Bin Laden in one of his TV addresses as an Islamic (Sharia) duty.

I refer to my brief discussion with Abu Hafs al-Commandan, may Allah rest his soul, who was adamant on acquiring these weapons and using them as a deterrent against the USA. And since I know that al-Qaeda has no strategy of a nuclear deterrent, nor does it intend to have one, those weapons shall be used as weapons of war and not for deterrence. This shall bring more destruction, havoc and humiliation upon the Muslim and Arab worlds.

May I remind you that the minutes of that meeting were taken by Sheikh Mafoudh Bin Alwalid, a religious official in al-Qaeda, and the records may be referred to.

Seven years on, I would say that I still hold those views and insist on them. I believe that they were right then, and we leave to history to verify that.

Conflict of Interest
The aims of Islamic Sharia, as we came to know them, are summarised in the protection of man’s religion, life, mind, off-spring, and wealth. This is the general overall frame in which Islam can be understood and viewed in real life. The Sharia of Islam has come in order to achieve these aims and enhance them.

Jihad, armed struggle, is one of the religious duties to serve those comprehensive aims, and not the contrary. When the authoritive learned people, the ulema, of the mainstream ummah (ahl assuna wal jamaa), and other intellectual and political opinion, agree that certain military operations, or some situations of rebellion, did violate Islamic principles, or were counter-productive to what Islam intended, then, and only then, does the question arise whether to prosecute Jihad. Would it be logical, otherwise, to say that Jihad was prescribed to violate the integrity of Muslims, legitimise the shedding of their blood and facilitate the occupation of their land, bringing their enemy right at their feet, deliberately and knowingly, in order to weaken and humiliate them. The over-riding consideration in this context being the exercise of Jihad.

Where the danger lies
The situation implies a number of failures.

-    Failure to understand the historic and geo-strategic fact that the Arabs are the primary core-substance of Islam. They are the standard bearer of Islam. Arab land is the heart of Islam and its protected citadel. Islam and Arabism, ever since the dawn of Islam, have been the basic matter of our civilisation and our identity. There is no difference between Arab and non-Arab except through piety and devotion of Allah.

-    Failure to understand the real strategic danger of fragmenting and internally draining the Arab lands. That is the real purpose that will secure the control of the state of Israel over the future of the region for hundred year to come.

-    Security is a basic and essential need that cannot be forfeited in the current circumstances. All Muslim societies have come to appreciate that and believe in it. The modern Arab nation-states, their faults and flaws notwithstanding, remain the main source of national security for all societies in the region. They also guarantee internal security in its passive form. Any Islamic project must recognise the consequences of tampering with this equation at such a crucial turning point in history.

-    Failure to appreciate the role of the rabble-rousing and the people at the fringes of Islamic society and Islamic movement. At every stage of history there are demagogic factions who follow the first call they hear, whether in good faith or otherwise. These have existed since the time of third Khalifa of Prophet Muhammed, Othman bin Affan, and continue to be resurrected in every era and recreate their model. They are the real enemy, so beware.

-    The failure to distort the image of Jihad as an Islamic military fighting obligation based on a system of human and moral principals that reflect Islam’s philosophy of war, to a mere terrorist and violent tactics reflecting a state of anger, frustration, impotency, hyperbole and self-expression.

What you need
You are in urgent [need] of the following:

-    Rethink your position with those who differed with you. The Al-Qaeda enjoys a very poor reputation in this regard, which is, as you know, one of the criteria of maturity and righteousness within Islamic groups or trends.

-    Review the al-Qaeda principals intellectually and practically, as it has been distorted with several issues pertaining to problems with excesses and takfeer.

-    You should go back to Islam’s well-protected mainstream, based on the heritage of the Prophet Mohammed and the ulema, who were the legitimate heirs of the prophets. We all know the prophets left neither gold no[r] silver; their heritage is knowledge.

-    Re-model the ethos and the substance of the media message currently adopted by al-Qaeda in communicating with the Muslim world and the West.

-    Do not make promises you are not capable to keep.

-    You have put yourself up to a great mission. You desperately need to build open channels of information. You need open channels of information that are not censored nor massaged. They have to be accurate, continuous and trusted to enable you to take the right decision.

Recommendations
-    Declare a cessation of military operations, unilaterally, in all of the Arab country, to remove every pretext used against you, and to provide peace and security to Muslim and Arab societies.

-    Declare a cessation of military activities in the West, in order to withdraw the terrorist card used by some extremist and malicious Western countries against Islam and Muslims. This will neutralise public opinion in those countries whose people believe, whether we like it or not, in freedom, democracy and the respect of human rights.

-    Prevent the enemy from implementing his imperialist agenda through the activities and plans of al-Qaeda itself.

-    Stop provoking and antagonising the fighting and resisting Palestinian movements and organisation represented by the whole Palestinian people. You ought to declare to support them every time they come to al-Qaeda for help, without trying to impose any special conditions on the Palestinian struggle.

-    Dismantle what is known as the “Islamic State of Iraq” to be re-organised on similar basis to the “al-Qaeda in the land of the Rafidain”, and show solidarity and positive engagement with other Iraqi resistance organisations.

-    Afghanistan is the Achilles’ heel of the sides involved in the struggle. To the fighters, the Mujahedeen, defeat i[s] not an option although for the occupiers it will be a real seismic upheaval that might change the course of history. The fighters need to concentrate on the battle in Afghanistan. They need to mobilise all the support and backing they can [find] for it, and not allow any failed advocate to assume the defence of such a just and legitimate cause.

Dear Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri,

You, and the brothers around you, know very well that many parts of Afghanistan, which are the home of Jihad and resistance today, had not been fought over and defended by us against the infidel Soviet enemy, they would not have put a foot on them, nor could they prosecute their fight from their mountains, plains and valleys. It is an irony of history that some of those who stand on that land today, were yesterday mocking and ridiculing our fighting to liberate it. They accused us of fighting side-by-side with the non-believers and betraying Allah almighty.

I rest my case. If I am right, it is by the grace of Allah, if I am mistaken then it is all due to my own shortcoming.

Noman Benotman




The New Republic    June 11, 2008

The Unraveling: The Jihadist Revolt Against bin Laden
By Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank. The New Republic Cover Story

Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard, 17 hours in a Toyota pickup truck bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since Al Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalized by Qaddafi, had known bin Laden from their days fighting the Afghan communist government in the early '90s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The night of Benotman's arrival, bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal Al Qaeda leader. As bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within Al Qaeda."

Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the United States in 1998. Over the next five days, bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman Al Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past twenty years."

Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilized the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the '90s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told bin Laden that the Al Qaeda leader's decision to target the United States would only sabotage attempts by groups like Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."

Benotman says that bin Laden tried to placate him with a promise: "I have one more operation, and after that I will quit"--an apparent reference to September 11. "I can't call this one back because that would demoralize the whole organization," Benotman remembers bin Laden saying.

After the attacks, Benotman, now living in London, resigned from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, realizing that the United States, in its war on terrorism, would differentiate little between Al Qaeda and his organization.

Benotman, however, did more than just retire. In January 2007, under a veil of secrecy, he flew to Tripoli in a private jet chartered by the Libyan government to try to persuade the imprisoned senior leadership of his former group to enter into peace negotiations with the regime. He was successful. This May, Benotman told us that the two parties could be as little as three months away from an agreement that would see the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group formally end its operations in Libya and denounce Al Qaeda's global jihad. At that point, the group would also publicly refute recent claims by Al Qaeda that the two organizations had joined forces.

This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of Al Qaeda in an open letter to Zawahiri, absorbed and well-received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on Al Qaeda to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. The citizens of Western countries were blameless and should not be the target of terrorist attacks, argued Benotman, his refined English accent, smart suit, trimmed beard, and easygoing demeanor making it hard to imagine that he was once on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Although Benotman's public rebuke of Al Qaeda went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating Al Qaeda, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose victims since September 11 have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over Al Qaeda's leaders, and who--alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, the senseless killings in Muslim countries, and Al Qaeda's barbaric tactics in Iraq--have turned against the organization, many just in the past year.

After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."

Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.

Two months before Benotman's letter to Zawahiri was publicized in the Arab press, Al Qaeda received a blow from one of bin Laden's erstwhile heroes, Sheikh Salman Al Oudah, a Saudi religious scholar. Around the sixth anniversary of September 11, Al Oudah addressed Al Qaeda's leader on MBC, a widely watched Middle East TV network: "My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed ... in the name of Al Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions [of victims] on your back?"

What was noteworthy about Al Oudah's statement was that it was not simply a condemnation of terrorism, or even of September 11, but that it was a personal rebuke, which clerics in the Muslim world have shied away from. In Saudi Arabia in February, one of us met with Al Oudah, who rarely speaks to Western reporters. Dressed in the long black robe fringed with gold that is worn by those accorded respect in Saudi society, Al Oudah recalled meeting with bin Laden--a "simple man without scholarly religious credentials, an attractive personality who spoke well," he said--in the northern Saudi region of Qassim in 1990. Al Oudah explained that he had criticized Al Qaeda for years but until now had not directed it at bin Laden himself: "Most religious scholars have directed criticism at acts of terrorism, not a particular person. ... I don't expect a positive effect on bin Laden personally as a result of my statement. It's really a message to his followers."

Al Oudah's rebuke was also significant because he is considered one of the fathers of the Sahwa, the fundamentalist awakening movement that swept through Saudi Arabia in the '80s. His sermons against the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia following Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait helped turn bin Laden against the United States. And bin Laden told one of us in 1997 that Al Oudah's 1994 imprisonment by the Saudi regime was one of the reasons he was calling for attacks on U.S. targets. Al Oudah is also one of 26 Saudi clerics who, in 2004, handed down a religious ruling urging Iraqis to fight the U.S. occupation of their country. He is, in short, not someone Al Qaeda can paint as an American sympathizer or a tool of the Saudi government.

Tellingly, Al Qaeda has not responded to Al Oudah's critique, but the research organization Political Islam Online tracked postings on six Islamist websites and the websites of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya TV networks in the week after Al Oudah's statements; it found that more than two-thirds of respondents reacted favorably. Al Oudah's large youth following in the Muslim world has helped his anti-Al Qaeda message resonate. In 2006, for instance, he addressed a gathering of around 20,000 young British Muslims in London's East End. "Oudah is well known by all the youth. It's almost a celebrity culture out there. ... He has definitely helped to offset Al Qaeda's rhetoric," one young imam told us.

More doubt about Al Qaeda was planted in the Muslim world when Sayyid Imam Al Sharif, the ideological godfather of Al Qaeda, sensationally withdrew his support in a book written last year from his prison cell in Cairo. Al Sharif, generally known as "Dr. Fadl," was an architect of the doctrine of takfir, arguing that Muslims who did not support armed jihad or who participated in elections were kuffar, unbelievers. Although Dr. Fadl never explicitly called for such individuals to be killed, his takfiri treatises from 1988 and 1993 gave theological cover to jihadists targeting civilians.

Dr. Fadl was also Zawahiri's mentor. Like his protégé, he is a skilled surgeon and moved in militant circles when he was a member of Cairo University's medical faculty in the '70s. In 1981, when Anwar Sadat was assassinated and Zawahiri was jailed in connection with the plot, Dr. Fadl fled to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he operated on wounded mujahedin fighting the Soviets. After Zawahiri's release from jail, he joined Dr. Fadl in Peshawar, where they established a new branch of the "Jihad group" that would later morph into Al Qaeda. Osama Rushdi, a former Egyptian jihadist then living in Peshawar, recalls that there was little doubt about Dr. Fadl's importance: "He was like the big boss in the Mafia in Chicago." And bin Laden also owed a deeply personal debt to Dr. Fadl; in Sudan in 1993, the doctor operated on Al Qaeda's leader after he was hurt in an assassination attempt.

So it was an unwelcome surprise for Al Qaeda's leaders when Dr. Fadl's new book, Rationalization of Jihad, was serialized in an independent Egyptian newspaper in November. The incentive for writing the book, he explained, was that "jihad ... was blemished with grave Sharia violations during recent years. ... [N]ow there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non Muslims in the name of Jihad!" Dr Fadl ruled that Al Qaeda's bombings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were illegitimate and that terrorism against civilians in Western countries was wrong. He also took on Al Qaeda's leaders directly in an interview with the Al Hayat newspaper. "Zawahiri and his Emir bin Laden [are] extremely immoral," he said. "I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don't know them."

Dr. Fadl's harsh words attracted attention throughout the Arabic-speaking world; even a majority of Zawahiri's own Jihad group jailed in Egyptian prisons signed on and promised to end their armed struggle. In December, Zawahiri released an audiotape lambasting his former mentor, accusing him of being in league with the "bloodthirsty betrayer" Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and, in a 200-page book titled The Exoneration, published in March, he replied at greater length, portraying Dr. Fadl as a prisoner trying to curry favor with Egypt's security services and the author of "a desperate attempt (under American sponsorship) to confront the high tide of the jihadist awakening."

Ultimately, the ideological battle against Al Qaeda in the West may be won in places such as Leyton and Walthamstow, largely Muslim enclaves in east London, whose residents included five of the eight alleged British Al Qaeda operatives currently on trial for plotting to bring down U.S.-bound passenger jets in 2006. It is in Britain that many leaders of the jihadist movement have settled as political refugees, and "Londonistan" has long been a key barometer of future Islamist trends. There are probably more supporters of Al Qaeda in Britain than any other Western country, and, because most British Muslims are of Pakistani origin, British militants easily can obtain terrorist training in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Al Qaeda's main operational hub since September 11. And now, because it is difficult for Al Qaeda to send Middle Eastern passport holders to the United States, the organization has particularly targeted radicalized Muslims in Britain for recruitment. So the nexus between militant British Muslims, Pakistan, and Al Qaeda has become the leading terrorist threat to the United States.

Over the last half-year, we have made several trips to London to interview militants who have defected from Al Qaeda, retired mujahedin, Muslim community leaders, and members of the security services. Most say that, when Al Qaeda's bombs went off in London in 2005, sympathy for the terrorists evaporated.

In Leyton, the neighborhood mosque is on the main road, a street of terraced houses, halal food joints, and South Asian hairdressers. Around 1,000 people attend Friday prayers there each week.

Usama Hassan, one of the imams at the mosque, has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from Imperial College in London, read theoretical physics at Cambridge, and now teaches at Middlesex University. But he also trained in a jihadist camp in Afghanistan in the '90s and, until a few years ago, was openly supportive of bin Laden. And, in another unusual twist, he is now one of the most prominent critics of Al Qaeda. Over several cups of Earl Grey in the tea room next to the mosque, Hassan--loquacious and intelligent, every bit the university lecturer--explained how he had switched sides.

Raised in London by Pakistani parents, Hassan arrived in Cambridge in 1989 and, feeling culturally isolated, fell in with Jamiat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al Sunnah (JIMAS), a student organization then supportive of jihads in Palestine, Kashmir, and Afghanistan. In December 1990, Hassan traveled to Afghanistan, where he briefly attended an Arab jihadist camp. He was shown how to use Kalashnikovs and M-16s and was taken to the front lines, where a shell landed near his group's position. "My feeling was, if I was killed, then brilliant, I would be a martyr," he recalls. Later, as a post-graduate student in London, Hassan played a lead role in the student Islamic Society, then a hotbed of radical activism. "At the time I was very anti-American. ... It was all black and white for us. I used to be impressed with bin Laden. There was no other leadership in the Muslim world standing up for Muslims." When September 11 happened, Hassan says the view in his circle was that "Al Qaeda had given one back to George Bush."

Still, as Al Qaeda continued to target civilians for attacks, Hassan began to rethink. His employment by an artificial intelligence consulting firm also integrated him back toward mainstream British life. "It was a slow process and involved a lot of soul-searching. ... Over time, I became convinced that bin Laden was dangerous and an extremist." The July 2005 bombings in London were the clincher. "I was devastated by the attack," he says. "My feeling was, how dare they attack my city."

Three days after the London bombings, the Leyton mosque held an emergency meeting; about 300 people attended. "We explained that these acts were evil, that they were haram," recalls Hassan. It was not the easiest of crowds; one youngster stormed out, shouting, "As far as I'm concerned, fifty dead kuffar is not a problem."

In Friday sermons since then, Hassan says that he has hammered home the difference between legitimate jihad and terrorism, despite a death threat from pro-Al Qaeda militants: "I think I'm listened to by the young because I have street cred from having spent time in a [jihadist] training camp. ... Jihadist experience is especially important for young kids because otherwise they tend to think he is just a sell-out who is a lot of talk." This spring, Hassan helped launch the Quilliam Foundation, an organization set up by former Islamist extremists to counter radicalism by making speeches to young Muslims in Great Britain about how they had been duped into embracing hatred of the West.

Such counter-radicalization efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for Al Qaeda--the only way the organization can be defeated in the long term. But the reality facing British counterterrorism officials, such as Detective Inspector Robert Lambert, the recently departed head of the Metropolitan police's Muslim Contact Unit, is that "Al Qaeda values dozens of recruits more than hundreds of supporters." In order to target the most radical extremists, the Metropolitan police have backed the efforts of a Muslim community group, the Active Change Foundation, based around a gym in Walthamstow run by Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir, two brothers of Kashmiri descent.

Hanif Qadir, now 42, revealed to us that he himself was recruited by Al Qaeda after the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Jihadist recruiters in east London, no doubt noting wealth, sought out Qadir, who had earned enough money running a car repair shop to buy a Rolls-Royce and live in some style. "The guy who handled me was a Syrian called Abu Sufiyan. ... I'm sure he was from Al Qaeda," recalls Qadir. "He was good at telling you what you wanted to hear ... he touched all my emotional buttons." Qadir agreed to join. He drew up a will and, in December 2002, bought a first-class ticket to Pakistan. But, as the truck he was in crossed the dirt roads into Afghanistan, a chance occurrence changed his life: A truck, carrying wounded fighters, approached them from the other direction. Among them was a young Punjabi boy whose white robes were stained with blood. "These are evil people," another of the wounded shouted. "[W]e came here to fight jihad, but they are just using us as cannon fodder." Qadir's truckload of wannabe jihadists made a u-turn. "That kid, he was like an angel. He kicked me back into reality," recalls Qadir. "When I landed back in the U.K., I wanted to find [the Al Qaeda recruiters] and cut their heads off."

Qadir never found them, but he became determined to stop others like him from being recruited. In 2004, he and his brother opened the gym and community center in the Walthamstow neighborhood of east London. Soon, hundreds of young Muslims were attending.

The scale of the challenge was quickly clear. Soon after the center opened, he got wind that pro-Al Qaeda militants were secretly booking rooms there for their meetings. Worse, in the summer of 2006, several of those arrested in connection with the Al Qaeda airlines plot, including alleged ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, were found to have attended his gym. But, rather than shutting the radicals out, Qadir continued to allow them to meet. "Sometimes our youngsters get into debates with these people, for example on jihad, and make them look ridiculous in front of their followers," he says. Qadir believes his approach is finally starting to pay off: "The extremists are burning out: The number of radicals in Walthamstow is diminishing, not growing."

At another mosque in London, the Muslim Brotherhood joined forces with the British authorities to reclaim the institution from pro-Al Qaeda militants. The Brotherhood is the most powerful Islamist group in the Arab world, with chapters throughout Europe and North America. It has long opposed Al Qaeda's jihad, a stance that so angered Zawahiri that he published a book, The Bitter Harvest, condemning the organization in 1991. From the late '90s, the Finsbury Park mosque in London had been dominated by the pro-Al Qaeda cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri. During that time, few selfrespecting jihadists traveling through London passed up the free accommodation in its basement. Visitors included Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "twentieth hijacker" of the September 11 plot, and Richard Reid, who tried to down a U.S.-bound airliner with a shoe bomb in December 2001.

In 2003, British police shut the mosque, but Abu Hamza's followers continued to have a strong presence in the area. In February 2005, police helped broker a deal for the mosque to re-open under the leadership of the local chapter of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood group. No sooner had the moderates gained control of the Finsbury Park mosque than they were confronted by Abu Hamza's angry followers, led by the pugnacious Atilla Ahmet, who calls himself "the number-one Al Qaeda in Europe" and who, in October, pled guilty to providing British Muslims with terrorist training. "They brought sticks and knives with them," recalls Kamal El Helbawy, spokesman for the new trustees at the mosque.

Undeterred, a few days later Helbawy gave the first Friday sermon, explaining that this was a new start for the mosque and stressing how important it was for Muslims to live in harmony with their neighbors. Detective Inspector Lambert, the Metropolitan police officer who helped broker the takeover, says that, because of its social welfare work and its track record supporting the Palestinian cause, the MAB has "big street cred in the area and [has] made an impact on Abu Hamza's young followers."

Salman Al Oudah, the Saudi preacher, spoke at the re-opened mosque in 2006, as has Abdullah Anas, an Algerian former mujahedin fighter based in London who has been a critic of Al Qaeda for years. Anas worked with bin Laden in Pakistan during the '80s, fought in Afghanistan for almost a decade against the communists, and married the daughter of a Palestinian cleric who is still lionized as the spiritual godfather of the jihadist movement, the most radical wing of which would morph into Al Qaeda. Anas told us that his critiques of Al Qaeda were not well-received in 2003, but that, "in the last two or three years, there has been a change in opinion," citing the Madrid and London bombings as turning points. In 2006, Anas went public with his criticisms of Al Qaeda, in an interview with Asharq Al Awsat, one of the leading newspapers in the Arab world, criticizing the London subway bombings as "criminal deeds ... prohibited by the Sharia."

Detective Inspector Lambert told us preachers like Anas and Al Oudah "can't be discounted. ... When you have Muslim leaders who are attacked both by Al Qaeda supporters and by commentators who oppose engagement [with Islamists], then they are in a useful position."

In December, Al Qaeda's campaign of violence reached new depths in the eyes of many Muslims, with a plot to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia while millions were gathered for the Hajj. Saudi security services arrested 28 Al Qaeda militants in Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh, whose targets allegedly included religious leaders critical of Al Qaeda, among them the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abd Al Aziz Al Sheikh, who responded to the plot by ruling that Al Qaeda operatives should be punished by execution, crucifixion, or exile. Plotting such attacks during the Hajj could not have been more counterproductive to Al Qaeda's cause, says Abdullah Anas, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca himself. "People over there ... were very angry. The feeling was, how was it possible for Muslims to do that? I still can't quite believe it myself. The mood was one of shock, real shock."

Is Al Qaeda going to dissipate as a result of the criticism from its former mentors and allies? Despite the recent internal criticism, probably not in the short term. As one of us reported in The New Republic early last year, Al Qaeda, on the verge of defeat in 2002, has regrouped and is now able to launch significant terrorist operations in Europe ("Where You Bin?" January 29, 2007). And, last summer, U.S. intelligence agencies judged that Al Qaeda had "regenerated its [U.S.] Homeland attack capability" in Pakistan's tribal areas. Since then, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only entrenched their position further, launching a record number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year. Afghanistan, Algeria, and Iraq also saw record numbers of suicide attacks in 2007 (though the group's capabilities have deteriorated in Iraq of late). Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is still able to find recruits in the West. In November, Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5, said that record numbers of U.K. residents are now supportive of Al Qaeda, with around 2,000 posing a "direct threat to national security and public safety." That means that Al Qaeda will threaten the United States and its allies for many years to come.

However, encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups like Al Qaeda are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: Their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't precisely share their world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful movements because their ideology prevents them from making the real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.

Which means that the repudiation of Al Qaeda's leaders by its former religious, military, and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement. As Churchill remarked after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which he saw as turning the tide in World War II, "[T]his is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Noman Benotman, bin Laden's Libyan former companion-in-arms, assesses that Al Qaeda's recent resurgence, which he says has been fueled by the Iraq war, will not last. "There may be a wave of violence right now, but ... in five years, Al Qaeda will be more isolated than ever. No one will give a toss about them." And, given the religio-ideological basis of Al Qaeda's jihad, the religious condemnation now being offered by scholars and fighters once close to the organization is arguably the most important development in stopping the group's spread since September 11. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell tacitly acknowledged this in his yearly report to Congress in February, when he testified that, "Over the past year, a number of religious leaders and fellow extremists who once had significant influence with Al Qaeda have publicly criticized it and its affiliates for the use of violent tactics."

Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda's leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do. Juan Zarate, a former federal prosecutor and a key counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, acknowledged as much in a speech in April when he said, "These challenges from within Muslim communities and even extremist circles will be insurmountable at the end of the day for Al Qaeda."

These new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, have created a powerful coalition countering Al Qaeda's ideology. According to Pew polls, support for Al Qaeda has been dropping around the Muslim world in recent years. The numbers supporting suicide bombings in Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh, for instance, have dropped by half or more in the last five years. In Saudi Arabia, only 10 percent now have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, according to a December poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank. Following a wave of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year, support for suicide operations amongst Pakistanis has dropped to 9 percent (it was 33 percent five years ago), while favorable views of bin Laden in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, around where he is believed to be hiding, have plummeted to 4 percent from 70 percent since August 2007.

Unsurprisingly, Al Qaeda's leaders have been thrown on the defensive. In December, bin Laden released a tape that stressed that "the Muslim victims who fall during the operations against the infidel Crusaders ... are not the intended targets." Bin Laden warned the former mujahedin now turning on Al Qaeda that, whatever their track records as jihadists, they had now committed one of the "nullifiers of Islam," which is helping the "infidels against the Muslims."

Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, believes that Al Qaeda's days may be numbered: "No government, no police force, is achieving what these [religious] scholars are achieving. To defeat terrorism, to convince the radicals ... you have to persuade them that theirs is not the path to paradise."

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank are research fellows at New York University's Center on Law and Security. Peter Bergen is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know. This article was originally available here.




GWU - Homeland Security Policy Institute    July 11, 2008

“Uniting Against Extremism”
Featuring: Maajid Nawaz, Director, The Quilliam Foundation
Moderated by: Frank Cilluffo, Director, Homeland Security Policy Institute

Countering the effects of extremist propaganda – including radicalization and recruitment to terrorist groups – requires a compelling and effective counter-narrative that forcefully refutes and responds to the extremists’ own. While governments have a role to play, in order to be effective such a counter-narrative must come from trusted and credible voices within vulnerable communities themselves. This discussion examined efforts to promote, cultivate and amplify these voices.

The Quilliam Foundation, a “counter-extremism think tank” founded in April 2008 and based in the United Kingdom, rejects extremist and violent interpretations of Islam and “believes that Western Muslims should revive Western Islam, our Andalusian heritage of pluralism and respect, and thereby find harmony in West-Islam relations.” The Foundation seeks to expose and challenge the weaknesses and failings of extremism, provide a scripturally rooted theological and ideological alternative to extremism, encourage extremists to sever ties with their movements and enter the mainstream, and advocate the full integration of Muslims into Western society.

Maajid Nawaz is Director of the Quilliam Foundation and one of its founders. Mr. Nawaz was formerly a member of the group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which advocates the formation of an Islamic state in the UK, and served on its leadership committee. Imprisoned in Egypt in 2002 for his membership, Mr. Nawaz “spent [years] debating the intricacies of Islamist ideology with fellow prisoners.” After his release, Mr. Nawaz publicly rejected Hizb ut-Tahrir and recanted extremism. His former experiences have given him unique insights into extremist thought.

Mr. Nawaz explained that the foundation’s goal in the short term would be for the complete rejection and abandonment of Islamist ideology. Long-term, the goal is to have indigenous Western Islam developed by Western Muslims within society—not foreign teachers from other cultures. On a separate political level, Muslims in the UK must engage in politics not as Muslims, but as citizens within civil society. “The solutions lie in civil society—the unorganized majority taking on the organized minority [Islamists].” He added that it will be almost impossible to have this type of success without similar success in Muslim-majority countries. In other words, we must make serious efforts to encourage liberal democracy through civil society in these countries.

For an event summary authored by the Qulliam Foundation, click here. For a video of his remarks, followed by a discussion with the audience, click here, and scroll down. The Homeland Security Policy Institute seeks to provide innovative leaders in the fields of national and homeland security with a forum to discuss current and future counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts on a regional or country-specific basis.




salon.com    July 16, 2008

Turning their backs on jihad
Disenchanted with Osama bin Laden, former holy warriors are renouncing violence.
By Britta Sandberg

Jul. 16, 2008 | Noman Benotman walks into a restaurant on Park Lane, the exclusive, minimalist sort of place that is currently all the rage in London. People in business suits converse in hushed tones at nearby tables. Benotman, wearing an orange polo shirt and a gray checked blazer, fits in perfectly.

Benotman, a 41-year-old man from Libya, was once a jihadist. He fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and it was in those days, which some would later romanticize as heroic, that he met Osama bin Laden. Benotman says that he was once adept at using an AK-47, and that he remembers making out the faces of Soviet helicopter pilots before shooting them down.

After the Soviet army withdrew in disgrace from Kabul and Kandahar, Benotman returned to his native Libya, where he became one of the leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The group, several hundred strong, sought to overthrow the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, which they believed was corrupt and un-Islamic. Before Sept. 11, 2001, Benotman was an important figure in the expanding global network of terrorism.

Today he sits in a London restaurant and orders an espresso with a glass of water from a waiter dressed in a white uniform. He speaks with a flawless British accent.

Nothing short of spectacular
Benotman has just returned from Libya, where he is working on behalf of the Gadhafi regime, the same regime he hoped to oust only a decade ago. He has been assigned a very delicate task. His job is to convince imprisoned members of his former terrorist group to sign a peace treaty of sorts. He has traveled to Libya 25 times in the last 16 months, and his efforts are paying off. Now, he says, the document that will allow his former comrades to be reintegrated into society is as good as written -- and on the verge of being signed.

Under the agreement the terrorists, most of them in prison for many years, will renounce violence and the murder of civilians. It will also include a denial of recent al-Qaida claims that the LIFG has joined forces with the international terrorist organization. This is untrue, says Benotman, explaining that the Libyans distanced themselves from al-Qaida long ago. His new mission is anything but secretive. Arab television broadcaster Al-Jazeera recently reported on his trips to Libya -- a story about a former jihadist's attempt to bring about peace, after all, is nothing short of spectacular.

Libya is not the only place where efforts to part ways with al-Qaida and its founders are under way. Almost seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11 and 10 years after bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, founded the "International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders," the organization is beginning to show cracks.

If one imagines al-Qaida as experts have characterized it -- as a system of terror franchises with branches worldwide -- then there is clearly an uprising taking place among many branch managers. They are distancing themselves from the icons of terror, and from their goals and methods. So far, it apparently remains an internal process; disputes within the various groups that have been smoldering for some time are now rising to the surface. And there is little to indicate a causal connection between this development and the United States-led war on global terrorism.

His utmost to kill
Counterterrorism experts from Europe and the United States met in Florence in May to discuss the current state of affairs. Just how many terrorists remain engaged in the war against the West was a matter for debate. But most of the experts believed that bin Laden still exerts direct influence over a widely diverse group of terrorist organizations, both as a symbolic figurehead and as a financier of training camps and attacks around the world. And all at the conference agreed that bin Laden himself remains determined to do his utmost to kill as many people in the West as possible.

The al-Qaida leadership is still believed to be hiding out in the mountainous, inaccessible border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. From their isolated location, bin Laden and Zawahiri compose periodic messages to their followers around the world, often seeking to portray the dissidents as creatures of the hated West. The Egyptian doctor Zawahiri, in particular, insists that renegades like Benotman have either been paid off by the West or tortured into compliance, and that Western intelligence agencies engage in propaganda to create divisions and uncertainty among his holy warriors.

But Zawahiri's messages, delivered by video or broadcast on the Internet, appear to be losing their effectiveness.

In late May, India's influential Deoband religious movement issued a fatwa against terrorism. In a joint proclamation at a meeting in New Delhi attended by representatives of the country's leading Islamic organizations, the groups stated: "It is the goal and purpose of Islam to extinguish all forms of terrorism and to disseminate the message of global peace. Those who use the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad to justify terror are merely upholding a lie.”

The supreme mufti of the Deobandis and three envoys signed the document. "In terms of its theological significance, this is roughly the equivalent of a ruling by the Supreme Court in Washington," activist Javed Anand later said. The Deobandis, whose name is derived from a small city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, once inspired and offered religious instruction to fighters in the Islamic world. Militant Pakistani groups, jihadists in Iraq and even the Taliban invoked the Deobandis for many years. But those days are now gone.

Former militants who have renounced jihad often begin to proselytize among their former comrades-in-arms. In late April, a handful of former members of the militant Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was founded in Jordan in 1953 and eventually spread to about 40 countries, established a foundation to combat fundamentalism among Muslims in Europe.

Maajid Nawaz, 31, is the director of the new organization, known as the Quilliam Foundation. In his past, Nawaz helped develop secret terrorist cells in Pakistan and later in Denmark. He spent five years in an Egyptian prison, where he turned his back on radical Islam. The foundation was established in the British Museum, and when he gave his speech at the event, Nawaz was wearing a well-tailored Hugo Boss suit and his beard was neatly trimmed. "I turned away from Islamism," he said, "because I recognized it as the curse of Islam."

"Do not exceed the limits"
This small rebellion within al-Qaida had its beginnings in May 2007, in the form of a fax received at the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat. It was sent by one of the eminent authorities of al-Qaida, a man who was once bin Laden's mentor before he went from the Pakistani city of Peshawar to Afghanistan, and long before he became a shining light in the Islamic world. The man's name is Sayyid Imam al-Sharif. Like Zawahiri, Sharif is an Egyptian doctor, and he later competed with Zawahiri for bin Laden's favor. Sharif is better known under his nom de guerre, Dr. Fadl.

Ironically Dr. Fadl, 58, sent the fax from a prison in Cairo, where he has been serving a life sentence since 2004. He wrote that jihadism is reprehensible and that it violates the precepts of Islam and Shariah law. Killing people solely on the basis of their nationality is not in keeping with the Koran, he wrote, especially since the victims of such acts are often "innocent Muslims and non-Muslims." "Fight, on God's behalf, against those who fight you, but do not exceed the limits," the converted Dr. Fadl wrote.

A man once referred to as "al-Qaida's chief ideologue," and one of the organization's founders, disassociating himself with al-Qaida, bin Laden and Zawahiri? It was a sensation, a turning point for the terrorist network.

Part 2: "Things are slowly changing"

"When I first read the fax, I thought that he must have been coerced," says Mohammed al-Shafey, an editor at the London-based Arab newspaper, which printed the document of renunciation. "Fadl was the brain, the think tank of jihad. Only later, when I read his new book, did I realize that he really meant what he wrote." Dr. Fadl wrote the book Shafey is referring to, in which he explains the reasons for his change of heart, in his prison cell and announced its completion in the fax he sent to London.

Dr. Fadl is not only seen as the brain of al-Qaida but is also considered one of Zawahiri's mentors. Both men are surgeons and attended medical school in Cairo together. Zawahiri was one of thousands arrested in 1981 after former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated. Fadl fled to Pakistan and settled in Peshawar, where he treated wounded fighters from Afghanistan.

After completing a prison sentence in Cairo, Zawahiri went to Peshawar, then a magnet for Islamists. At that time, it was clear to the two men that Dr. Fadl was the superior intellect. He was said to have encyclopedic knowledge of the Koran.

On Aug. 11, 1988, in Peshawar, Fadl and Zawahiri met for the first time with a young Saudi Arabian named Osama bin Laden and a Palestinian named Abdullah Assam. The four men would later found al-Qaida, "the basis," as a fighting alliance against infidels, the West and the United States, after the collapse of the world's other superpower, the Soviet Union. Bin Laden had money and followers, while Fadl and Zawahiri had dreamed up the ideological underpinnings for jihad.

Fadl soon wrote something of a manual for jihadism. According to the document, holy war is the natural state of Islam and the "only way to end the domination of the infidels." With such a manifesto in his past, Fadl's renunciation of al-Qaida is not easily dismissed as insignificant.

Greatest trial in history
It is a heavy blow to bin Laden and Zawahiri when one of the founders of their network describes al-Qaida's ideology and the attacks of Sept. 11 as mistakes. "Dr. Fadl is fundamentally questioning their theological authority," says Lawrence Wright, who describes the history of al-Qaida in his book "The Looming Tower." In a recent piece for the New Yorker, Wright wrote, "Fadl repeatedly emphasizes that it is forbidden to kill civilians -- including Christians and Jews -- unless they are actively attacking Muslims." Wright believes that the terrorist organization faces the greatest challenge in its history.

Just how seriously Zawahiri took Fadl's pamphlet of renunciation is evident in the 200-page response he issued in March of this year, which was also published on the Internet. Zawahiri writes that he can only imagine Dr. Fadl's conversion to be the work of Arab intelligence agencies working in concert with the CIA, and that the document must have been written under duress.

"If you claim that these operations were illegal," al-Qaida's number two man writes, addressing Fadl directly, "then this must also apply to all operations conducted in Palestine." According to Zawahiri, Fadl has never questioned Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Paul Cruickshank of New York University and terrorism expert Peter Bergen spent six months investigating the turmoil within al-Qaida. The two were the first to interview Noman Benotman, and they also spoke with other critics of the terror organization -- including Sheik Salman al-Oudah. On the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Saudi went on the television channel MBS to publicly demand of bin Laden how many innocents had already been killed in the name of al-Qaida. Oudah also wanted to know how bin Laden planned to face the almighty with hundreds, even thousands, of innocent lives on his conscience.

"Al-Oudah is neither in prison nor is he suspected of being a friend of the Americans or a tool of the Saudi government," says Cruickshank. On the contrary: In 2004, the sheik called on Iraqis to fight against the US occupiers in their country.

Cruickshank believes that, ironically enough, it was the Iraq war that delayed latent criticism of bin Laden and his concept of jihad. "What's emerging now has been simmering for a long time." The fact that American soldiers were occupying holy ground provided every major terrorist leader with a convenient justification for jihad in Iraq.

There is no doubt that al-Qaida remains an unscrupulous and dangerous terrorist organization, even if it has lost some of its influence in Iraq. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, its core countries, it is enjoying renewed support. Allied with the newly strengthened Taliban, al-Qaida is doing its part to seriously jeopardize the regimes in Islamabad and Kabul. "In the long term, however, they will face problems as a result of the ideological debate," says Peter Bergen. "They are already having trouble finding recruits in Europe today."

Wearing a suit for Friday prayers
This shift in the general mood that experts like Bergen believe is happening in Europe is clearly in evidence at London's Al-Tawhid Mosque. Two of the presumed attackers who planned, and failed, to commit attacks in London and Glasgow in late June 2007 were frequent visitors to the mosque. "But now people have had enough of Islam constantly being equated with terrorism," says Usama Hasan, the mosque's 36-year-old imam.

These days Hasan wears a suit when leading Friday prayers. "I am a Muslim living in the West, and I want everyone to see it." Hasan, himself a former fighter in Afghanistan and member of a fundamentalist group, now preaches the renunciation of violence and condemns terrorism.

"I have the feeling that things are slowly changing," says former Libyan terrorist Benotman, referring to the small series of prominent renegades. He was once so well known among jihadists that he dealt directly with bin Laden. That was in the summer of 2000, when roughly 200 people representing groups from many countries came together in Kandahar. Benotman was living in a guesthouse that bin Laden owned.

The Libyans, fearing retaliation against their own country, were opposed to the crusade against the United States that was discussed at such great length in Kandahar. According to Benotman, even Taliban leader Mullah Omar was in favor of attacking Israel instead of the United States. "We told bin Laden at the time that he could not force his strategy on all Arabs," the Libyan recalls today. "His response was that there was an operation under way that he could no longer stop, and that the fighters were ready to act." Bin Laden was referring to the attackers of Sept. 11.

After the attacks on America, the Libyans parted ways with al-Qaida. Several Libyan newspapers published Benotman's open letter to Zawahiri last year. He has been living in London in recent years. He says that he has never been in prison, neither in Libya nor anyplace else.

Then the elegantly dressed man, a one-time jihadist, walks out of the chic restaurant and disappears into the Green Park Underground station.

This article has been provided by Der Spiegel through a special arrangement with Salon.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    21. Juli 2008

Weder «Kampf» noch «Dialog» der Kulturen
Perspektiven auf den radikalen Islamismus
Von Olivier Roy

Olivier Roy, Forschungsdirektor am Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris und Professor an der Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, ist einer der führenden Experten zum Thema des politischen Islam. Er stellt etliche gängige Vorstellungen in Frage, die den Diskurs über den radikalen Islamismus dominieren.
Um dem radikalen Islamismus richtig zu begegnen, muss man ihn auch richtig verstehen. Nun wird dieses Phänomen generell als extreme Ausprägung einer traditionellen islamischen Kultur und Religion betrachtet; symptomatisch hiefür ist die Tatsache, dass die Reflexion über den radikalen Islam primär um die Frage kreist: «Was sagt der Koran?» Gleichzeitig wird die Kultur der muslimischen Welt wie eine profane Ausdrucksform der Religion wahrgenommen: Man spricht von «islamischer» Kunst, von der «muslimischen» Stadt, wo man kaum je den Ausdruck «christliche Stadt» verwenden würde und der Begriff «christliche Kunst» auf die sakrale Kunst beschränkt ist. Man geht also davon aus, dass im Islam Religion und Kultur ungleich stärker miteinander verbunden sind als im Christentum. Deshalb werden die Auswüchse des radikalen Islamismus im Okzident häufig als eine Art Quintessenz und Avantgarde der muslimischen Kultur schlechthin betrachtet, während niemand in Europa politische Extremisten (etwa die Baader-Meinhof-Gruppe) oder fundamentalistisch-religiöse Sekten anders denn als Randgruppen einordnen würde.

Diese Wahrnehmung erklärt den Erfolg von Schlagworten wie «Kampf der Kulturen» oder «Dialog der Kulturen». Die Vertreter dieser scheinbar gegensätzlichen Modelle gehen im Grunde von ein und derselben Idee aus: In der islamischen Welt bestehe ein enger Zusammenhang zwischen Religion und Kultur, die Muslime in Europa blieben «Orientalen», und in erster Linie gehe es darum zu wissen, «was der Islam sagt». Gewiss, von da an divergieren die Ansichten der beiden Faktionen: Die Vertreter des Kulturkampf-Modells sehen keine Möglichkeit zum Kompromiss ausser einer radikalen Reform des Islam oder einer nicht minder radikalen Absage der europäischen Muslime an ihre Religion (diese Haltung vertritt etwa Ayan Hirsi Ali); die Befürworter des Dialogs wollen sich stattdessen mit den traditionellen religiösen Instanzen und den politischen Repräsentanten der islamischen Welt verständigen, um solcherart die Radikalen zu isolieren und einen «guten» Islam zu propagieren.

Falsche Prämissen
Aber die Grundidee, auf der die Modelle von «Kampf» oder «Dialog» der Kulturen basieren, ist falsch. In der Radikalisierung spitzt sich die Reaktion der muslimischen Gesellschaft auf die Moderne im Allgemeinen und auf den «Imperialismus» des Abendlandes im Besonderen zu. Die traditionelle Verbindung zwischen islamischer Religion und Kultur ist in die Krise geraten. Sowohl für die Vertreter des radikalen politischen Islam (al-Kaida) als auch für die religiösen Radikalen (die Salafisten) ist die Radikalisierung somit Konsequenz eines Kulturabbaus. Die Gewalttätigkeit der islamischen Extremisten ist nicht die Reaktion einer traditionellen Kultur, sondern vielmehr die Reaktion auf den Verlust dieser Kultur; damit lässt sich auch das Auftauchen eines für die islamische Welt neuen Phänomens wie der Selbstmordattentate erklären.

Gewiss muss hier zwischen dem politischen und dem religiösen Islamismus unterschieden werden, auch wenn in Europa die Auffassung verbreitet ist, dass der politische Radikalismus eine unmittelbare Folge des religiösen sei. Eine Studie über die militanten Aktivisten von al-Kaida erweist jedoch, dass das nicht zutrifft. Das Terrornetzwerk rekrutiert primär in Randgruppen: unter Immigranten der zweiten Generation in Europa, aber auch unter Konvertiten – tatsächlich ist al-Kaida die «islamische» Organisation, in der Konvertiten am stärksten, nämlich mit 10 bis 20 Prozent, vertreten sind. Zudem haben die Muslime, die der Organisation angehören, kaum je einen religiösen Bildungshintergrund, sehr wenige von ihnen kommen aus religiösen Organisationen; sie radikalisieren sich vielmehr im direkten Blick auf militante und gewalttätige Aktionen, ohne Umweg über die religiöse Praxis. Beim radikalen politischen Islam handelt es sich also nicht um eine interne Radikalisierung der muslimischen Gemeinschaft auf religiöser Basis.

Die Salafisten wiederum finden ihre erste und wichtigste Zielscheibe in den traditionellen islamischen Kulturen – im Sufismus, in der Musik, in Brauchtum und Tradition einschliesslich der Kleidung und der Essgewohnheiten. Die «islamische» Kleidung (verschleierte Frauen mit Handschuhen und langen Regenmänteln, Burkas) ist eine relativ neue Erfindung. Das Halal-Fast-Food, das den islamischen Speisegeboten entspricht, hat unter Muslimen mittlerweile Kebab und Couscous überrundet, deren Liebhaber sich nun in erster Linie unter den Nichtmuslimen finden.

Was also wäre zu tun? In Europa waren die obligaten Reaktionen auf die Bedrohung durch den radikalen Islamismus bisher entweder Appelle an die gemässigten, aber traditionellen Muslime im eigenen Land oder der Ruf nach einer «Reformation» des Islam. Doch die Vorstellungen der gemässigt-konservativen Muslime sind überholt und beschränken sich in der Regel darauf, die Bande zwischen der Migrantengemeinde und dem Herkunftsland wieder enger zu knüpfen (dies streben beispielsweise türkische Organisationen wie die Ditib in Deutschland an). Die Konsequenz einer solchen Haltung wäre eine noch grössere Entfremdung der nachfolgenden Generationen von ihrem europäischen Umfeld und eine Integrationskrise – von den Interferenzen mit den Krisenlagen im Nahen Osten schon gar nicht zu reden. Und diejenigen, die nach einem Luther des Islam rufen, sollten zunächst einmal Luther lesen! Ohnehin können die europäischen Staaten, welche die Trennung zwischen Kirche und Religion verwirklicht haben, eigentlich nicht in theologischen Fragen intervenieren, ohne gegen ihr eigenes Prinzip zu verstossen.

Keine Spielart des Multikulturalismus
Fördern sollte man stattdessen jene Entflechtung von Kultur und Religion, die heute das Markenzeichen der Globalisierung ist. Die Säkularisierung funktioniert: Indem sie das Religiöse vom Kulturellen separiert, hat sie zwar sicherlich zur Radikalisierung des Ersteren beigetragen – das zeigt sich auch in der konservativen Erstarrung der katholischen Kirche oder dem Vormarsch protestantischer Freikirchen. Anderseits erlaubt sie es aber auch, als Gläubiger und Staatsbürger zu leben. Man müsste also eine Entwicklung des europäischen Islam hin zur reinen Religion unterstützen, freilich ohne dabei theologische Fragen zu stellen. «Reine» Religion – das hiesse Glaubensfreiheit ohne Konzession an andere Kulturen, Predigten in europäischen Sprachen, Moscheen, die (mit oder ohne Minarett) ihren Raum in der urbanen Landschaft behaupten dürfen, religiöse Erziehung nach Modellen, wie sie für Christen oder Juden vorgesehen sind. Der Islam als Religion muss gleiche Behandlung erfahren wie die anderen Religionen, er muss dieselben Privilegien geniessen und den gleichen Einschränkungen unterstellt sein.

Vor allem aber darf man den Islam nicht den Kategorien des Multikulturalismus unterordnen. Ein Muslim ist in erster Linie ein Gläubiger, sei er nun muslimischer Herkunft oder Konvertit; umgekehrt ist aber nicht jeder Mensch muslimischer Herkunft zwangsläufig auch Muslim. Er kann Atheist, Agnostiker, der Religion gegenüber gleichgültig oder – Konvertit sein (man denkt selten an die wachsende Zahl von Muslimen, die sich dem Christentum zuwenden) Alles für die Religion, soweit sie sich im Rahmen der geltenden Gesetze hält, nichts für die Kultur.

Wir sollten ein europäisches und universales Modell der Religiosität entwickeln und die Muslime nicht länger auf eine vergangene und überholte, fortan eher imaginäre als reale Kultur zurückverweisen. Al-Kaida hat den jungen Muslimen das Modell des modernen, nihilistischen Helden offeriert. Schaffen wir das Gegenmodell eines europäischen Muslims, der Glauben und Modernität zu vereinen weiss – und zwar im Geist der Hoffnung und nicht der Verzweiflung. Das ist übrigens genau, was die Mehrzahl der europäischen Muslime will – wenn man sich die Mühe nimmt, sie anzuhören.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    30. Juli 2008

Die Gewalt neutralisieren
Perspektiven auf den radikalen Islam
Von Abdelwahab Meddeb

Abdelwahab Meddeb gehört zu den Vordenkern eines progressiven Islamverständnisses. Sein Buch «Die Krankheit des Islam» löste in der muslimischen Welt heftige Debatten aus. Er plädiert für die Revision koranischer Aussagen aufgrund einer historischen Lesart.
Dem Islam geht es nicht gut. Genauer gesagt, er ist krank. Der Schock, den die Terroranschläge des 11. September 2001 auslösten, hat mich dazu veranlasst, diese Krankheit in mittlerweile vier Büchern zu diagnostizieren. Sie besteht, kurz zusammengefasst, in der Gewaltanwendung im Namen Gottes. Diesen Punkt nun gilt es genauer zu erörtern: Handelt es sich dabei um ein spezifisches Übel des Islam, oder haben wir es mit einer Struktur zu tun, die religiösen Konstruktionen generell innewohnt?

Vieles weist darauf hin, dass religiös motivierte Gewalt kein inhärentes Problem des Islam ist. Sie ist sogar in den Religionen des indischen Subkontinents virulent, die wir automatisch mit einer im Geist der Gewaltlosigkeit gelebten Spiritualität assoziieren. Die Prädisposition zur Gewalt manifestiert sich also auch ausserhalb der Sphäre der monotheistischen Religionen, deren gegenseitige Anfeindungen – auch daran soll erinnert werden – dem Brudermord gleichkommen.

Von Moses zu Mohammed
Wenn wir uns nun den monotheistischen Religionen zuwenden, dann stellt man fest, dass der Krieg im Namen des Herrn biblisch war, noch bevor er islamisch wurde. Hier sei lediglich auf das Massaker verwiesen, welches Moses aus Zorn über den Rückfall seines Volkes ins Heidentum anrichten liess. Nach dem Tanz um das Goldene Kalb metzelten die Leviten auf Order ihres Propheten und Oberpriesters im Laufe eines Nachmittags dreitausend Menschen nieder. Josua war Mose würdiger Nachfolger – davon zeugt das Schicksal der Bewohner von Jericho nach dem Fall ihrer Stadt. Was die Gewalt angeht, kann man den Propheten des Islam also in der direkten Nachfolge Mose sehen. Der berühmte «Schwertvers» im Koran (4. Sure, 5), der die Tötung der Ungläubigen gebietet, wie auch der Vers «vom Kriege» (4. Sure, 29), der zum Kampf gegen Juden und Christen aufruft, haben beide einen alttestamentlichen Anklang. Und aus diesen Versen nährt sich der mörderische Fanatismus der radikalen Islamisten.

Wenn die Ausübung göttlich verordneter Gewalt den Offenbarungsreligionen eingeschrieben scheint, dann existiert doch ein gradueller Unterschied zwischen dem Judaismus und dem Islam – in dem Sinne, dass der Letztere dem Ersteren eine universale Dimension verleiht. Das Judentum führte den Krieg im Namen des Herrn einzig um das Heilige Land. Der Islam dagegen weitet den Horizont der Eroberung auf die ganze Welt aus. Die radikalen Islamisten haben den Jihad zwar optimiert, aber sie haben ihn nicht erfunden; er war der Motor der islamischen Expansion. Als Zeugen zitiere ich einen chinesischen Chronisten aus dem 10. Jahrhundert: Er schildert, wie die muslimischen Truppen sich kühn ins Gefecht stürzten, um das Martyrium zu erlangen, nachdem ihr Anführer ihnen mit feurigen Worten die Paradiesesfreuden geschildert hatte, die sie nach einem Tod auf dem Wege Gottes erwarteten.

Das Evangelium ist fern von solcher Aufstachelung zur Gewalt. Entsprechend verwundert es, dass die Christen im Lauf der Geschichte dennoch zu massiver Gewalt gegriffen haben; darin liesse sich nachgerade ein Verrat ihrer Botschaft ausmachen. Gewiss: Augustin entwickelte die These vom «gerechten Krieg», mittels dessen die Errungenschaften des Staates gegen die Angriffe der Barbaren verteidigt werden sollten. Dabei handelt es sich zwar nicht um einen Aufruf zum Glaubenskrieg; doch der Gelehrte von Hippo sah sich immerhin genötigt, eine Haltung zu legitimieren, die – wie ihm sehr wohl bewusst war – nicht dem Geist des Evangeliums entsprach. Aber es sollte noch fast tausend Jahre dauern, bis das Christentum mit dem Kreuzzugsgedanken eine dem Jihad vergleichbare Idee hervorbrachte.

Die Botschaft und ihr Kontext
Ich rufe diese Dinge nicht in Erinnerung, um die gegenwärtige Krankheit des Islam zu rechtfertigen, sondern vielmehr um aufzuzeigen, dass die Botschaft eines religiösen Urtexts übertreten, ja sogar weitgehend in den Wind geschlagen werden kann. Wenn das Christentum sich nicht an die vom Evangelium gebotene Friedfertigkeit und Duldsamkeit gehalten hat, dann müsste es umgekehrt auch möglich sein, die Tendenz zu Krieg und Gewalt in der koranischen Botschaft zu neutralisieren. Daraufhin zielt die moderne Interpretation des Islam ab, insbesondere indem sie den historischen Kontext hervorhebt, in welchem die koranische Botschaft ausgesandt und empfangen wurde.

Diese Neutralisierung durch den Einbezug des Kontexts ist unerlässlich, nicht nur im Blick auf die Gewaltproblematik, sondern auch auf die zahlreichen anthropologischen Anachronismen, welche die Scharia, das aus dem Buchstaben und dem Geist des Korans entwickelte Rechtsverständnis, mit sich führt. Was die Gewalt angeht, wird man vor allem die Staaten der islamischen Welt dahingehend in die Verantwortung nehmen müssen, dass sie die Idee des Jihad, des heiligen Krieges, neutralisieren. Denn diese steht in offenem Widerspruch zur Partizipation dieser Staaten im gemeinsamen Streben der Nationen nach der kantischen Utopie des «ewigen Friedens» – einer Idee, die trotz anhaltenden Kriegen, trotz dem hegemonialen Auftreten der Grossmächte und den Bemühungen anderer Nationen, mit ihnen gleichzuziehen, doch nach wie vor den Geist der Gegenwart bestimmt. Und zeigt sich heute nicht gerade in der Universalität der hegemonialen Bestrebungen auch wieder die Diversität der menschlichen Kulturen? Liesse sich die Tatsache, dass mittlerweile China, Indien und die arabischen Ölstaaten ihren Platz neben Europa und Amerika beanspruchen, nicht unter diesem Gesichtspunkt sehen?

Es ist unabdingbar, den islamischen Ländern den Blick für die Veränderungen der Gegenwart zu öffnen. Hinsichtlich der religiösen Identität betrachtet der Islam die Christen noch immer, als wären sie die alten Feinde aus Kreuzfahrerzeiten. Doch die Konzepte von Nation und Volk haben den Stellenwert der Religion längst relativiert. Und jetzt, wo sogar der Staat ins postnationale Zeitalter getreten zu sein scheint, hat die religiöse Determinante nochmals an Bedeutung verloren. In Europa ist sie nur mehr ein Attribut zum primären und prioritären Begriff des Staatsbürgers. Und dieser Begriff wiederum impliziert ein Rechtsverständnis, das sich in der heutigen Zeit nicht mehr an religiösen Kategorien orientiert.

Wenn der Islam gesunden und seinem eigenen Fluch entrinnen will, dann wird er sich auf einem post-islamischen Terrain einrichten müssen, das geschichtlich auf gleicher Höhe liegt wie die Lebenswelten von Juden und Christen. Das ist unabdingbar, wenn die Gemeinschaft der Nationen als solche funktionieren soll. Aber die islamischen Länder – insbesondere Saudiarabien – geben sich damit zufrieden, ihre Bürger auf einen moderaten Islam zu verpflichten, um sie von den extremistischen Kreisen fernzuhalten. Mittels theologischer Argumentation versucht man diese Letzteren zu isolieren, indem man sie mit dem Begriff des ghulu belegt – des Unmasses, welches der Koran ablehnt und geisselt.

Muslime aus freier Wahl
Das ist ein lobenswerter Schritt, aber ach! so ungenügend und furchtsam, besonders im Blick auf die islamische Gemeinde in Europa. Dieser freilich können wir eben jenes post-islamische Terrain erschliessen helfen, indem wir die in unseren Breiten lebenden Muslime dazu ermutigen, in Gewissensfreiheit und im Rahmen des positiven Rechts zu leben und sich von den Bindungen an die Scharia zu lösen. So werden sie als Muslime aus freier Wahl eine spiritualisierte Form ihrer Religion praktizieren können, die sich aus der reichen mystischen Tradition ihres Glaubens, dem Sufismus, nährt.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    7. August 2008

«Wenn du deinen Gegner und dich selber kennst . . .»
Perspektiven auf den radikalen Islamismus
Von Bruce Hoffman

Bruce Hoffman ist einer der führenden Terrorismusexperten in den USA; er lehrt an der Georgetown University und am Zentrum für Terrorbekämpfung der amerikanischen Militärakademie. Seine Bilanz des bisherigen «Krieges gegen den Terror» fällt vernichtend aus.
Der Krieg gegen den Terror dauert nun schon sieben Jahre, und Amerika steht an einem Scheideweg. Die zu Beginn errungenen Erfolge scheinen in Frage gestellt, denn al-Kaida hat sich in den Stammesgebieten im Nordosten Pakistans und in den umliegenden Regionen neu formieren können; der Kaida verbundene oder ideologisch nahestehende Gruppierungen wie al-Kaida im Maghreb haben an Schlagkraft zugelegt; und vor allem wird die Botschaft der Terrororganisation nach wie vor vernommen, so dass ihr ein kontinuierlicher Zustrom von Rekruten und Geldmitteln sowie Unterstützung für ihre Aktivitäten und Zielsetzungen sicher ist. – Die USA waren taktisch erfolgreich, wo es um die Liquidierung oder Inhaftierung von Kaida-Mitgliedern und wichtigen Führungspersonen von al-Kaida ging; weniger erfolgreich waren sie darin, eine Gegenstrategie zu dem ideologischen Potenzial zu finden, das der Terrororganisation die Radikalisierung ihrer Sympathisanten und die Mobilisierung von Unterstützung und Ressourcen für ihren Kampf ermöglicht.

Nicht Zwang, sondern Einflussnahme
Die amerikanische Strategie beruhte bisher weitgehend auf der Annahme, dass die heutigen Feinde der Nation – sei es al-Kaida oder seien es die Widerstandsbewegungen im Irak und in Afghanistan – ein lokalisierbares Gravitationszentrum haben und dass sie besiegt werden können, indem man individuelle Bösewichte eliminiert: Wenn diese erst einmal tot oder hinter Gittern seien, so nimmt man an, würden auch Terror und Widerstand enden. Dementsprechend haben sich die Streitkräfte und Geheimdienste in den vergangenen Jahren fast durchweg auf die Aufspürung militanter Führungspersönlichkeiten oder den Schutz der amerikanischen Truppen konzentriert und nicht auf ein besseres Verständnis des Gegners, mit dem wir es zu tun haben. Das ist ein monumentaler Irrtum: Zum einen haben solche Liquidierungsstrategien kaum je Wirkung gezeitigt, wo es darum ging, einer Massenmobilisierung im Zeichen von Terror oder Widerstand entgegenzuwirken; zum andern kann im Falle von al-Kaida die Kontinuität des Widerstands als direkte Bestätigung für die ungebrochene Wirkungsmacht ihrer Ideologie genommen werden.

Verteidigungsminister Robert Gates sagte im Oktober 2007: «Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass asymmetrische Kriegsführung bis auf weiteres die Konfliktstrukturen der Gegenwart beherrschen wird. Diese Konflikte werden grundsätzlich politischer Natur sein, und sie werden den Einsatz aller der Nation zur Verfügung stehenden Mittel erforderlich machen. Der Erfolg wird nicht so sehr davon abhängen, dass man anderen seinen Willen aufzwingt, sondern vielmehr davon, dass man ihr Verhalten beeinflusst – dasjenige von Freunden, von Gegnern, und am allermeisten das derjenigen, die dazwischen stehen.»

Der Erfolg wird auch davon abhängig sein, wie weit sich die amerikanische Strategie den Veränderungen anpassen kann, die wir in Art und Charakter unserer Gegner wahrnehmen. Grundlage einer solchen dynamischen und anpassungsfähigen Politik wird das unumstössliche Axiom sein, dass die erfolgreiche Bekämpfung von Terrorismus und Widerstand nicht ausschliesslich durch militärische Anstrengungen geleistet werden kann, sondern dass sie auch – wie es Robert Gates andeutet – parallele Massnahmen auf politischer, sozialer, wirtschaftlicher, ideologischer und medialer Ebene einbeziehen muss. Die Gegner und Bedrohungen, denen wir heute gegenüberstehen, sind viel zu komplex und zu ungreifbar, als dass ihnen durch die Liquidation von Führungspersonen beizukommen wäre. Auf einem derart unsicheren Terrain müssen wir Informationsstrategien ebenso effizient und zielgerichtet einsetzen lernen, wie es der Gegner tut.

Eine wirksame Gegenstrategie muss deshalb die taktischen Elemente einer systematischen Eliminierung und Schwächung des Gegners (im Sinne von «Töten oder Gefangennehmen») mit dem nicht minder relevanten und weiter gefassten strategischen Imperativ verbinden, jenen Zyklus von Rekrutierungs- und Regenerationsmechanismen aufzubrechen, der bis heute das Überleben von al-Kaida, ihren Zugriff auf Ressourcen und die Fortsetzung ihres Kampfes ermöglicht. Die Bedeutung eines solchen Informationskriegs wurde schon vor 50 Jahren von Feldmarschall Sir Gerald Templer in Malaya erkannt. «Mit den Gewehren lassen sich nur 25 Prozent des Problems lösen; die restlichen 75 Prozent liegen darin, die Menschen dieses Landes auf unsere Seite zu bringen», schrieb er im November 1952 – eine direkte Reaktion auf die verstärkten Bemühungen der Terroristen, in der Bevölkerung Rückhalt für ihre Aktivitäten zu gewinnen.

«Wenn du deinen Gegner und dich selber kennst», lautet der berühmte Ratschlag, den Sun Tzu vor Jahrhunderten formulierte, «dann brauchst du auch den Ausgang von hundert Schlachten nicht zu fürchten.» Aber wenn es für Amerikas Krieg gegen den Terrorismus eine Konstante gibt, dann ist es die völlige Unfähigkeit, diese zeitlose Weisheit umzusetzen. Der Krieg gegen den Terrorismus dauert nun schon länger als der Zweite Weltkrieg. Dass wir dem Sieg in dieser Zeitspanne keinen Schritt näher gekommen sind, zeigt, wie not uns genau jenes Wissen täte, das wir so sträflich vernachlässigten.

Warum ist es so wichtig, «den Gegner zu kennen»? Ganz einfach – militärische Taktiken sind von vornherein zum Scheitern verurteilt, wenn sie ohne detaillierte Kenntnis des Gegners angewandt werden, ohne das Wissen darum, wie er denkt, wie er demzufolge reagieren und sich möglicherweise unserer eigenen Taktik anpassen wird. Ohne den Feind genau zu kennen, können wir seine Zellen nicht erfolgreich unterwandern; wir können nicht auf intelligente Weise Zwist und Uneinigkeit in seine Reihen säen und ihn dadurch von innen her schwächen; und wir können auch seine Gedankengänge nicht nachvollziehen und damit antizipieren, wie er in unterschiedlichen Situationen und mit Hilfe unterschiedlicher Ressourcen agieren wird. Damit sind wir unfähig, auch nur die grundlegendsten Anforderungen für die Entwicklung einer effizienten Anti-Terror-Strategie zu erfüllen – nämlich terroristische Anschläge vorauszusehen und zu verhindern und potenzielle Attentäter abzuschrecken; ebenso wenig sind wir in der Lage, Widerstandsbewegungen durch konstruktive Einbeziehung der Bevölkerung und durch die Zerstörung der gegnerischen Infrastrukturen erfolgreich zu bekämpfen.

Wissen statt Wunschdenken
Solange wir nicht die Bedeutung dieser alles entscheidenden Voraussetzung erkennen, wird Amerika immer in der Defensive bleiben: Sein Handeln wird reaktiv statt proaktiv sein, da es sich selbst der Fähigkeit beraubt, wichtige Veränderungen im Modus Operandi, in den Rekrutierungsstrategien und Zielsetzungen des Gegners zu erkennen, geschweige denn vorwegzunehmen. Der Schlüssel zum Erfolg wird letztlich darin liegen, dass wir die enorme kinetische Kraft der amerikanischen Armee als Element einer umfassenden Vision einsetzen, die unsere Potenziale in einer Weise transformiert, dass wir asymmetrischen und unkonventionellen Bedrohungen entgegentreten können. Eine erfolgreiche Strategie muss sich zudem auch heute schon gedanklich und planerisch auf die Bedrohungen einlassen, mit denen uns die nächste Generation von Terroristen und Widerstandskämpfern konfrontieren wird. Diese Bemühungen werden aber nur erfolgreich sein, wenn wir glaubwürdig behaupten können, unseren Gegner zu kennen; und wenn wir in diesem Sinne unsere Strategien anhand empirischer Sachkenntnis und Analyse entwickeln – und nicht im Geist des Wunschdenkens und der schieren Vermutung.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    15. August 2008

Der Kampf um die Bedeutung des Islam
Perspektiven auf den radikalen Islamismus
Von Sadik Jalal al-Azm

Der syrische Denker Sadik al-Azm schlug den Arabern schon 1968 eine «Selbstkritik nach der Niederlage» und im folgenden Jahr eine «Kritik des religiösen Denkens» vor. Er sieht für den muslimischen Glauben einen dritten Weg zwischen Radikalismus und Staatsislam.
Es ist unbestritten, dass der Islam als Glaube und als eine der historischen Weltreligionen derzeit eine politische und kämpferische Virulenz in sich trägt; ebenso wichtig ist es aber, wahrzunehmen, dass der politische Islam nicht der ganze Islam ist und dass der gewalttätige Islam der Jihadisten nicht der ganze politische Islam ist. Und es darf auch nicht ausser acht gelassen werden, dass – anders, als es der erste Eindruck suggeriert – ein erbitterter Kampf um die Definition des muslimischen Glaubens und die diesbezügliche Deutungsmacht ausgetragen wurde.

Diese Tatsache steht der im Westen wie in der muslimischen Welt verbreiteten Auffassung entgegen, die den Islam als eine Art einheitliche, allgegenwärtige und praktisch allmächtige Determinante wahrnimmt, die den Muslimen jegliche Handlung und Zielsetzung vorschreibt. In den islamischen Ländern dient diese abstrakte und verzerrte Sichtweise direkt den Mullahs und ihren religiösen Machtstrukturen zu; dementsprechend wird sie von ihnen eifersüchtig gehütet und propagiert. Die breitere Bevölkerung findet in ihr einen zweckdienlichen Mechanismus zur psychologischen Selbstvergewisserung. Im säkularen Westen dagegen verspricht sie einfache Erklärungen für schwer durchschaubare Probleme; so kommt es, dass diese Sicht des Islam sich heute allenthalben ähnlicher Beliebtheit erfreut.

Der Kampf um Definition und Deutungsmacht in der islamischen Welt ist deshalb so heftig, weil die Religion auch heute noch die doktrinäre Basis muslimischer Gesellschaften ist und weil sie diesen ein kollektivistisches und kommunitäres Gepräge verleiht, das im Gegensatz zu den hochgradig individualisierten und privatisierten Formen der Religiosität steht, die mittlerweile im Westen praktiziert werden. Auch konnten sich die modernen Lesarten des Korans und der islamischen Basistexte, die deren Aussagen durch eine symbolische, metaphorische oder historische Interpretation auflösen wollten, bisher nicht durchsetzen; so hat der Wortlaut des Korans nach wie vor wesentlich mehr Gewicht als jegliche Lesart des Alten oder des Neuen Testaments. – Dies erklärt zumindest teilweise die kollektiven Zornesausbrüche, die etwa Salman Rushdies «Satanische Verse» oder die dänischen Mohammed-Karikaturen in der islamischen Welt provozierten. Trotz einer reichen Tradition von Satire und Kritik, Parodie und Humor in der arabischen und persischen Literatur hat sich der zeitgenössische Islam noch nicht mit der Idee abfinden können, dass in der modernen Welt keine Religion mehr über Kritik und Satire erhaben ist. Allenfalls haben die Muslime in dieser Hinsicht gewisse Fortschritte gemacht; darauf könnte die Tatsache hinweisen, dass Geert Wilders' umstrittener Film «Fitna», der ein äusserst herabsetzendes Bild des Islam entwarf, in der muslimischen Welt mit grosser Beherrschtheit, also mit überlegten und vernunftgemässen Reaktionen anstelle von zornigen Massendemonstrationen aufgenommen wurde.

Drei Faktionen
Im Ringen um die Deutungshoheit und Kontrolle über den Islam stehen sich hauptsächlich drei Faktionen gegenüber. Die erste konstituiert sich aus Regierungen, Staatsapparaten und dem etablierten Klerus, die gemeinsam das formulieren und propagieren, was man als «offiziellen Staatsislam» bezeichnen könnte. Dessen markanteste Ausprägung ist der von Ländern wie Saudiarabien und Iran praktizierte «Petro-Islam», dessen Praxis und globale Verbreitung mit den Geldern aus dem Erdölgeschäft finanziert werden. Die offizielle Doktrin des schiitischen iranischen Petro-Islam ist die velayet-e-faqih, die Autorität der Rechtsgelehrten, während die saudische Variante direkt auf den Koran als Verfassung des Staatswesens gegründet ist. Jeder Staat in der islamischen Welt hat inzwischen seine den eigenen Interessen dienliche Version des «offiziellen Islam» entwickelt. Sogar die säkulare kemalistische Türkei befand es für nötig, zumindest befristet auf eine vergleichsweise tolerante, flexible und gutwillige Form des Islam zurückzukommen.

Insgesamt erwies sich der Staatsislam – insbesondere in seinen rigidesten und wortgetreusten Lesarten – während des Kalten Krieges als unentbehrlicher Alliierter und Helfer des Westens. Diese Spielart des Islam und der Westen sind somit alte Bekannte, die sich gut verstehen und ausgezeichnet miteinander kooperieren können. Deshalb darf man die bombastischen Klagen, die sie auf der öffentlichen Bühne gegeneinander führen, mit einem Körnchen Salz nehmen.

Das Gegenstück zum Staatsislam ist der militante radikale Islam mit seiner Unzahl von Faktionen und Gruppierungen, die das längst in Vergessenheit geratene Banner des Jihad wieder hissten, um ihre Ziele weltweit mit Hilfe von spektakulären Gewaltakten durchzusetzen. Dieser Islam hat 1979 die Kaaba in Mekka besetzt und damit das Königreich Saudiarabien in seinen Grundfesten erschüttert; er hat 1981 den ägyptischen Präsidenten Anwar Sadat ermordet, in der Hoffnung, eine islamische Revolution im Lande loszutreten; er hat einen vergeblichen, aber blutigen Kampf gegen die Regime in Syrien, Ägypten und Algerien geführt und seine Aggression am 11. September 2001 in die USA getragen.

Die neue Doktrin des Jihad belegt alle Regierungen in der muslimischen Welt mit dem Vorwurf der Apostasie und betrachtet sie als lediglich nominell muslimische Institutionen, die dringend der Re-Islamisierung bedürfen. Dann sollen die Herrschaft Gottes (Hakimija) und sein Gesetz (Scharia) zunächst in den islamischen Ländern, dann in der ganzen Welt etabliert werden. Diese Spielart des Islam hält die Abwartehaltung der muslimischen Mehrheit für untragbar; die eigenen, spektakulären Gewalttaten dagegen werden als acte gratuit zur höheren Ehre Gottes verstanden. Ein solches Glaubensverständnis hat sich um des blinden Aktivismus willen von allen modernen Ideen wie Gesellschaft, Reform, Parteipolitik und Rechtmässigkeit wie auch von der Religiosität der grossen Mehrheit losgesagt.

Der Weg der Mitte
Hier muss angemerkt werden, dass der libanesische Hizbullah und die palästinensische Hamas zwar Ähnlichkeiten mit dieser Variante des Islam aufweisen, ihm aber nicht völlig zuzurechnen sind. Beide Organisationen sind aus traditionellen nationalen Befreiungsbewegungen entstanden und setzen ihre islamistisch geprägte Ideologie zur Mobilisierung für begrenzte politische Ziele ein. Ihre Kämpfe sind lokal beschränkt, richten sich lediglich gegen den Besatzer, haben ein klar definiertes Ziel und geniessen substanziellen Rückhalt in der Bevölkerung.

Letztlich gibt es einen kommerziellen Islam der Mittelklasse, der sich vor allem in den Bourgeoisien muslimischer Länder findet. Er ist durch eine ganze Anzahl von Institutionen vertreten, etwa Handels-, Industrie- und Gewerbekammern oder die Zweige des islamischen Bankgeschäfts. Da diese Mittelklasse in den betreffenden Ländern das Rückgrat der Zivilgesellschaft darstellt, dürfte dieser Islam generell zum Islam der muslimischen Zivilgesellschaft werden. Es ist ein moderates, konservatives Islamverständnis, das den Gang der Geschäfte nicht stört. Es schreckt vor linken Weltverbesserern ebenso zurück wie vor radikalislamischen Eiferern.

Das Modell für die Hegemonie eines solchen Islam findet sich heute in der Türkei mit ihrer gemässigt islamischen AKP-Regierung. Der Einfluss dieses Modells ist in der arabischen Welt – dem Herzland des Islam – schon weitherum spürbar. Wenn die gegenwärtig in Aufruhr befindlichen arabischen Staaten und Gesellschaften erst einmal zu einem Mass an Stabilität und Demokratie gefunden haben, dann dürfte nach meinem Ermessen ein solcher Mittelklasse-Islam die Oberhand gewinnen und für längere Zeit dominieren.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    22. August 2008

Generationen des Zorns
Perspektiven auf den radikalen Islamismus
Von Volker Perthes

Der Politologe Volker Perthes leitet die Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin und hat zahlreiche Studien über den Nahen und Mittleren Osten veröffentlicht. Er sieht fünf konkrete Ansatzpunkte, wie Europa in der muslimischen Welt konstruktiv agieren könnte.
Westliche Politik hat allmählich begriffen, dass es bei der Analyse von extremistischen Gruppen, die sich islamisch definieren, zu differenzieren gilt. Politisch relevant ist die Unterscheidung zwischen Bewegungen, die eine lokale politische Agenda und deshalb eine lokale Basis mit verhandelbaren Zielen haben, und jenen, die einen Raum und Zeit transzendierenden globalen Kampf zu führen glauben. Diese Unterscheidung war im «Global War on Terror» der Bush-Administration verloren gegangen, ist aber von amerikanischen Regierungsstellen wiederentdeckt worden. Gleichwohl darf man nicht übersehen, dass es in weiten Teilen der arabischen und muslimischen Welt eine transnationale Stimmung gibt, die eine gewaltsame Mobilisierung im Namen eines kämpferischen Islam zumindest erleichtert. Auch wenn die gesellschaftliche Mehrheit dieser Länder keineswegs radikal oder gewaltorientiert ist, finden wir von Marokko bis Pakistan und auch in der muslimischen Diaspora in Europa mittlerweile mindestens zwei Generationen junger Männer – und einiger Frauen –, deren Zorn in Gewaltbereitschaft oder in Indifferenz gegenüber Gewaltaktionen umschlägt.

Politischer Zorn, religiöse Sprache
Während die Generation, aus der die Gründer von al-Kaida stammen, vor dem Hintergrund des damals noch amerikanisch unterstützten Befreiungskampfes islamischer Jihadisten gegen die sowjetische Okkupation Afghanistans aufwuchs, wurde die jüngere Generation im Schatten des amerikanischen Kriegs gegen den Terror sozialisiert, den viele als Kampf des Westens gegen den Islam verstehen. Der Zorn dieser Generationen wird nicht mehr von revolutionären Regimen oder nationalen Befreiungsbewegungen kanalisiert. Der Zorn ist weiter politisch, die Zornigen aber, vor allem ihre Vordenker, bedienen sich einer religiösen Sprache, um den radikalstmöglichen Widerstand gegen die Verhältnisse zu legitimieren.

Strukturell macht sich diese Auflehnung an drei Phänomenen fest. Erstens sind da die als ungerecht empfundenen Verhältnisse in den eigenen Ländern, also schlechte Regierungsführung: Korruption, Missachtung der Menschenrechte, fehlende Rechtsstaatlichkeit und soziale Ungleichheiten. Die islamische Theologie hat ungerechte Herrschaft oft als unislamisch denunziert; insofern fällt auch der utopische Umkehrschluss leicht, dass die Rückkehr zum «wahren Islam» die vermisste Gerechtigkeit garantieren würde.

Palästina als offene Wunde
Zweitens ist da das Gefühl, dass die eigenen Länder von fremden, nicht muslimischen Mächten, vornehmlich des Westens, an ihren Entwicklungschancen gehindert werden. Man sieht, dass westliche Regierungen arabische Autokraten unterstützen, und man würde in amerikanischen oder israelischen Militärschlägen gegen Iran nur einen Beweis für das Streben des Westens erkennen, muslimische Nationen klein zu halten.

Das dritte Element ist der Palästina-Konflikt. Nicht, dass es, wenn die Palästinenser ihren eigenen Staat hätten, keine extremistischen Bewegungen in der muslimischen Welt oder keinen islamistischen Terrorismus gäbe. Der Konflikt bleibt aber die wichtigste offene Wunde, an der sich dieser Extremismus nährt, und das wichtigste Symbol für die Mobilisierung derjenigen, die den Islam in einem existenziellen Kampf mit dem Westen sehen. Das wirkt vor allem ausserhalb Palästinas: Für die Palästinenser ist die Verwirklichung ihrer nationalen Ambitionen ein konkretes, kein symbolisches Ziel, das sie durch politische, diplomatische oder gewaltsame Mittel, aber kaum durch einen «globalen Jihad» zu verwirklichen suchen.

Die Auseinandersetzung mit dem islamisch begründeten Extremismus ist in erster Linie ein Kampf um die Zukunft der arabisch-muslimischen Welt. Gerade die geschilderte erste Dimension des Zorns lässt sich nur durch tiefgehende politische Reformen in diesen Ländern auflösen. Dazu sind die vom Westen zu Bündnispartnern erkorenen autokratischen Regime allerdings oft kaum bereit. Europäische Regierungen können Reformen anmahnen und unterstützen. Europäische Politik muss sich allerdings auch Gedanken machen, wie ihre eigene Politik zum Auf- oder Abbau des Zornpotenzials in der muslimischen Welt beiträgt. Fünf kurze Ratschläge:

-    Europa sollte in der arabisch-muslimischen Welt solche Akteure unterstützen, die friedlich für Veränderung in ihren Ländern eintreten. Das heisst auch zu akzeptieren, dass Zivilgesellschaft nicht nur jene umfasst, die einen säkularen Diskurs pflegen, sondern auch konservative islamische Kräfte. Es ist sicher so, dass es ohne die nationalen moderaten Kräfte des politischen Islam keine nachhaltigen politischen Reformen in der arabischen Welt geben wird.

-    Politischer Wandel ist nie linear, er ist immer voller Widersprüche, Umwege und Rückschläge. Es empfiehlt sich deshalb, das Konzept der Demokratie operational in seine konstituierenden Elemente aufzubrechen. Das bedeutet insbesondere Rechtsstaatlichkeit, Menschenrechte, unabhängige Justiz, Transparenz, Meinungsfreiheit und freie Wahlen, wobei diese zwar das entscheidende, sicher aber nicht das erste und auch kein hinreichendes Element nachhaltiger politischer Reform sind. Demokratie, das ist essenziell, kann einem weit umfassenderen Prozess des state building nicht vorhergehen; Staatlichkeit ist vielmehr Voraussetzung konsolidierter Demokratie.

-    In der Entwicklung von Staaten besteht eine enge Beziehung zwischen wirtschaftlichem Fortschritt, Bildungsstand, dem Wachstum der Mittelschichten und den Chancen zur Verankerung von Pluralismus und demokratischen Prozessen. Das heisst, dass die Förderung der Entwicklung neuer Mittelschichten richtig bleibt, um Grundsteine für Veränderung zu legen.

-    Für westliche Akteure ist es essenziell, die Bedeutung des arabisch-israelischen Konflikts und zunehmend auch des Konflikts im Irak für die politische Entwicklung der Region nicht zu ignorieren. Europäische Glaubwürdigkeit, nicht nur die Glaubwürdigkeit der USA, wird in der Öffentlichkeit der arabischen Staaten an der Bereitschaft unserer Staaten gemessen, für die Beilegung dieses Konflikts bzw. dieser Konflikte zu wirken.

Wo verläuft die Konfliktlinie?
Auch wenn die Gräben tiefer geworden sind: Es gibt keinen Kulturkonflikt, der «den Westen» gegen «den Islam» positioniert. Der eigentliche clash findet innerhalb der arabisch-islamischen Zivilisation statt. Er verläuft zwischen denjenigen, die ihre Länder in die Globalisierung führen wollen, und reaktionären Utopisten, die ihren Gesellschaften totalitäre Zwangsjacken verpassen möchten. Wir Europäer können dabei entscheiden, ob wir unseren tatsächlichen und potenziellen Partnern in der Region das Leben erschweren, indem wir sie zum Objekt unserer Politik machen, oder ob wir sie durch glaubwürdiges politisches, gesellschaftliches und wirtschaftliches Engagement unterstützen.

Im September erscheint bei der Edition Suhrkamp Volker Perthes' neues Buch «Iran – eine politische Herausforderung».

Wie begegnen wir dem Islamismus?
Wie begegnen wir dem Islamismus?as. Die Konfrontation mit dem radikalen Islamismus ist eines der dringendsten Probleme der Gegenwart. Die NZZ bat in den vergangenen Wochen eine Anzahl profilierter Autoren, im Rahmen einer Beitragsserie zu dieser Frage Stellung zu nehmen. Auf unterschiedlichsten Ebenen sollten dabei Handlungs- und Denkansätze formuliert werden, mit denen die muslimische und die westliche Welt einem für alle gleichermassen zerstörerischen Phänomen entgegentreten könnten. Mit dem Beitrag von Volker Perthes ist die Serie abgeschlossen.
Kommentare

Michel C. Zala (5. Mai 2009, 20:07)
Lieber Herr de Bros
Leider entsprechen die Historischen Fakten nicht Ihrem Utopia, wo sich zwangslaufig die freie Gesellschaft durchsetzt., quasi als natuerliche Evolution. Schoen waers.
Leider hat die Geschichte bewiesen, dass man fuer eine freie Gesellschaft einstehen, kaempfen muss und sie taeglich neu verteidigen. Ohne die Willigen, die bereit waren, fuer unsere Freiheit zu bluten wuerden heute Millionen in repressiven Gesellschaften leben. Daraus folgt gnadenlos, dass es freien Gesellschaften zur moralischen Pflicht wird, fuer die Unterdreuckten einzutreten oder solchen Tendenzen mit allen Mitteln entgegenzuwirken. Nichts, guter Mann kommt gratis oder ohne Opfer. Die Menschenrechte haben viele Tote gekostet. Das muss respektiert, verdankt und als Fakt fuer jegliches zukuenftige verhalten im Gesicht von Terror oder Repression anerkannt sein. . Ihr Utopia wird mit Grabsteinen gebaut - wird Zeit fuer etwas Realismus.

Michel C. Zala (5. Mai 2009, 19:55)
Wieso die Galle?
Ist doch absolut stringent, was der Artikel aussagt. Radikaler Islamismus kann nur besiegt werden, wenn man konzertiert auf allen Ebenen und Dimensionen entgegenwirkt - vor allem die Rekrutierungsbasis eliminiert.
Bitte bedenken - hier redet keiner von Islamophobie - nur von der Dhijhaadistischen, radikalen Bewegung, die fuer fast alle der letztlichen Terroranschlaege verantwrotlich war. Muss doch auch diesen Lesern klar sein, dass die Welt solchen Terror doch nicht einfach so hinnehmen darf und dass iin der Konsequenz demnach Strategien zum Einsatz kommen muessen, die weit ueber lediglich militaerische Aktionen hinaus gehen. Oder wollen Sie ernsthaft behaupten, dass wir selbst am Islamischen Terror die Schuld tragen?

Fred deBros (17. März 2009, 18:02)
keinen Schritt näher gekommen ....
Irak: A small step for man, a big step for humanity............... no step at all for Bruce Hoffmann?
cheuklappen abnehmen.
Krieg kommt mit vielen Namen, so auch Sieg.
Aber am Schluss gewinnt immer die freie Gesellschaft, oder die beruehmte "coalition of the willing" gegen jede totalitaere Macht, sei es Theokratie, Monarchie oder Diktatur. Geduld.

Markus Erni (21. September 2008, 10:01)
…und dich selber!
Irgendwie scheint da die Hälfte schon wieder vergessen zu gehen. Oder wie war der Rat von Sun Tsu?

Rafiq Tschannen (25. Mai 2009, 13:29)
Islam - der mittlere Weg
Interessant ist, dass die Ahmadiyya Bewegung des Islams, vertreten in der Schweiz durch die Mahmud Moschee in Zuerich, schon seit ueber 100 Jahren 'den mittleren Weg' im Islam foerdert.

michael altherr (21. August 2008, 09:24)
Das koranische Kritikverbot beschränkt den Interpretationsraum auf Nebensächliches
Gibt es einen nennenswerten Spielraum für die Interpretation der koranischen Botschaft? Ist der Islam nicht ebensosehr totalitäre, absolutistische, für Andersdenkende äusserst bedrohliche und beleidigende Doktrin, wie Religion? Hat nicht Mohammed, der "letzte Prophet" - laut islamischer Überlieferung - eigenhändig wehrlose Kriegsgefangene getötet, zu Hunderten töten lassen, Vergewaltigung gebilligt, Folter und Mord befohlen? Wie ist einer Gemeinschaft zu begegnen, die einen solchen Menschen zum religiösen Idol erklärt? Ist nicht aufgrund des Koran - höchste Instanz des Islam - jeder Islam- oder Mohammed-Kritiker, mit Eigentum, Familie und Leben, den "wahren Gläubigen" auf Gnade und Ungnade anheim gegeben? Macht sich nicht der Islam durch die als unabänderlich geltenden Gebote des Korans für die Gemeinschaft mit anderen Gesellschaften und durch den Aufruf zu Gewalt und Diskriminierung gegenüber Andersdenkenden und Frauen tragischerweise selbst unmöglich?

Heiri Müller (18. August 2008, 17:08)
Was ist der Unterschied zwischen RELIGION und IDEOLOGIE?
Religion regelt das SPIRITUELLE LEBEN, Ideologie das WELTLICHE.
Wenn nun eine Religion/Ideologie 90 Prozent weltliche Dinge und nur 10 Prozent spirituelle Dinge regelt, soll sie dann als Religion gelten und von der Religionsfreiheit in Schutz genommen werden?
Ich als konvertierter Muslim, bin nicht einverstanden, dass der Koran so einfach nach Gutdünken interpretiert werden kann. Der Koran spricht nicht in Gleichnissen, wie das die Bibel tut. Der einzige Interpretationspielraum liegt in der Übersetzung vom Altarabischen ins Neuarabische. Jede andere Interpretation wird nach Sura 2, Vers 2 als Apostase und damit OBLIGATORISCH mit dem Tode bestraft. Der Koran wurde Mohammed vom Engel Gabriel diktiert. Ist also direkt Gottes Wort. D. h. jegliche KRITIK ist damit auch ausgeschlossen! Das arabische Wort "Islam" heisst nicht zufälligerweise "Unterwerfung" und nicht "denke selbständig"! Wo kämen wir da hin!

Erik Schiegg (15. August 2008, 20:41)
Islam: die gleiche Geschichte wie bei den Christen
Viele Christen verweigern sich der Krichlich-Staatlichen Diktatur und leben das Christentum wie es sich gehört: Beten in der eigenen Kammer und gutes Beispielsein und Ungerechtigkeit bekämpfen. Da der Islam den gleichen Gott wie die Christen und die Juden haben, solten sie sich ans Gleiche halten. Und der islamische Dekalog existiert doch!

Laurenz Hüsler (15. August 2008, 18:41)
Mass
Wie findet man zu einem Mass an Demokratie? Ist die skalierbar?

Rolf Raess (21. September 2009, 11:47)
Gaza - das grösste Gefängnis der Welt!
Solange solche Politik im Nahen Osten "gemacht" wird müssen wir uns über die Radikalen nicht wundern. Der Wilhelm Tell war auch eine Ausgeburt der Unterdrückung durch die Landvögte (auch wenn es nur ein nachempfundenes Geschichten ist) - immerhin.

Walter Liebi (15. Juli 2009, 01:58)
Der Islam und wir
Leserbrief von Hr. Iten.
Arabische Staaten akzeptieren unsere Menschenrechte nicht.
Die islamische Scharia ist die einzig zuständige Quelle......
Keine Gleichheit Mann/Frau, Körperliche Züchtigung erlaubt, steinigung, u.s.w.
Meine Meinung:
Wir akzeptieren deren Menschenrechte nicht und sie unsere nicht. Na und?
Aber im Gegensatz zu uns, führen sie keinen Krieg gegen uns.
Wir pochen auf unsere Religion und Kultur und sie auf die Ihrige.
Sodom und Camorra gegen Züchtigung und Steinigung. Oder umgekehrt.
Bei solchen Leserbriefen bleibt keine Toleranz anderen gegenüber. Schade!

Peter Manser (8. März 2009, 18:55)
Der Islamismus wird sich selbst auflösen, sobald ..
.. wir diesen Staaten oder Scheichs nicht mehr mit jedem Tritt aufs Gaspedal eine Unmenge Geld zufliessen lassen. Diese Länder werden, wenn die Ölquellen dereinst versiegt sein werden, sich wieder in jenem Zeitalter befinden, wo die Scharia entsprang. Es mutet zudem seltsam an, dass ausgerechnet jene Kreise, welche Eheschliessungen mit 10jährigen, Niedrigschätzung der Frau, körperliche Züchtigung grundtiefst verwerfen, sich mit diesen Menschen und ihrer Lehre verbrüdern. Wo liegt da die Logik?

Markus Iten (9. Januar 2009, 23:16)
Relativierte Menschenrechte von der UNO akzeptiert
Die Arabische Charta der Menschenrechte wurde 1994 vom Rat der Arabischen Liga verabschiedet. Arabische Staaten akzeptieren unsere Menschenrechte nicht. Die Beratungen über den Entwurf wurden durch das UNO-Hochkommissariat für Menschenrechte (UNHCHR) unterstützt.
In den Artikeln Artikel 24 und 25 der Erklärung sieht die Soziologin Necla Kelek die wichtigsten Feststellungen: „Alle Rechte und Freiheiten, die in dieser Erklärung genannt werden, unterstehen der islamischen Scharia … Die islamische Scharia ist die einzig zuständige Quelle für die Auslegung oder Erklärung jedes einzelnen Artikels dieser Erklärung.“ Keine Gleichheit Mann/Frau, Körperliche Züchtigung erlaubt, steinigung, u.s.w.




Quilliam Foundation    12th August 2009

Strategic briefing:
Al-Qaeda affiliated group to revise jihadist ideology

Quilliam issued the following strategic briefing:
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a prominent jihadist group allied with al-Qaeda, is planning to issue a 419-page document refuting al-Qaeda’s jihadist ideology. Those involved in these “revisions” say they will be more comprehensive than the refutations of former jihadists to date. As a result, this refutation of jihadist ideology may potentially strike a major blow against al-Qaeda, creating internal divisions in the movement as well as undermining grassroots support for al-Qaeda’s narrative around the world.

Background:
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), whose creation was announced in 1995 by Libyan veterans of the Afghan jihad against the USSR, was established to overthrow General Gaddafi and establish an Islamic state in Libya. The LIFG orchestrated and carried out a number of failed assassination attempts against Colonel Gaddafi in the early 1990s and again in 1998. During this period, the LIFG became increasingly aligned with global jihadist movements such as Al-Qaeda, with many of its members working alongside al-Qaeda in Sudan and Afghanistan. In 2007, an LIFG leader in Afghanistan announced that the group had merged into al-Qaeda (although some other leading LIFG members disputed this). The British government designated the LIFG as a terrorist organization in October 2005.

LIFG’s links to Al-Qaeda:
-    Abu Yahya al-Libi, the spiritual leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb who is also one of al-Qaeda’s main public faces, is a former member of LIFG. His brother, Abdul Wahhab al-Qaid, is a current senior LIFG leader.
-    Abdullah al-Sadeq, the leader or ‘Emir’ of LIFG, and Abu Munder al-Saidi, the group’s spiritual  leader worked closely with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 when they fled to the Far East where they were later arrested.
-    Abu Laith al-Libi, another leader of the LIFG, was a senior member of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In November 2007, he announced that the LIFG had merged with al-Qaeda. In January 2008, he was killed by a CIA drone in Pakistan.
-    Ayman al-Zawahiri has praised the LIFG and in 2007 made a recording to announce that they had joined al-Qaeda. In a 2009 recording, Zawahiri specifically praised Abu Munder al-Saidi, the LIFG’s spiritual leader.

Group’s revisions:
The Arab media and jihadist websites say that the many of the LIFG’s most senior leaders in Libyan prisons have completed writing a 419-page refutation of al-Qaeda’s jihadist ideology. These leaders include Emir Abdullah al-Sadeq, the LIFG’s leader, and Abu Munder al-Saidi, the group’s spiritual leader. Another co-author is Abdul Wahhab al-Qaid, a former LIFG leader who is the brother of the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda’s North African branch. The revisions come after two years of negotiations between the Libyan government and the leaders of the LIFG (Sources include Al-Sharq Al-Awasat, Middle East Online, Islam Online, Website of London-based jihadist Hani al-Sibai).

The LIFG revisions are reported to include sections regarding:
--- What are Islamic rulings on violent activities in Western and Muslim-majority countries?
---The rulings of jihad. i.e. when is it permissible and what are its conditions?
---Who is qualified to make laws and pass judgments?

Dr. Ali al-Salabi, a member of the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood who has acted as the main go-between for the LIFG and the Libyan government has said that the document avoids many of the short-comings of Dr Fadl’s revisions, namely his highly personal attack on his former comrades and his lack of a systematic theological argument. Instead, Al-Salabi says, the LIFG revisions did not use the Egyptian revisions of Dr Fadl but rather aimed to be a theological discussion based on mainstream Islamic texts and sources. The document’s writers have also sent the text to a wide variety of popular Islamic scholars and clerics to gain their public endorsement. These include Wahhabists, Muslim Brotherhood supporters such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and non-Islamist Muslim scholars. So far two of them, of strikingly different backgrounds have endorsed the revisions. They are: Salman al-Auda, a Saudi wahhabi cleric who was formerly a leading supporter of Osama bin Laden; and Sheikh Ahmed al-Raissouni, Professor of Principles of Jurisprudence and Maqasid al-Shari’ah in King Muhammad VI University in Morocco, a leading moderate thinker. (Source: Islam Online, Islam Today, Islam Today).

The LIFG has not yet announced when its text, provisionally named ‘Correctional studies in the concepts of jihad, planning and judging people’ (Dirasaat tashihiyah fi mafahim al-jihad wa al-jisba wa al-hukm ala al-nas) will be published – although it unlikely to take place until the group has received feedback from the external scholars who they have approached to read it.

Possible implications for global Jihad:
Although the LIFG’s only attacks carried out in its own name have been in Libya, its planned revisions may have a number of important consequences for jihadist movements worldwide:
-    Theological challenge to al-Qaeda’s ideology
The theological basis of these revisions are expected to directly refute important aspects of al-Qaeda’s ideology. Their endorsement by a range of popular and prominent scholars will also give them a great deal of credibility.
-    Embarrassment for al-Qaeda and its supporters.
The leading author of the revisions, Abu Munder Al-Saidi, was recently praised by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al-Qaeda number two, in his August 2009 video entitled ‘The Facts of Jihad and the Lies of the Hypocrites’. Al-Saidi’s older pro-jihadist writings also appear on a renowned pro Al-Qaeda website that is run by Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the world’s most prominent Al-Qaeda ideologue.
-    Increase the isolation of al-Qaeda
As a result of these refutations, al-Qaeda will be far less able to pretend that it represents a variety of groups and interests from across Muslim communities. The departure of the LIFG from al-Qaeda’s global jihad, if widely publicized, will undermine Bin Laden’s claims to head a worldwide Islamist coalition.

Important challenges remain:
But while the LIFG’s forthcoming revisions may be useful in the struggle against violent extremism, they will not necessarily be useful in preventing non-violent political and religious extremism and intolerance in general.

The revisions’ wider usefulness will depend on how the LIFG approach the following issues:
    -Should state laws be synchronised with any interpretations of Sharia (i.e. should states enforce punishments for what is considered haram)
    -Is political sovereignty “for God” or for citizens? (i.e. are citizens allowed to vote on legislation)
     -What is the definition of ‘civilians’, ‘innocents’ and ‘non-combatants’?
    -What constitutes ‘aggression’ against Muslims or Islam which can justify jihadist operations?
    -What are correct Islamic attitudes towards minority expressions of Islam?
    -What should be Muslims’ attitudes towards non-Muslims?
    -What are the Islamic rulings on democracy and a secular state?
   - Under what circumstances can Muslims pronounce takfir against others, and what are the implications of this?

Unless the LIFG provides answers to the above points that are relevant to the 21st-century globalised world, then this revision – however welcome in combating al-Qaeda worldview – will fall short of providing a blueprint for peace and harmony between peoples.




Jihadica    September 14th, 2009

A First Look at the LIFG Revisions
Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Retractions
by Vahid Brown

(Editor’s note: This piece is a sneak preview of our second guest blogger: Vahid Brown from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He will not start writing regularly until October, and I will present him more formally then, but he has already written this important piece, which for obvious reasons cannot wait.)
I have just looked at the first three installments of the LIFG Revisions posted to the internet, and though these initial releases amount to less than ten percent of the work, we can already see that this is a very sweeping repudiation not just of salafi jihadism but of all forms of revolutionary Islamism in general.

The text is remarkably broad in its scope, and strikes me as a 21st-century Sahwist renewal of the 1970s-era Muslim Brotherhood rejection of Qutbist Islamism. Indeed, the phrase in the last sentence of the excerpt below, about the authors being “preachers not judges,” refers to the famous 1977 Muslim Brotherhood tract of the same title (Hudaybi’s authorship is controversial) that repudiated Sayyid Qutb’s violent form of takfiri revolutionary politics.  Given the prominence of the group of people who have already publicly endorsed the Revisions - including Salman al-’Awda and Yusuf al-Qaradawi - the work promises to be quite consequential.

The first section includes a brief precis of the contents of the work, which I translate below. Much of this is somewhat allusive and often couched in the techinical terminology of Islamic jurisprudence, but I think the message comes through nonetheless:

“We have arranged this study in nine chapters, each with sections and sub-headings.  The first chapter is “The Covenant of Islam and how it is Established,” in which we discuss the qualities necessary for a person to establish their bond [covenant] with Islam and be endowed with the rights of a Muslim, and we point out certain errors in this regard and delineate their negative consequences.

The second chapter is “Knowledge and the Scholars,” (‘ilm wa’l-’ulama) in which we explicate the virtues of Shar’ia knowlege, the characteristics of its adherents, its importance, and the grave seriousness of issuing judgments without jurisprudential qualifications.  We mention that many of the calamities besetting the Muslims today have arisen on account of ignorance and the issuing of decisions, without jurisprudential qualifications, on matters of great importance, especially those having to do with blood and money.

The third chapter is “The Call to God,” which concerns that call (da’wa) which God has made a defining feature of this community (umma), and we discuss the objectives [of da'wa], its various types and areas of application, the need for it, and the obligations and characteristics of those that raise this call (du’at).

The fourth chapter is “Jihad,” in which we mention its virtue and position, and expound upon the ethical requirements, regulations and etiquette (adab) of jihad, mentioning the disastrous consequences of deviating from these regulations.  We discuss the history of the use of violence in political revolutions, the position of the scholars on this issue, as well as our own position on armed struggle, established on the basis of our personal experiences in this regard.

The fifth chapter is “Differences in Legal Opinions” (fiqh al-khilaf), in which we explain the various types [of acceptable multiplicity/contestation of legal views in Islamic jurisprudence], and define what is and is not permissible in this regard. We call attention to the deleterious effects on Muslim unity arising out of ignorance of the proper rules relating to divergence of legal opinion.

The sixth chapter is dedicated to “Religious Extremism” (ghuluw fi’l-din), in which we discuss its manifestations and causes, as well as its negative effects on the individual and the community (umma).

The seventh chapter is “The Beneficial and the Harmful,” (al-masalih wa’l-mafasid), in which we explain the importance of considering the consequences of actions, and the weighing of the beneficial and harmful in the scale of the purposes of sacred law; we conclude that neglect of this issue has been the cause of most of the errors in the Muslim community (al-umma al-islamiyya).

The eighth chapter is on “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong,” the basis of the community’s well-being. We discuss some of the errors committed under this rubric, which, despite the best of intentions, lead to evil results.

Finally, the ninth chapter is on “Passing Judgment on People,” in which we explain the grave seriousness of issuing decrees against people, and in particular the excommunication (takfir) of a Muslim. We discuss the regulations on passing judgment, the regulations on those qualified to pass such judgments, and we conclude that, indeed, we are preachers not judges, and that it is not ours to know the hearts of men, or to search their breasts, but rather to invite them unto righteousness.” (Kitab al-dirasat al-tashihiyya, part one).




GICDF   October 15, 2009

Statement on the Release of Detainees

Following with great interest the outcome of the dialogue initiatives led by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation under the supervision of its chairman Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan human rights organizations, represented by the Human Rights Society of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, Tripoli Bar Association, the Libyan National Center for Human Rights, the Young Lawyers Committee at the National Youth Organization, and the Human Rights national Commission, are keen to show their appreciation for the Corrective Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Accountability and Governance of People launched by with the Libyan Fighting Group (LIFG) and which confirmed the Foundation’s and its Chairman’s bearings on violence renunciation and activation of the national dialogue.
Today, we congratulate all those concerned with human rights issues on the success achieved in releasing 45 LIFG members, in addition to 43 members belonging to different (Jihadist) groups, a fact that adds credit to the Foundation’s efforts that succeeded in setting free more than a hundred LIFG members over the past period, in addition to its sustained interest in re-integrating those released into society. We also welcome the decision to remove Abu Salim prison and the transfer of the rest of detainees to an open prison temporarily.
Human rights organizations are keen to emphasize here that the General People’s Committee initiated action to compensate the families of the martyrs who died during the confrontations.
We, here undersigned, are all honored to felicitate this great effort and to call for further dialogue in view to bring support to the homeland and to the principles of right and justice.
Signatures:
-          Human Rights Society of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation
-          Young Lawyers Committee at the National Youth Organization
-          Human Rights national Commission
-          Libyan National Center for Human Rights
-          Tripoli Bar Association
-          Youth Welfare National Assembly
Issued in Tripoli on Oct 15, 2009


comment
GWU-HSPI    October 16, 2009

An In-depth Conversation with Noman Benotman
Reflections on Jihad: A Former Leader’s Perspective
By Frank J. Cilluffo and F. Jordan Evert

    While many counterterrorism experts pay much attention to the tactics and modus operandi of specific organizations in an effort to defeat them, al-Qaeda, its franchises, and like-minded groups tap into a much broader narrative that inspires and shapes their operations. The thinking of former members of al-Qaeda and associated groups provides a unique window into this narrative.
    In the past few years, many key figures have renounced violent jihadist ideology, including members of the Egyptian al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya; Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (Dr. Fadl), former Emir in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, whose ideology is at the core of al-Qaeda’s thinking; militants from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and across Southeast Asia; and most recently, the leadership of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank write here about the impact of such efforts, featuring specifically the story of Noman Benotman (profiled with other former militants in Salon here).
    Noman Benotman was a core member of the LIFG, an Islamist organization that for decades dedicated itself to the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi. At one point, Benotman served as a member of LIFG’s governing Shura Committee. In many ways, his ideological background is similar to that of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership. He too fought in Afghanistan and even advised Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri on strategy.
    In the summer of 2000, Benotman traveled as the LIFG representative to a gathering of jihadists from across the Arab world convened by bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It was at this time that Benotman began to break with al-Qaeda’s leaders over differences in opinion about strategy.
    At first the break was private. Benotman warned bin Laden that a jihad against the United States would backfire. In November 2007 however, the break became public.
    In an open letter to al-Zawahiri, Benotman argued that al-Qaeda’s tactics violated Islam’s call for the protection of “man’s religion, life, mind, off-spring, and wealth.” He called on the organization to declare a unilateral cessation of military operations.
    During this timeframe, Benotman also met with HSPI Director Frank Cilluffo to share initial thoughts on many of the issues discussed in depth in the detailed interview below.
    Also in November 2007, al-Zawahiri and Abu Laith al-Liby (who claimed to be speaking on behalf of LIFG) announced in an audio recording that LIFG was formally merging into the larger al-Qaeda network. The validity of this merger remains unclear, as is the question of who truly speaks for LIFG—a topic that Evan Kohlmann’s entry on Counterterrorism Blog addresses here.
    The issue resurfaced this summer, when a group of authors writing under the name “Islamic Fighting Group – Britain” issued a communiqué on July 3, 2009 nullifying LIFG’s membership in al-Qaeda. The authors argue that al-Liby acted without the consent of LIFG’s leadership. Furthermore, they publically criticize al-Qaeda for its “wrongful practices like random bombings, destroying private and public property, and targeting civilians.”
    In August 2009, it was announced that LIFG members were preparing to issue the Book of Correctional Studies (al-kitab al-dirasat al-tashihiyya) [in Arabic here]. The book serves as a lengthy refutation of al-Qaeda’s jihadist ideology. The Libyan daily Oea has been rolling out sections of the book in serialized form. The UK’s Quilliam Foundation has released a selected translation of the text, and Jihadica has provided some initial analysis of the text. It is also worth noting that in 2008, on his first visit to the United States, Quilliam Foundation Director Maajid Nawaz spoke at the Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) on the topic of countering violent jihadism.
  Correctional Studies was authored chiefly by Emir Abdullah al Sadeq, the LIFG’s leader, and Abu Munder al-Saidi, the group’s spiritual leader. The theological challenge posed by the book has the potential to embarrass, undermine, and isolate al-Qaeda (and its network of violent Islamists) from their target audience of prospective supporters.
    One prominent co-author, Abdul Wahhab al-Qaid (Abu Idris), is a former LIFG leader and the older brother of Abu Yahya al-Liby. Al-Liby is the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who seems to be increasingly positioning himself as successor to bin Laden. What makes al-Liby quite dangerous is that he has a religious pedigree that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri lack. In turn, what makes Abu Idris so compelling is his denunciation of al-Liby. Jarret Brachman has contributed valuable thinking on both of these subjects (see here and here).
    Hoping to shed further light on these new developments as well as other related topics, HSPI posed a series of in-depth questions to Benotman. Topics included the impact of the July 3rd communiqué and Correctional Studies on al-Qaeda’s ability to keep supporters and recruit new followers; conceptions of legitimate jihad; the governing structure of LIFG; the process of transitioning from an al-Qaeda ally to open critic; and strategies for resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. For their candor and insight, Benotman’s responses are a valuable resource for policymakers, practitioners, and academics alike. [emphasis added]

How was the decision to release the July 3rd communiqué reached? Was there a particular event or set of criteria that precipitated this decision?
It was a very difficult decision because of the absence of charismatic, powerful leadership, so all these people had to cooperate based on open dialogue. There are some key figures who played a significant role to galvanise support to get individuals to agree with the dialogue between the government and the LIFG. One of the main factors that encouraged these people to release the communiqué was their conclusion that the process of dialogue had reached its final stage.
Two important measures convinced them to support the dialogue. First, they were certain that the group and its leaders in prison were acting based on their free will. Second, the Libyan Government was seriously committed to dialogue and reconciliation.

In November 2007, Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri along with Abu Laith al-Liby announced with great fanfare that LIFG had merged with Al-Qaeda, yet in the communiqué it states Abu Laith al-Liby did so on his own and without "approval of most members in the Shura Majlis." Can you expand upon this statement- How is LIFG governed- Have the rules for decision-making changed over time- What insights can you provide on Abu Yahya al-Liby, now one of the leaders of AQIM and also a current or former member of LIFG?
The decision to dismantle the group, or merge with another group, or even to change its name, is an organizational decision that no individual in the LIFG leadership has the right to make on his own. The LIFG in its constitution puts these kinds of decisions in the hands of the shura council members collectively. Not even the leader of the group has the power or the authority to make organizational decisions regarding the group. That’s why Abu Laith’s decision does not represent the group and is illegitimate.
The LIFG constitution specifies its governing structure of committees, departments, and authorities, as well as the nature of the relationships between the parts of the group. The constitution has developed over the years. Since the early-90s, the shura council discusses and reviews the constitution as part of the agenda for every general meeting.
Abu Yahya al-Liby (Hassan Gayid) has not announced his resignation from the group directly because of his loyalty to the group and its leadership. Because of the circumstances surrounding him, he decided with other individuals to subscribe to the al-Qaeda network. This action from the LIFG point of view means he is no longer a member of the group—its automatic dis-membership.
The bottom line is that Abu Yahya al-Liby is a significant part of the Al-Qaeda leadership, not just in AQIM, but in the whole network worldwide he is the most influential and spiritual figure so far. In the future, for him the sky is the limit to be the top Jihadi theorist worldwide, but I am not sure he can make it as bin Laden’s successor, as some reports have mentioned.

What strategic impact do you think the July communiqué will have- Upon Al-Qaeda specifically- How about upon al-Qaeda’s narrative, “brand,” and strength- Do you think the effects will vary among Muslim populations living in the Arab world and those living in the West and elsewhere- The communiqué is signed “Islamic Fighting Group – Britain.” Are the authors vulnerable to charges that they do not represent the majority of LIFG members?
The communiqué by itself has no impact on the strategic level, despite its importance in encouraging and supporting the LIFG members and leadership in prison to keep doing good work and to reach the final destination of the dialogue between the group and the government. The communiqué will deny anyone in the future the opportunity or the possibility to try to re-group and re-organise for another round of struggle based on violence.
The real strategic impact will come from the recently released book, “Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability, and the Judgment of the People,” written by six members of the LIFG leadership, including Abdullah Sadik, the leader of the group, and Abu Munder Saidi, the spiritual leader of the group.
This new book is the fruit of the dialogue between the government and the LIFG that started in January 2007. A lot of Arab national daily newspapers started running series of this book, including papers in Libya, Algeria, and Jordan. I think this book, if it is compounded with the release of the approximately 200 LIFG members in prison, will have much more strategic effect. The most important strategic impact for the 478-page book is not that it has pragmatically denounced violence, but that it has ideologically de-legitimised violence.

What are the hallmarks of legitimate jihad- When is it permissible and under what circumstances- How sound are Al-Qaeda's theological underpinnings- Do you believe that their ideology should be further theologically challenged by Islamic scholars and other jihadist leaders- What are Al-Qaeda's greatest strengths- What are their greatest weaknesses- If they continue down the path they have pursued, what is their future?
Discussing what is legitimate Jihad and what is not is one of the most difficult and complex issues facing all Muslims worldwide and the rest of the intellectuals and thinkers in the West. Despite all that I would like to say, the most important thing is the framework and the approach to discuss arguing, theorising, and conceptualising Jihad.
From my point of view, I would like to say taking in account the religious text in the Quran and authentic Hadeeth (saying of the prophet) in the twenty-first century is not just a Muslim issue despite it being one of the Muslim duties in specific circumstances, but it's an issue affecting the whole world because here we talk about war and peace. That's why I strongly believe that the departure point arguing about legitimate Jihad should be approached from an international relations studies point of view.
That means when we are theorising and analysing Jihad we take in account our contemporary world, which is significantly different from various historical phases in the past.
My point is Muslims should theorise and understand Jihad (war and peace) based on the contemporary phase. That is why I believe the departure point is international relations studies, so we can utilise the knowledge compilation developed by humanity to discuss how to regulate, control, and establish laws and rules for war.
What I've said makes Al-Qaeda’s theological underpinnings unrelative and unstable, because Al-Qaeda heavily depends on two elements. First, a mechanical understanding from ideas, concepts, and visions written hundreds of years ago. So I can say Al-Qaeda understands and theorises our modern life through glasses made thousands of years ago. Second, the imbalance of power between Muslim countries and the West, which is one of the main sources contributing to Muslim weakness, fragmentation, underdevelopment, and grievances.
Al-Qaeda poses serious threats not to the West only but to the Muslim countries as well. If it’s killing thousands of Westerns and Non-Muslims worldwide, it is doing the same thing in the Muslim countries, plus high-jacking Islam itself. So an ideological confrontation between Al-Qaeda and Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and thinkers is inevitable to uncover and de-legitimise terrorism, extremism, and radicalism, which are established as a school of thought in terms of understanding and having a strategy to act in the name of Islam.

In the last nine years, you've transitioned from being an al-Qaeda ally, to sincere critic, to a position of open dissent – why?
The bottom line is I am a politician. I have dreams, hopes, and vision. Taking that in account, my agenda dictating who is my Ally and who is not. And during the period of the Soviet's invasion in Afghanistan, all the parties who shared the same objective of defeating the Empire of Evil (The Soviet Union) were one way or another allies despite the differences between all of them. And Al-Qaeda 20 years ago was completely different from the Al-Qaeda of today. I strongly believe all Muslims should criticise and resist Al-Qaeda attempts to hi-jack the Islamic agenda, in both levels domestic and international.

When you joined LIFG, what was your concept of the movement- What were your hopes and goals in Libya; in Afghanistan; and for Islamic communities around the world?
I never ever believed that the LIFG is the Muslim nation or the Libyan society. It's just a group of Muslims who believe that Libyan society constitutes 100% of Muslims who have the right to establish and build a Nation State based on Sharia law. And the LIFG can act as driver, catalyst, and vanguard to speed up the process of transforming the Libyan society to the Islamic version.
Our goal in Afghanistan was achieved, which was to defeat the enemy, liberate the whole country from communism, and help the Mujahideen to take over the governance of Afghanistan. Since then the LIFG quit fighting, and it didn't take any part in the civil war between yesterday’s Mujahideen and today’s Rulers. Even during the period of the Taliban the LIFG took no part in the fight against the other groups, and it was a Shura decision.
Regarding the communities in the Islamic world, we are as individuals in the Islamic fighting group the LIFG. We have our individual hopes and sketchy visions for the Muslim nation worldwide, but the group itself, LIFG, has no agenda regarding that issue because it's been built based on National Struggle. This despite the cooperation between the LIFG and other Muslim groups in other places of the world, but that's a normal response to given circumstances, not based on political agenda intentionally being developed.

What motivated LIFG and the Libyan government to engage in peace talks in recent years- What is the current status of these discussions- What lessons can be learned from this process?
I have to say the idea and the initiative was launched by Saif Islam Al-Qadafi, Colonel Muamer Al-Qadafi's son, in December 2007. Because I was in the heart of that process since its launch, I can say without a doubt that Saif Al-Islam himself was the main driver and the power house for its sure success. And the LIFG, when they knew that Saif Al-Islam was sponsoring the initiative, they showed no hesitation to accept the window of opportunity to engage in the process of peace talks.
And I think due to the circumstances surrounding the group, when the initiative was launched it did motivate the group to engage. Most of the group had been arrested, including six of the leaders. At this time there was also the dominance of the Al-Qaeda-like style of Jihad, which is based on stray, blind violence. So the group was in a position to think and reflect about their experience and to come to a conclusion about the use of violence and the negative impact imposed by Radical Islam Ideology to the future of Islam itself. And here I can say I am quoting them because they have told me that in person in 2007, during one of my visits to the prison when we were in the middle of peace talks.
As for the current status, I can say we've reached the final destination, thank god successfully, because the group issued their new book [Correctional Studies] which de-legitimises the use of terrorism and violence. And now we are waiting for the final move from the government to start the process of releasing all of them, taking in account the security measures and precautions. There are many lessons one can take from this process, but the most important one is sometimes we face problems which appear to be unsolvable because our minds have been set by default. And when we start to think of the unthinkable we find that those unsolvable problems are actually solvable, and the main problem was our way of thinking, not the problem itself.

Is complete reconciliation possible?
Yes of course.

In your November 2007 open letter to Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, you urge al-Qaeda to take a more inclusive approach and return to “mainstream” Islam. What are the tenets of mainstream Islam- Can al-Qaeda ever really support it?
This is one of the main problematic and debatable issues, mainstream Islam. And that is because the political presence of the Muslim nation, the Caliph, does not exist anymore. So we don't have a political entity we can identify as the Muslim nation. The current existence of the Muslim nation is at the faithful level—people sharing the same faith, belief, and creed. But they are divided into about 55 independent sovereign countries, plus dozens of Muslim communities in non Muslim States.
Taking that in account imagine how difficult it is to identify mainstream Islam in this plural sphere, despite all I can say about the fact that throughout the history of the Muslim nation—since its existence over 1500 years ago—the Sunni School of thought always is the dominant power and force representing mainstream Islam. Our problem here is Al-Qaeda itself. Its point of departure is between the Sunni sect of Islam and the Salafist Ideology, but public opinion and the vast majority of the Muslim Sunni worldwide reject and do not accept Al-Qaeda's understanding or interpretation of Islam.
The main three different points here between Al-Qaeda and the Sunni sect of Islam are:
-    First; the issue of loyalty. Al-Qaeda practically transformed this concept from its traditional understanding—which is that all Muslims are loyal to each other—to the notion that all Muslims should be loyal to Al-Qaeda and if you're not, that means there is something wrong with your faith, belief, and creed, and you may end up being identified as a non Muslim from Al-Qaeda's point of view. This understanding is one of the main sources of bad and sometimes evil reactions committed by Al-Qaeda members.
-    Second; their understanding of Jihad, which has been transformed from ethical and moral action based on justice to be nonsense terrorist activities.
-    Third; traditionally Muslim leaders are of two characters. One is people with authority and power, like presidents, kings, and princes. They are the source of political legitimacy. The other is people who have the moral power, the Scholars (Ulama), and they are the source of religious legitimacy. Traditionally this is the structure of power in the Muslim society.
I myself am asking here where does Al-Qaeda fit in these categories, taking in account that they claim to represent the whole Muslim nation, including launching a global war against many different nations on behalf of the Muslim nation.

What salience does the new field manual “Rules for Mujahideen” have for operations and with Islamic communities- What effect will it have on Islamist operations themselves or the perceptions of such?
Let me first describe the manual itself. It's not an ideological or theological argument or thesis about Jihad, so my point of view is I believe it's an administrational reaction from the Taliban movement to certain circumstances. In different words, they believe they've entered a new phase a little bit more advanced than the previous one, and if you see the manual itself, which is more than 60 pages, it's all about how to control and run areas under their control. There are many other articles in the manual which we can describe as a code of conduct and rules of engagement.
According to what has been mentioned, its impact outside of Afghanistan will be insignificant, if that. Just if you look at Algeria, Iraq, and now Somalia, all Jihadists are still active in these areas based on their old rules, which were mentioned in the manual released on May 9th, 2009. Take for example kidnapping for ransom, which is strictly prohibited according to the manual, but is still part of the Jihad in Algeria, Somalia and Iraq.

Do you continue to believe al-Qaeda should cease its military operations (both in the Arab world and in the West), and focus its operations on the battle in Afghanistan?
Yes I still believe Al-Qaeda should cease military operations both in the Arab world and in the West. Regarding Afghanistan, I don't think Al-Qaeda has the right to develop their own agenda to benefit from the conflict at the cost of the Afghan people and Taliban themselves. So if they decide to stay or to stand the course with Taliban, they should participate within the Taliban framework and based on their rules, because we know in the past that Al-Qaeda is fully responsible for bringing this war to Afghanistan. And I believe it is the right time for Al-Qaeda as an origanisation to revise and judge their ideology, strategy and tactic based on their own experience. And if they keep repeating the slogan with doing this for the sake of our nation only, I would like to ask them, 'Does your nation really want/need you-'. And the reality is that you've imposed yourself on your nation.

What ought to be done for the people of Afghanistan – by countries in the Islamic world and those in the West- Are there avenues and opportunities for cooperation in stabilizing and rebuilding the Afghan state?
There are two ways of answering this question. The first one is in a typical politician's style, offering fine words but little action to satisfy a specific audience. The second one is transforming leadership—making things happen through conflict like Franklin D. Roosevelt and his historical shift from Dr. New Deal to Dr. Win-the-War. I will try to make some points based on the second rather than the first.
There are always opportunities to stabilise and rebuild Afghanistan, but the problem is that we need some luck and a lot of skill to explore those opportunities. We have to understand two fundamental issues to start to think about stabalising and rebuilding Afghanistan. First, we are the world facing multi-dimensional challenges of building peace in Afghanistan. Second, rebuilding Afghanistan should be prioritized towards the top of the international political and security agenda.
The immediate challenge in Afghanistan is its still in the conflict phase, so we should urgently develop strategy to take it to the next phase, which is the post-conflict phase.
As long as we are still stuck in the conflict phase, it's going to be extremely difficult to rebuild the state, to stabilize it, and to deliver peace and security. And that strategy should be formulated based on one reality: The Afghanisation of the Conflict.
And here if I may refer to the distinguished article in Foreign Affairs magazine, July-August issue, titled 'Flipping the Taliban,' written by Fotini Christia and Michael Semple. Changing sides, realigning, flipping is called the Afghan way of war. The missing point here is the context, and by this I mean the Afghanisation of war, people changing sides, flipping from one Afghan group to another. It's very hard to find an example that people involved in the armed struggle change sides from the resistance to the foreign occupiers or from the resistance to the government side, since the 70's if I may say – it’s been the other way around.
To clarify more, if some groups of Mujahideen switch sides from Taliban to Hikmatyar, it wouldn't make any difference in the big picture because they're still fighting the same enemies. The existing president, Hamid Karzai, is expired and should leave. A new government should be formed from leaders capable of launching the process of taking Afghanistan gradually to the post-conflict phase, and it should include Mujahideen leaders who fought against the Soviet Invaders during the 80's.
Militarily, instead of the strategy aiming for a comprehensive military victory over the Taliban, another strategy should be developed based on convincing the Taliban that they can't win the war. Full responsibility and burden should move to the United Nations to sort out all the challenges from the Afghan conflict. De-link from the approach of global war on terror, which includes re-defining the Taliban movement as an indigenous national resistance movement instead of a terrorist group in order to pave the way to engage them in the near future in peace talks and in the political process. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar should play a major role to the conflict resolution.

What message(s) should members of Islamic communities be hearing from their leaders (Islamic scholars, politicians, NGO's, community leaders, etc.)?
Wake up and learn how to pick yourself up out of the dust and reject the helpless state. Stop playing the role of the victim, because you are the victim of your own despair. Connect yourself with the inspiring part of Islamic identity, with values that can give you strength and hope. Try hard to open a new horizon for yourself away from radicalization and extremism, walk away from the destructive cultures and teachings of death, and start to think optimistically to a different kind life. A better future.
And if under any circumstances you begin considering war, you should first stop to think of peace.

What did you think of President Obama's remarks in Cairo- What impact, if any, do you think it will have in opening up a new dialogue between the United States and Muslim communities around the world?
The problem is not about remarks in Cairo or dialogue between the United States and the Muslim communities, it's about avoiding a traditional Western approach when it comes to the Middle East (talking idealistically and acting brutally), that is if the Intellectual President Obama wants to influence the Muslim communities world wide.

Frank J. Cilluffo is HSPI’s Director. F. Jordan Evert is a Presidential Administrative Fellow at HSPI.
Founded in 2003, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) is a nonpartisan “think and do” tank whose mission is to build bridges between theory and practice to advance homeland security through an interdisciplinary approach. By convening domestic and international policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government, the private and non?profit sectors, and academia, HSPI creates innovative strategies and solutions to current and future threats to the nation.
Comments should be directed to hspi@gwu.edu. For more information on HSPI and its programs, please visit our website.

Comment (also reproduced at:
http://counterideology.multiply.com/journal/item/438/Just_sharing_- _Interview_with_former_member_of_Libyan_Islamic_Fighting_Group)

Jihad revisited
With my current-life Western upbringing, I have been an occasional observer but not a serious student of Islamism and its multiple violence-based outgrowths. But I now think insiders have it about right when they come to share the insights of Ben Otman, Said al-Islam Gaddafi of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development, and the Quilliam Foundation’s Maajid Nawaz (www.solami.com/jihadrevisited.htm#Nawaz): "I turned away from Islamism, because I recognized it as the curse of Islam." And ever since my long-term friend and tutor, Egypt’s Ibrahim Kamel, the co-founder of the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers (…/a33a.htm), convincingly offered me his interpretation of the term Islam as meaning nothing more and nothing less than submission to the Almighty One God, I’ve been able to recognise this Islam as the prophesied universal all-inclusive «religion» - somewhat analoguous to Einstein’s yet-to-be found unified field theory. That said, those preaching and practicing Islamism and its characteristic neglect of the sanctuity of life may also yet evolve to recognise themselves as being indeed not the promoters but rather the self-defeating adversaries of true Islam.

Ben Otman’s insightful interview is a commendable illustration of the above. Of course, as is quite normal among truly open-minded intellectuals with different backgrounds and life experiences, differences of opinion are thus not excluded but often mutually enriching, if handled properly. E.g. his mention of the «right» felt by some Muslims to «build a Nation State based on Sharia law» would seem to be in contrast with the concept of modern nation states – as opposed to the Ummah, the Caliphate of bygone times. On the other hand, I for one fully share most of his other views thus expressed, notably:
„There are many lessons one can take from this [revision] process, but the most important one is sometimes we face problems which appear to be unsolvable because our minds have been set by default. And when we start to think of the unthinkable we find that those unsolvable problems are actually solvable, and the main problem was our way of thinking, not the problem itself.“ (see also: …/puzzle.htm)

Other noteworthy insider pearls which - to the layman like myself - appear to hold the road:
„The main three different points here between Al-Qaeda and the Sunni sect of Islam are:
-     First; the issue of loyalty. Al-Qaeda practically transformed this concept from its traditional understanding—which is that all Muslims are loyal to each other—to the notion that all Muslims should be loyal to Al-Qaeda and if you're not, that means there is something wrong with your faith, belief, and creed, and you may end up being identified as a non Muslim from Al-Qaeda's point of view. This understanding is one of the main sources of bad and sometimes evil reactions committed by Al-Qaeda members.
-     Second; their understanding of Jihad, which has been transformed from ethical and moral action based on justice to be nonsense terrorist activities.
-     Third; traditionally Muslim leaders are of two characters. One is people with authority and power, like presidents, kings, and princes. They are the source of political legitimacy. The other is people who have the moral power, the Scholars (Ulama), and they are the source of religious legitimacy. Traditionally this is the structure of power in the Muslim society.“

Finally, Ben Otman’s general observation: „And if under any circumstances you begin considering war, you should first stop to think of peace.“ reflects, of course, a well-moored yet idealistic concept which may well hit the wall of reality (…/NPT.htm). Take the case of the apparently endless Palestinian/Israeli gridlock (…/gridlock.htm) or the equally poisoning Kashmir conflict. Here, as in other cases, the lessons drawn from the nine-stars puzzle (…/puzzle.htm) may be helpful. In as much as the worn-out tracks of Jihad and other violence-based strategies manifestly lead nowhere. And as only out-of-the-box thinking of visionary, principled and courageous personalities offer a chance of lasting solutions and genuine peace. To be sure, those worthwhile objectives may indeed be effectively promoted also by a serious study – both among Muslims and non-Muslims – of the ground-breaking analysis „Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People“ (…/jihadstudy.pdf). Also recommended are Aldeeb’s original landownership research „Common goods in Islamic and Arab law - Question of fire (oil)“ (…/aldeeb08.htm), and other fundamental studies sponsored by the Al Azhar-supported SLM Center (…/slm.htm).
Anton Keller - swissbit@solami.com




Al-Shorfa    December 15, 2009

Al-Qaeda yet to respond to corrective studies
forbidding killing of civilians
Analysis by Camille Tawil in London

Leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group have written a study that attacks the idea of violent jihad as practiced by groups like al-Qaeda.[MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images]

Several months after the leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) issued "corrective studies" delegitimizing the killing of civilians under the pretext of jihad, al-Qaeda leaders have still not issued a response to what appears to be one of the most serious challenges to their ideology to date.

A recent video by al-Qaeda's number two Ayman al-Zawahiri made no mention of the studies, and instead blasted US and Arab leaders for their alleged support for Israel.

The studies, entitled "Corrective Studies on the Doctrine of Jihad, Hesba and Ruling" were authored by several of the group's most important and known leaders, some of whom spent several years in Afghanistan and had direct contact with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and his top aides. They include the brother of Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was a leader in the LIFG before he joined al-Qaeda after his escape from Bagram prison in Afghanistan in 2005. Many also had good relations with the Taliban movement and with their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Even though the studies presented a Fiqh (jurisprudence)-based position towards acts committed by jihadists without naming any group, much of the content in the 417-page document seems to be directed at current practices by Al-Qaeda to target civilians under the pretext of Jihad.

In a remarkable passage, the authors said one of the great "calamities" facing the Islamic world today is that individuals who issue fatwas "in matters of blood and money" are not qualified to do so.

The document says that a major source of problems in the Islamic world today is the lack of respect for scholars -- another reference that seems to be directed at groups that do not show appreciation for religious scholars' attitudes.

"Jihad in the path of God was nothing but a way to remove obstacles off the way of preachers who call others to embrace the way of God," the document states. "Therefore, Muslims were extremely keen to invite people to preach to people before fighting them, i.e. in the most intense situations and in the fields of battle against unbelievers, they wouldn't miss the opportunity to first preach to people" to convert them to Islam.

They continued, "Islam is a pragmatic religion, which acknowledges that war is a part of human life, but it doesn't call for the use of violence for the sake of change and reforms."

Unlike their critical reaction to a 2007 document written by Dr. Fadl, al-Qaeda leaders, who are under increasing pressure by Pakistani security forces including recent operations in southern Waziristan, have not yet reacted to the studies.

In 2007, Fadl's one-time friend, Ayman al-Zawahiri, wrote a 200-page letter attacking him and his position on jihad. Dr. Fadl had issued "reviews" entitled "Document Rationalizing Jihadist Action".

Dr. Fadl was one of the most prominent ideologues of armed jihadist action. Some of his books on preparing for jihad were taught to trainees at the militant al-Qaeda-linked camps in the Pakistani-Afghan border area. But the serious theological debate that Dr. Fadl's revisionist work could have raised in terms of what he considered radicalism in al-Qaeda's behavior was overshadowed by the personal attacks which he exchanged with al-Zawahiri.

The Libyan corrective studies followed similar conclusions that Dr. Fadl and other jihadi leaders in the Islamic world reached in the past. In the 1990s, leaders of the Egyptian Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya announced a unilateral ceasefire and launched a "peaceful initiative" that led them to retract their takfirist charges against the Egyptian regime and to apologize for their armed acts that injured or killed citizens, including their assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

The Libyan "Corrective Studies" firmly rejected all justifications embraced by the jihadist groups, including some held by the LIFG itself in the past, including the use of arms to overthrow ruling regimes.

"The established opinion of Sunni scholars is that it's forbidden to resort to arms to change the prevailing conditions. The legitimate alternatives to using weapons for reform or change are directing behavior based on what one knows to be right, and forbidding behavior based on ignorance, and calling people to embrace Allah's way is best."

Although the studies defended the idea of "resisting the colonizer," saying, "Resistance in Islam and defending against the colonizers and invaders is a concept originally agreed upon among Muslims and non-Muslims," they also prohibited "turning jihad into military and combat profession that doesn't exclude anyone," adding that "this is a distortion of Islamic concepts and ignorance of the reality of this religion."

The "Corrective Studies" delegitimized participation in what they called "sedition fighting" in all its forms. They also agreed with Dr. Fadl in saying that "No one may participate in obligatory jihad without the permission of parents and religious approval, and those who don't participate may not be defamed."

The studies mentioned a list of obligatory practices that Muslims must abide by during their fighting. Jihadi actions must be "in the path of God" first and must not include the killing of women, children, religious figures, employees, ambassadors, traders (among other occupations). They also forbade treachery and the mutilation of dead bodies. The list also includes the need to honor promises and show benevolence to captives.

Al-Qaeda tactics often included blowing up civilian targets and decapitating foreign captives.

After receiving the "Corrective Studies," Libyan officials forwarded them to a number of religious scholars to review them and give their opinion on them, including Salman bin Fahd al-Oadah (Saudi Arabia), Sheikh Mohammed Al Shangiti (Mauritania), Dr. Ahmad Al-Raysuni (Morocco) and Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Qatar).

Copies were also sent to renowned scholars inside Libya, including Al Sadeq Al Gheryani, Dr. Hamza Abu Faris, Dr. Sulayman Al Bira, Dr. Aqeel Hasan Aqeel and Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Al Sheikh.

Days after receiving the studies, Al-Oadah, one of the most prominent scholars that al-Qaeda defended when he was detained in Saudi Arabia in 1990s (he was seen as bin Laden's spiritual advisor), said that the "content of the studies conform to what scholars of religion and Sunna have decided."

Al-Oadah is respected in the circles of jihadists, in spite of his repeated criticisms of Al-Qaeda and its practices since the 9/11 attacks, the last of which was a message entitled "Together against al-Qaeda's Terrorism."

Similarly, Dr. Ahmad Al-Raysuni, a member of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, issued a commentary on the "Corrective Studies" in which he said "the authors of the studies had the courage to expressly turn from wrong to right, although the distance between the two is huge."

Camille Tawil is a Lebanese journalist who specializes in Islamist groups. He has authored two books, "The Story of the Arab Jihadists", and "The Armed Islamic Movement in Algeria - From the FIS to the GIA". He wrote this analysis for Al-Shorfa.


ISN ETH Zürich
17 Dec 2009

Intel Brief: New Ethics, Same Jihad

"Let us die" logo on the Bosnian-language radical Islamic website Putvjernika.com

The latest attempt at an ethical code for jihad published by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is not likely to be far-reaching enough to offer an alternative to the al-Qaida-Taliban style, Sean Underwood writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Sean Underwood for ISN Security Watch
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

The Corrective Studies, a new ethical code for jihad released in September by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is unlikely to have much of an impact on the current level of violence and the tactics al-Qaida and the Taliban use in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While attacking their central position on jihad, the document is more likely to have a strategic rather than tactical affect on current war efforts and Islamic extremism.

Ostensibly based on the religious conviction of war hardened terrorists, the 417-page document says that jihad should be governed by a moral code, which forbids targeting women, children, the elderly as well as certain professions including priests, messengers and traders. It also prohibits maltreatment of prisoners of war and body mutilation – ethics the authors say  would distinguish Muslim jihad from other wars.

Question of legitimacy
However, at the forefront, the new code of ethics  faces questions of legitimacy,  as it was created over a two-year period of intense negotiations between the imprisoned leaders of the LIFG and the country’s security authorities, led by Saif al Islam al Gadhafi, the son of General Muammar Ghaddafi.

The involvement of Libyan security staff in its creation could suggests that the publication is in part an attempt by the government to limit the number of radicalized youth in the country as well as to prevent a new wave of resistance from foreign fighters returning from Iraq.

Limited outreach
The limited role of foreign fighters in the southern border region of Afghanistan and the dissemination method of the new code will also lessen its impact.

Despite the new code’s revolutionary challenge to an al-Qaida-led jihad, which primarily targets civilians, the real impact is more likely to be felt in academics and political debate rather than on the battlefield. Circulated largely via the internet and local distributions in Libya and the UK,  the document is unlikely to affect the tactics and level of violence used in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As the document fails to physically reach the battlefields of Central Asia, its audience will remain limited to foreign fighters and those who peruse electronic jihadist material.

Although Afghanistan is known to have foreign fighters on its territory, recent reports from the US military indicate their presence is limited. Foreign fighters accounted for at present are primarily Uzbek and Arab, recruited by veteran mujahideen from their respective countries and highly dedicated to the use of force. They are not likely to be persuaded by the new code.

While the Corrective Studies may at first appear to be  a major development as the Sinjar Records identified the Libyans as the primary foreign fighters in Iraq in 2007, behind Saudis, they are no longer a significant force in Afghanistan or Pakistan As such, the new ethical code is unlikely to be a determining factor to the conflict in that region.

Failed precedents
The inadequate success of previously released books written by former Islamic extremists and insurgents also suggests a similar outcome. The Corrective Studies is one of numerous attempts in the last few years to preach nonviolent or ethical jihad that goes against the tactics used by the Taliban and al-Qaida.

In 2007, Sayyid Imam al Shariff, former leader of al Zawahiri’s jihad in Egypt, wrote Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World, in which he argued that al-Qaida’s version of jihad was not compliant with Sharia law.

In 2009, in an attempt to reverse its domestic standing, the Taliban developed the Taliban 2009 Rules and Regulations Booklet. The book called for all Taliban fighters to protect civilian populations and to avoid killing local people. Within this set of rules, Taliban fighters are forbidden to forcefully collect taxes, kidnap for ransom, collect footage of executions and unlawfully conduct house searches. However, according to several NATO and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) officials, the Taliban have not honored these new rules.

Civilian targeting, unabated
And so far, the latest jihad code of ethics has not had any significant influence on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The violence and the type of casualties indicate that civilians will likely remain the main target of terrorist and insurgent attacks.

This year, deadly tactics used by al-Qaida and the Taliban have increased. Facing a decrease in civilian popularity and intensified NATO-led operations in the border region, al-Qaida and the Taliban have had to adopt more violent measures  in order to counter the offensives.

In Afghanistan, the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by the Taliban is responsible for the same number of civilian and ISAF casualties. In 2009, during a six-month period, both groups were responsible for over 90 suicide bombings, claiming the lives of over 200 civilians and targeting 40 schools.

The day after President Hamid Karzai’s second inaugural address in November, a suicide bomber in Farah killed 16 civilians, including two children, while a roadside bomb in Khost, in southern Afghanistan, wounded three traders and an a suicide bomb claimed the lives of seven civilians and three children in Zabul province.

Also this year, Pakistan experienced a similar increase in violent tactics by insurgents and terrorists in the Federal Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In North and South Waziristan, the increased use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the US has led to heightened levels of retaliation by the Taliban and other extremist groups.

One form of retaliation has been the targeting of prominent pro-government tribal elders which have been executed in alarming numbers. In October, suicide bombers were responsible for over 100 civilian deaths, including five UN aid officers.

So far, this month alone, the Taliban have been responsible for attacking schools and mosques. On 4 December, four insurgents attacked a mosque in Rawalpindi frequented by military officials. The attack resulted in the death of 36 people including nine military officials and 17 children.

Sean Underwood is a graduate of the Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies (MCIIS). Mercyhurst-ISN intelligence briefs offer foresight into  issues that are likely to dominate news headlines and policy agendas. The briefs are a joint initiative of the ISN and Mercyhurst Institute for Intelligence Studies and are composed and referenced using open sources.




Quilliam Foundation    11th January 2010

Refuting Al-Qaeda: Former jihadists and the battle of ideologies
a Quilliam roundtable with Noman Benotman, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

Introductions:

Maajid Nawaz, co-Director, Quilliam

-     Noman Benotman is from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), the jihadist group in Libya, who have issued recantations of their previous jihadist ideology in a document, entitled Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgement of People. This is of immense value for the countering-extremism debate across the world.

-     My own experience of this was in prison in Egypt where I had my first exposure to critics of Islamist supremacy via writings by Egypt’s largest terrorist organization – al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya – who authored a series of books that were critical of their actions in the past. This made me rethink my own affiliations with Hizb ut-Tahrir.

-     Refutations are important for three reasons:

1. If we can keep jihadists debating internally and fighting with each other, they will focus less on spreading their ideas externally.
2. To see people like Noman who have been there and are now regretful and highly critical of their actions, is crucial for young people thinking of joining these organizations.
3. It allows for people across the world to see that it is possible to be a Muslim and not be an extremist.
 
 

James Brandon, Senior Research Fellow, Quilliam

-     The LIFG was formed in the early 1990s by Libyan Islamists fighting in the Afghan jihad. Noman was one of these – fighting in Afghanistan from 1989 onwards.

-     Originally the LIFG was set up to overthrow the Libyan regime of General Gaddafi, but over time it developed more radical ideologies, mixing more with al-Qaeda’s ideology.

-     In the early 1990s, jihadists were forced to move on from Afghanistan and go elsewhere. Many of these went to Libya that was a safe-haven for them at the time. Noman went with them to Sudan where they trained for jihad and developed a real al-Qaeda ideology.

-     In this period, Noman was involved with Dr. Fadl, Zawahiri, Bin Laden – the top level of AQ.

-     In 1995 LIFG were forced to leave Sudan under pressure from the Libyan government. Noman went to London where he mixed with Abu Qatada, Abu Musab al-Siri – top level AQ thinkers in London.

-     Others went to Afghanistan where they set up the training camps. It was AQ that followed the LIFG to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, LIFG leaders and AQ mixed, the LIFG becoming increasingly radical and a part of AQ.

-     In 2000, Noman went back to Afghanistan to talk to the LIFG during which time he also talked with Bin Laden and Zawahiri about which direction they should go.

-     In 2002, Noman resigned over disagreements over LIFG’s role and position. He became involved in increasingly non-violent political movements.

-     In 2005, the Libyan government approached him to act as an intermediary between them and the LIFG to see if there could be some kind of reconciliation.
 

Presentation:

Noman Benotman, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

The context:
- Firstly, to put the LIFG’s repositioning in context, I would like to talk about the idea of the geography of jihad. There are many processes regarding the reconciliation between armed groups and their own national governments. We can’t understand the connections between all of them until we introduce this concept.

- There are three main geographical areas:

1. The core: This is where the core members reside and is changeable – sometimes it’s Pakistan, sometimes Yemen, Algeria or Libya, for example.
2. The preferred areas.
3. The semi-preferred areas.

All of these areas are connected to each other through a network. For the LIFG, its core is Libya itself, but it has a presence in other countries (the preferred and semi-preferred areas) which are connected to the core in Libya as well as the wider network of al-Qaeda.

The background:
- It is very unlikely that any armed group would voluntarily change their ideology without their activities first being reduced physically through force. When a local government is engaged in a conflict with any armed group, military defeat is not the problem; defeating the ideology is the problem. When we manage to reduce the activities of any armed group what we have gained is time not military defeat. In Yemen, for example, they had completely disappeared from the map, but given time the radical groups are back. The important factor is therefore how local governments and the international community are capable of using that time effectively.

- The LIFG now distinguishes between its struggle as a political group and its identity as Muslim. Prior to their ideological shift they believed that everything they did was Islam itself. This is the main problem within radical groups: their political agenda is equated with Islam and therefore questioning their agenda is seen as questioning Islam.

- General Gaddafi’s son – a key figure on the Libyan political scene – launched an initiative to talk with the LIFG leadership. He was aware that the influence of the LIFG’s network extended outside of Libya, especially in Afghanistan.

- Several years ago some of the LIFG leaders were offered the option of being released if they were prepared to sign a deal, but they refused. The Corrective Studies were not just written because they wanted to be released from prison – they had been offered (and rejected) this opportunity before.

- However, this time the LIFG leadership were offered an initiative where they would keep their dignity. The Libyan government told them that it was not the idea of Islam itself, but their political agenda that was their point of departure. The LIFG made it clear that they would like to be part of the new Libya – the programme being offered by Sayf al-Islam. The Libyan government therefore said that they could be a part of it but told them they needed to change their ideology. Crucially, this did not include changing their religion.

- We then managed to facilitate full communication amongst the whole of the LIFG. The prison authorities were hesitant to provide a meeting place in prison to what was regarded as one of the most dangerous groups — a group they didn’t trust. However, we overcame that problem and the leaders of LIFG used and utilized that opportunity to communicate honestly with their followers.

- The LIFG therefore decided voluntarily and ideologically that they believed in the changes they were making. It wasn’t because they wanted to gain their freedom, but because they understood the political situation. They wanted to gain something because they’d been fighting for 20 years and thus far they had fought and had achieved nothing.

- The idea of international jihad is still a problem. The LIFG still believes what is going on in Afghanistan and Iraq is jihad – the countries are under occupation. However, crucially, they don’t believe in terrorist acts to liberate the country: they don’t support the killing of civilians and, for the first time, they argued that embassies in these countries are not legitimate targets either. Instead, their conception of jihad has to do with the original idea of jihad: that it is a local problem, focused on local regimes. It is not international jihad like AQ.

Future progress:
- All studies and revisions so far have stopped there. They have denounced violence but haven’t taken the next step – they haven’t addressed democracy. I understand that in many Middle East countries there is no democracy at all. However, the problem is that groups give up the armed struggle but go no further. They should give people an alternative. As a concept the most effective process available is democracy, whether we like it or not.

- The LIFG’s revision is very useful and effective. In Morocco they have tried to do the same thing with jihadi-salafis in their prisons; in Algeria the security services have distributed copies of the Corrective Studies and tried to create a debate in various hotspots.

- However, this is just the beginning. The Libyan government needs to proactively take advantage of it. If it doesn’t do so soon, we will be back to square one. The authors of the study need to go out and preach what they believe and challenge other radical groups on a daily basis.

- The problem is that six of the LIFG’s leadership council are still in prison. People are questioning the Corrective Studies because they have not seen the leaders supporting the document and legitimizing what it says. I cannot say when they will be released, but many members of the Libyan government would like to see them released so that they can do this.

- The Corrective Studies is important because it is the most comprehensive argument made on the Salafi-Sunni understanding of Islam. But the hard part is how to make these ideas available to people.

- Recently, there was an attempt to speak to grassroots jihadis in prison. A few hundred were told to read the book. Most of them said they didn’t understand anything because it was sophisticated and complicated. It is nine chapters written in a highly academic style. Here is the problem. We have a book from one of the most influential groups in the jihadi movement, but we don’t know how to disseminate its ideas.

- We have been through this for years, and we need to come up with a conclusion and serious solutions.
 

Q&A

I am not very consoled by this. Although the LIFG no longer calls for jihadi resilience against the Libyan government, there is still significant justification for jihad abroad. Surely this only encourages the young to go and engage in jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq?
I mentioned that this is a problem. This has to do with the roots of terrorism because, as I told you, we have the geography of jihad – the different areas. The LIFG has abandoned using violence in the local struggle, which is good. But when they start to talk about Afghanistan or Iraq, they can’t justify the occupation there. Muslims need to start to talk about the idea of jihad these days in the context of international relations in order to undermine those groups that believe they have the right to launch jihad against other nations. The problem is Muslims don’t want to go down that road, but this is the real solution.

It is interesting what you are proposing – an empowering role for religious clerics. There is no doubt that in certain Muslim countries there is a relationship between corrupted regimes and extremist clerics. Is this another attempt to prepare for having another ruler or is it a genuine attempt to increase awareness that neither jihad nor shari’ah law is compatible with modern day human rights? Is this a genuine attempt of separation between religion and the state in an attempt to reach true democracy or is this just a means of promotion for Sayf al-Islam?
There is no link between Sayf al-Islam and the LIFG initiative. If you wanted to be the ruler, you wouldn’t wait for the LIFG inside prison to agree.

But wouldn’t it give Sayf al-Islam legitimacy?
Legitimacy wouldn’t come from the LIFG. Why would he be the only ruler in the Middle East to ask for legitimacy? The main problem in the Middle East is tribalism. The main enemy of democracy is the tribe – for example the up-coming elections in Iraq. I don’t believe there is any connection between anyone wanting to be in power and the LIFG initiative.

The Corrective Studies mentions that jihad is legitimate in Iraq and Afghanistan...
Yes, that is correct. But you can’t use terrorist tactics to justify fighting against civilians in other countries. That was clear in the LIFG’s argument.

The main problem in the Middle East is dictatorships supported by Western countries. Why are these countries still supporting these regimes?
This is not a question for me, it is for Hilary Clinton! The problems in the Middle East are the products of our own societies; it has nothing to do with support from the West. There are influences through international relations, but these are internal problems that we need to face ourselves.

How has global jihad affected local ethnic conflicts, and has it made the situation worse for ethnic minorities in the Middle East?
Theoretically yes. I am not aware of any situation where it is really because of the global jihad except potentially Iraq where it is chaos. I don’t think there is any specific example.

Do you think that the LIFG held back on certain issues due to its situation in jail (that it wouldn’t be taken seriously) – specifically on the notion of takfir [issuing a verdict of apostasy]? They were not as clear on this as initially expected.
I think they were clear about it. The book itself is very sophisticated and has been written as if a scholar would read it. It does not talk about takfir itself, but the judgemental attitude that it embodies. This is tackled when they say that such judgement is the duty of the scholars and that nobody has the right themselves to judge others. Judgement is the work for the scholars of Islam – and this is clear in the Corrective Studies.

Do they then concede that they are not qualified scholars to talk about this?
Yes. It is a problem when people classify others without knowing what you’re doing or what you’re talking about.

Even if the leaders are released from prison and go around the country arguing in favour of the paper, the country is highly repressive and so being able to do so publically will require the government’s permission. Would this not undermine credibility?
Yes of course, but you have to do it one way or another. When you do such a thing I am sure you will start to lose some people. I think this is not the issue. If you are really genuine and believe in Allah you shouldn’t care about these things. The vast majority of the Middle East population do not believe in violence, so I still believe you need to see this out.

Did the Corrective Studies discuss the concept of dar al-harb [land of war]? A lot of the justification for violence can come from what you define as a place of war. Do you discuss that?
Unfortunately not. This is one of the issues that someone needs to talk about. Is this a category that is compatible with the modern world? Nobody wants to go down that road.

Deflecting things to scholars is a recognizable tactic regarding the issue of takfir. The question is which scholars do you talk to? Also on the question of hakimiyya [sovereignty of God] – I understand that they still hold the principle that only God is sovereign and can make laws. Is this the case?
They believe in the Islamic state of course. But I think their attitude has changed as it is something that is not very easy. When you go through the struggle you gain a lot of skills and understanding including politics. I have spent more than half of my life as a fighter, but I can tell you that no one has given a true meaning of the Islamic state – including Sayyid Qutb. Every single group in the jihadi movement just produces soldiers – they say that they need to gain power before talking about the details of their Islamic system. The culture of every single group is a militant culture; they don’t go down that road of education.

What is the LIFG’s view towards Israel?
It is a very complicated issue and has never been part of the LIFG’s practical agenda. They believe in the rights of the Palestinians, and they don’t believe in the existence of Israel. But practically it doesn’t mean anything to them or their struggle.

How are the Corrective Studies different to Dr Fadl’s refutation?
It is very different. Dr. Fadl’s argument leaves a lot of gaps and questions, including the idea of why you don’t use jihad to change local government.

One of the six leading members [Abd al-Wahhab al-Qayd] is the elder brother of Abu Yahya al-Libi [leading member of AQ] – do you think this family connection has an influence on changing his mind or ideas?
I don’t think so. I don’t think it is easy to change Abu Yahya al-Libi’s ideas or ideology. People around him have been influenced by loyalty. Until now, there has been no statement from AQ criticising the LIFG which is unusual. This is not the case with other groups – al-Jamaa Islamiya, Dr. Fadl etc. That shows how credible this group is.

Where do you stand with ‘loyalty and allegiance’ to Islam?
AQ’s ideology is based on this idea because it is very easy and doesn’t need a scholar. It is simple for them to label you as a non-Muslim on the basis of actions – because you weren’t loyal to the Muslims and had allegiance to non-Muslims. Police, writers, people working in the media and other institutions have all been labelled as non-Muslims. This is missing in the Corrective Studies – I am not sure if they missed it deliberately or if it was too sophisticated, but it is a real problem.




Foreign Policy    February 1, 2010

Learning From Dropouts
A number of former jihadists have voluntarily resigned from al Qaeda and its offshoots in recent years. Understanding why they walked away may be key to countering radicalization in the future.
BY MICHAEL JACOBSON

When I served on the staff of the 9/11 Commission, one of our primary tasks was to assemble the story of how al Qaeda's plot developed. One of the aspects of the plot on which we focused our attention was, therefore, the movements, activities, and associations of the 19 hijackers. The basic question we struggled to answer was how al Qaeda persuaded 19 young men to participate in an attack that would result in their certain death. Although al Qaeda's "success" on this front was rather startling, the organization failed to convince all of the initial would-be attackers to go through with their plot. Why not? The stories of the individuals selected for the 9/11 attacks who backed out, even in the face of pressure from the terrorist group, have received little attention in the media or among policymakers, but could teach us important lessons for thwarting future attacks.

While Mohamed Atta, the hijackers' operational leader, is now a household name, Mushabib al-Hamlan and Saud al-Rashid are far less well known. These two young Saudis were selected by al Qaeda's leadership to participate in the attacks and left the training camps in Afghanistan to return home to Saudi Arabia to obtain visas for travel to the United States. Both, however, were beset by second thoughts after arriving in Saudi Arabia. After getting his visa, Hamlan contacted his family despite clear instructions not to do so by his al Qaeda handlers. When Hamlan found out that his mother was ill, he decided not to return to Afghanistan -- even in the face of repeated follow-up pressure by al Qaeda. This included a personal visit at the Saudi college Hamlan had by then returned to from Khalid al-Zahrani, an associate from the training camps who was sent by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to convince Hamlan to come back.

Rashid's story might illustrate even more dramatically the role that family can play in the dropout process. According to KSM, Rashid may have bailed on the plot because his family found out about his involvement in it and confiscated his passport.

In the summer of 2001, al Qaeda confronted an even larger potential challenge to the operation when Ziad Jarrah, who went on to pilot Flight 93, was deliberating about whether to withdraw from the operation, in part because of Jarrah's "troubled" relationship with Atta. In what was an "emotional conversation," according to the 9/11 Commission, Ramzi Binalshibh -- the Hamburg-based liaison between the cell and the al Qaeda leadership -- was able to persuade Jarrah to stay the course.

Given that we can't kill or capture every potential terrorist, developing a better grasp of this "dropout phenomenon" is critical for the United States and its allies' counterterrorism efforts, particularly in shaping the myriad counter-radicalization programs springing up in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

There are plenty of candidates for study. Despite al Qaeda's reputation for ferocity, secrecy, and esprit de corps, the organization has been plagued by desertions since its earliest days. More recently, key ideologues and leaders have turned against the group, challenging al Qaeda's vision for global jihad. And al Qaeda is hardly alone among the global jihadi groups in suffering from defections. Some of its affiliates have experienced important losses as well, ranging from foot soldiers to key leadership personnel.

The recent defections of prominent leaders, clerics, and ideologues from al Qaeda could have a profound long-term effect on the organization. The most prominent of these defectors is former Egyptian Islamic Jihad head Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (also known as Dr. Fadl). Al Qaeda often cited Dr. Fadl's treatises as ideological justification for its actions, but he has since firmly renounced Osama bin Laden and has written a new book rejecting al Qaeda's message and tactics.

Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), also publicly turned his back on jihad and played a key role in persuading other key figures in the organization to renounce al Qaeda as well. In September 2009, six leaders of the LIFG issued recantations challenging al Qaeda's global vision for jihad in a 400-plus-page book titled Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of the People.

Dr. Fadl, Benotman, and the other leaders who have defected all cite al Qaeda's inaccurate interpretation of Islam as a major factor in their decision to abandon the cause. In his treatise, Dr. Fadl called al Qaeda's jihadism reprehensible, arguing that it violates Islam and sharia law. In 2007, Benotman wrote a public letter to al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- after years of criticizing the group privately -- arguing that al Qaeda's tactics violate Islam's call for the protection of "man's religion, life, mind, offspring, and wealth." In this letter, Benotman called for al Qaeda to cease its military operations, sentiments repeated in the LIFG's renunciations of al Qaeda in 2009.

Benotman also had more practical differences with bin Laden over the direction of the global jihadi movement and claims to have asked the al Qaeda amir to get out of the terrorism business at a 2000 summit, realizing that they were fighting a losing battle. Benotman thought al Qaeda's sole focus on the United States as the "head of the snake" would hurt the efforts of groups such as the LIFG to overthrow the apostate Arab regimes, which Benotman viewed as the real problem afflicting the Muslim world. Benotman later said that he made a "clear-cut request" to bin Laden to stop attacking the United States because it would "lead to nowhere," but bin Laden disregarded his concerns. After the 9/11 attacks, Benotman resigned from his position in the LIFG, concerned that the United States would likely respond to the attack by not only targeting al Qaeda, but his organization as well.

For midlevel al Qaeda operatives and foot soldiers, petty grievances have often played a larger role in their decision to turn their backs on the organization. Disagreements over money, for example, have led some terrorists to consider their inadequate compensation as a sign of unfair treatment. Take the case of Jamal al-Fadl, a Sudanese national, who was one of the first members of al Qaeda during its years in Sudan and played a role in the organization's unsuccessful efforts in the early 1990s to procure uranium. Fadl was displeased with his salary at the time -- he received $500 a month, as opposed to Egyptian members, who were paid $1,200 monthly. In response, he began embezzling funds, stealing approximately $100,000 from al Qaeda. When bin Laden learned of Fadl's actions, he ordered him to repay the money. After repaying about $30,000, Fadl fled, fearing retribution if he did not repay the full amount.

L'Houssaine Kherchtou, a Moroccan who joined al Qaeda in 1991 and trained to serve as bin Laden's personal pilot, had similar complaints. Kherchtou became bitter after one of bin Laden's aides turned down his request for $500 to cover the cost of his wife's cesarean section. His anger grew when al Qaeda paid the expenses of a group of Egyptians who were sent to Yemen to renew their passports. "If I had a gun," Kherchtou later testified, "I would shoot [bin Laden] at that time." When the organization moved to Afghanistan, Kherchtou refused to follow, thus violating his oath to bin Laden. Kherchtou was also embittered after bin Laden ordered his followers to cut back on spending. He thought that bin Laden -- a notoriously rich Saudi -- was being stingy. Kherchtou and Fadl went on to serve as key U.S. government witnesses in early 2001 in the trials for the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa.

The departure of a senior leader in a jihadi organization can undermine its legitimacy and cripple its operational capacity. Dr. Fadl's recantations caused approximately 600 to 700 members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad to abandon political violence, according to Omar Ashour, an expert on the group.

Benotman also played a constructive role in convincing imprisoned LIFG members to renounce their jihad against the Libyan government. He traveled to Libya more than 25 times over a two-year period to convince the jihadists to recant. In the end, his efforts paid off: The LIFG recantations had a major impact on the organization's rank and file, with the vast majority endorsing the shift away from jihad, according to terrorism expert Paul Cruickshank.

Although the defections of lower-level operatives and foot soldiers may not have the same impact on the organization as that of a leader, their effect should not be underestimated. An operative who can provide detailed information to governments about a group's members, plans, and operations can cause serious harm to the group and put a terrorist organization on the defensive. A great deal of the U.S. government's knowledge about al Qaeda prior to 9/11, for example, came from Fadl and Kherchtou.

As governments begin to shift away from a military-dominated approach to combating terrorism, they should increasingly focus on how to prevent individuals from going down the path toward radicalization and terrorism. What is clear is that the radicalization process is complex: Reasons for joining terrorist and extremist groups vary widely, and a recruit's trajectory rarely follows a linear path. Given the unique path to radicalization -- and increasingly deradicalization and disengagement -- that each individual travels, it is not surprising that a "one size fits all" approach is unlikely to succeed. Governments must be flexible and creative as they seek to encourage terrorists and extremists to defect from these organizations or abandon their support for these dangerous causes.

Programs springing up around the world have already begun to chip away at the terrorist and extremist narrative. But it will be difficult for the United States and its allies to effectively counter extremist ideology without better understanding all aspects of the radicalization cycle, including why and how people are drawn to terrorist and extremist organizations, and why people have walked away. If we increase our focus on this process now, with any luck, we will have many more cases of terrorist dropouts to study in the future.




CentralAsiaOnline.com    March 10, 2010

Fatwa outlaws "terrorism and suicide bombings"
Analysis by Rajeh Saeed

Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri announces a fatwa March 2 in which he finds that there is no justification for terrorism, and suicide bombers are neither martyrs nor heroes of the Muslim Umma. [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

LONDON - Muslim thinker Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, who heads Minhaj-ul-Quran International, issued a lengthy 600-page fatwa March 2nd in London condemning "terrorism and suicide bombings".

The stance of this Pakistani-born religious scholar regarding al-Qaeda's actions is nothing new. However, this fatwa set him apart from many other Islamist scholars who in the past would only condemn al-Qaeda's actions without specifying – according to their theological viewpoints – the punishments to be meted out to those who carry out bombings and killings whose victims are innocent civilians, even if the latter were not the primary target of these attacks.

In his lengthy fatwa, Sheikh Qadri argued that those who carry out suicide bombings will be punished with hellfire, refuting the fact that suicide bombers will be rewarded with Paradise and its maidens. He said that Islamic teachings categorically reject attacks which kill innocent people, indicating that Islam forbids killing a single innocent person even if the attack in which that person would be killed would also cause the death of dozens of miscreants.

Qadri included in his fatwa the opinions from many important scholars, both modern and ancient, who reject what al-Qaeda and the Taliban consider lawful, and he called them the "kharijites of our time."

Qadri, born in 1951 in Pakistan's Punjab province, received his Ph.D. from Punjab University. The title of his thesis was ''The Islamic Penal System and its Philosophy.'' He has served as a lecturer in Islamic Sciences since 1974 and practised the legal profession from 1976 to 1978 in Pakistan. He was also a legal advisor in the Federal Shariat Court, the Pakistani High Court and a member of the National Committee for Islamic Curriculum at the Pakistani Ministry of Education.

The Pakistani scholar explained his stance in a lengthy interview in the March 5th issue of Al-Sharq al-Awsat, in which he said that even in wars, Islam has proscribed the killing of women, children, the elderly and monks. It even prohibited the killing of animals belonging to the enemy, burning of trees and destroying property, killing farmers or traders and diplomats and ambassadors.

Qadri said, "Look at our deplorable situation today. People are killed inside mosques and on the streets. They are killed while sleeping in their beds. Terrorists bomb marketplaces where women, children and the elderly get killed. There is no justification for this at all. These al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are smearing the image of Islam by randomly killing innocent people in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, New York, London and Madrid."

He accused the leaders of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden and Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, of being the "kharijites of our time".

Undoubtedly, Qadri is aware of the fact that it would be difficult for him to convince all the members of al-Qaeda to change their beliefs, saying that they have been subjected to "brainwashing". However, his main concern is the new generation of Islamist youths who could be attracted to the ideology of al-Qaeda. That is why he wants them to read his fatwa in order to learn about the Qur'anic verses, Prophetic traditions, stories of the Caliphs and the Companions, and the opinions of the scholars in the hope that they would be convinced of the wrongness of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and all the groups that support them.

Quilliam, an organisation whose members are Islamists who were formerly part of extremist groups, and who are today involved in combating extremist ideologies, said that the fatwa of Sheikh Qadri can be read as "the most comprehensive critique of terrorism committed by Islamists so far."

It pointed to the fact that Qadri's organisation, Minhaj-ul-Quran, "has hundreds of thousands of followers throughout South Asia and in the UK", and that his stance "has set a precedent for other scholars to condemn in a similar fashion the ideas that support terrorism."

A Quilliam spokesperson said in a statement at a press conference in London that "this fatwa could represent a major step towards eradicating Islamic terrorism. The fatwas of religious scholars influenced by the Wahhabi ideology and those of Islamic theoreticians have been the progenitors of terrorism against civilians in recent times. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda continue to justify their mass killing based on interpretations of scriptural texts that suit their interests. But fatwas that expose the truth behind these innovations in Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) such as the fatwa of Qadri will send Islamic terrorism to the dust bin of history."

Regardless of Qadri's fatwa and Quilliam's remarks, there is a clear trend within Islamic movements to be critical of al-Qaeda and the Taliban and counter their ideologies. Revisions made by many Islamist scholars and leaders of Islamic movements during the past few years have unanimously condemned random killing and bombing of civilians, regardless of whether the primary targets are soldiers which al-Qaeda and the Taliban describe as infidels or apostates.

A prominent example of these revisions is the one made by the former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Dr. Fadl ("A Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World") and the revisions of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (titled "Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgement of People"). Before these two revisions, the Egyptian Islamic Group's revisions were published, and were the most critical of the actions of hard-line Islamic groups – including its own line of action against the Egyptian government – in their fight against "apostate regimes".

In addition to these revisions, prominent scholars and religious leaders have adopted stances which led to similar conclusions. Among these were statements by a prominent Salafi-Jihadist scholar in Morocco, Mohammed al-Fizazi, in jail since 2003, in which he categorically prohibited Muslims from carrying out terrorist acts in European countries.




BBC    23 March 2010

Libya frees more than 200 Islamist prisoners

Libya has freed more than 200 Islamist inmates as part of its programme of rehabilitation of militant groups. It was "an historic event", said Col Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, whose Gaddafi Foundation has tried to engage with Islamists in recent years. Some 34 of the 214 freed inmates are from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which has suspected links to al-Qaeda but has reportedly renounced violence. In the past, the group has been accused of trying to oust Col Gaddafi. Three of the group's leaders were among those released.

"With the release of these leaders, we have brought to a conclusion our programme of dialogue and reconciliation," Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. Dozens of the group's members went free last year after talks with Tripoli to reach a deal to renounce violence. "We are at the point of bringing to an end a tragic period," Mr Gaddafi said. He said that 165 security officers had been killed in clashes with the Islamists over the years, while 177 insurgents had also died.

'Return home'
The rehabilitation programme had led to the release of 705 Islamists, he said. Some 409 remained in prison. A further 232 would be set free soon, Mr Gaddafi added.

In a news conference, Mr Gaddafi called on Libyans currently fighting in Algeria and in the deserts of Mali to lay down their arms, saying they could come back to Libya as free people and reintegrate as productive citizens.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says there are still many unanswered questions - not least about what guarantees there are that former militants will not simply take up arms once again.




Al-Shorfa.com     March 30, 2010

Libya closes the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Analysis by Camille Tawil from London


[MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images] Former Islamist prisoners walk out of jail in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on March 24th.

Libya closed the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) a few days ago, as it freed three of its most prominent leaders and more than 200 Islamists from different affiliations who were serving prison sentences.

Libya's methodology in dealing with this group which attempted to overthrow the regime in the 1990s is quite different from the methodologies used by other Arab regimes in dealing with their jihadis, although the objective is the same, i.e. to rehabilitate these individuals and convince them that resorting to violence as a means of effecting change is wrong.

Perhaps the main factor that differentiates Libya's approach from the other ones is that Tripoli's release of its prisoners was not accompanied with specific conditions and guarantees. Instead, it was a deal purely based on the trust that was gained during the dialog sessions that lasted for more than three years between the government and the imprisoned leaders. The latter agreed to not take up arms against their government after their release from prison.

The president of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, Dr. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, held a press conference in Tripoli a few days ago where he invited western diplomats, researchers and foreign media. Saif al-Islam brought with him to the conference three of the LIFG leaders, Abdul Hakim al-Khuwailidi Belhaj (Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq), the leader of the group, his second-in-command Khalid al-Sharif (Abu Hazim), and Sami al-Saaidi (Abul Mundhir), who is the religious advisor of LIFG.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi immediately announced the release of the three leaders together with 214 others, some of whom belonged to LIFG while the rest were affiliated with what is known as "Iraq networks", which consist of youth who are disturbed by what is taking place there and want to volunteer to fight. It was highly expected since last year that the Libyan authorities would free imprisoned members of the LIFG, after their leadership admitted they were wrong in taking up arms against the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who has been the target of assassination attempts by LIFG members.

The leaders of LIFG explained their new stance in a series of revisions which they published in a book titled "Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People". They listed Islamic evidence which they say prohibits waging war against Arab and Islamic regimes.

They also admitted that their activities during the 1990s were wrong and called upon the other groups who are engaged in the type of activities that they used to engage in previously to rethink their position and to lay down their arms.

LIFG leaders also issued sharp criticisms against what they described as un-Islamic practices undertaken by groups and individuals under the guise of "jihad", a veiled attack directed at al-Qaeda and other groups inspired by its ideology although the revisions did not mention any group by name. Following the publication of their book of revisions, the leaders of the LIFG issued an apology to Gaddafi personally declaring the disbanding of their group.

However, Gaddafi adopted a stance at the start of this year which caused some confusion about his view of the dialog sessions with the prisoners which were being organised under the aegis of his son Saif Al-Islam. The Libyan leader announced in January that he was opposed to releasing the Islamist prisoners who had been cleared of charges by the Libyan courts, saying that these individuals should be handed over to security agencies to be dealt with and not the courts, contrary to what the Justice Minister was calling for.

Gaddafi described the prisoners as "heretics" linked with al-Qaeda, and that they could pose a threat to Libya's security if they were to be released from jail. At the time, many believed that Gaddafi had put an end to his son's program and consequently to any hope of freeing the LIFG prisoners. They were wrong. In less than two months after these statements, his son Saif Al-Islam announced their release and the release of dozens of other jihadis of the "Iraq networks". Many of these individuals consider al-Qaeda, and not the LIFG, as their ideological authority.

Undoubtedly, the decision to free all of these people, and the remaining prisoners, as promised by Saif Al-Islam, constitutes a risky move. The authorities released all of them without asking them to pledge never to resort to violence again, and without taking measures such as ensuring that they remain in a particular location or prohibiting them from engaging in certain activities. However, the security agencies which eventually made the decision to release them seem reassured that those who have been released will not engage in violence again, or at least the overwhelming majority will not do so.

It is understandable that any program of rehabilitating prisoners will not have a 100% success rate. Saudi Arabia has been working on an ambitious program for several years aimed at rehabilitating prisoners considered affiliated with al-Qaeda. The program has had great successes but at the same time it suffered from a 10% failure rate. These are individuals who pledged not to return to violence but failed to honour their promises (as is the case with some prisoners who joined al-Qaeda in Yemen after they were released in Saudi Arabia). So, the Libyan program with the jihadi prisoners might not be without loopholes as the security agencies may find out that some of the released prisoners have taken up arms again.

It is worth noting that the Libyan approach is different from the Saudi one, as the Libyans dealt with leaders of a jihadi organization whose members were almost all in prison. Also, the leadership itself convinced its members of the wrongness of taking up arms, and convinced them to accept the "revisions".

The Saudi approach, on the other hand, dealt with individuals on a one-to-one basis, because their leadership is not based inside Saudi Arabia but rather in Afghanistan. Also, their leadership is not constituted of only Saudi nationals. Instead there are several nationalities, contrary to the LIFG leadership.

Al-Qaeda has not yet responded to the "Corrective Studies" book published by the leaders of LIFG from within their prison cells last summer. The release of the leaders of this group now will be another reason for refuting potential claims that they wrote their revisions under pressure from the authorities while they were prisoners. This will put al-Qaeda under even more pressure to issue a statement on the "Libyan approach", whether it is positive or negative.

At any rate, it could be too early to make a judgment on the Libyan approach in dealing with the LIFG and the other jihadis. It is surely a different approach, but we will need several months at least in order to find out whether it will eventually prove successful or not.




Neue Zürcher Zeitung    10. April 2010

Bekehrung libyscher Islamisten
Seifulislam Ghadhafi über «Erledigung des Jihad-Problems»
Victor Kocher, Genf

Der Sohn des libyschen Revolutionsführers hat anlässlich der Freilassung von drei bekehrten Jihadisten-Führern die islamistische Gewalttätigkeit im Land als erledigt beschrieben. Das wäre die Frucht von geduldigem Dialog und Wiedereingliederung.
Libysche Journalisten haben seit der Freilassung von über 200 bekehrten Jihad-Militanten am 23. März darüber gerätselt, wie Seifulislam Ghadhafi, der diplomatisch angehauchte Sohn des libyschen Revolutionsführers, diese gestern noch hochgefährlichen Staatsfeinde dem Griff der Geheimpolizei entwinden konnte. Eine Debatte im Allgemeinen Volkskongress (Parlament) im vergangenen Monat hatte noch einen sichtlichen Konsens gegen die Amnestierung von Jihadisten an den Tag gebracht.

Ein Zweig der Kaida
Doch Seifulislam veranstaltete am 23. März eigens eine Medienkonferenz mit Beteiligung westlicher Diplomaten in Tripolis, um die drei freigelassenen Führer der Libyschen Islamischen Kampfgruppe vorzustellen. Es waren der Emir, Abdelhakim Belhadj, der Chefideologe Sami Saadi und der militärische Kommandant Khalid Sharif. Die libysche Gruppe wurde vom Uno-Sanktionen-Komitee – und ebenso vom Kaida-Führer Zawahiri – als ein Ableger von bin Ladins Terrorgruppe eingestuft. Seif bedankte sich bei seinem Vater Muammar al-Ghadhafi für sein grünes Licht sowie bei den beiden Sicherheitschefs Abdallah Senussi und Khalid Tuhami für die Zusammenarbeit. Er gab die Entlassung von total 214 reuigen Jihad-Militanten bekannt und stellte das als Frucht seines von Geistlichen eingerahmten Programms für Dialog und Wiedereingliederung dar. Es handelt sich um 34 Militante der Libyschen Kampfgruppe, 80 Jihadisten, die vom Gericht freigesprochen, aber von der Sicherheitspolizei weiter festgehalten wurden, sowie 100 Angehörige von Kämpfergruppen im Irak. Er wache persönlich über diesen Gesprächsprozess, den der Prediger Ali Sallabi leite, teilte Ghadhafis Sohn mit.

Seifulislam präsentierte einen spezifisch libyschen Beitrag zur Bekämpfung des islamistischen Terrorismus, vergleichbar etwa den saudischen und jemenitischen Anstrengungen, wo ebenfalls muslimische Prediger die gefangenen Gewaltaktivisten einer religiösen Umschulung unterziehen. Die Probe aufs Exempel steht freilich in Libyen noch aus, während in Jemen bereits ein Teil der ehemals saudischen Reumütigen wieder als Anführer von Kaida-Zellen aufgegriffen wurde.

Gesprächsangebot
In den letzten drei Jahren habe seine Ghadhafi-Stiftung 705 islamische Häftlinge in der Gesellschaft wieder eingegliedert, präzisierte Seifulislam. Nach der Freilassung vom 23. März verblieben noch 409 Aktivisten in Haft, unter ihnen seien 232 für eine baldige Freilassung vorgesehen. In dem langen Krieg gegen die libyschen Islamisten seien insgesamt 165 Sicherheitskräfte und 177 Kämpfer ums Leben gekommen. Das Ende der Probleme mit der Jihadisten-Gewalt sei nun nahe. Grundlage dafür ist nach Seifulislam eine gründliche Überprüfung der ganzen Jihadisten-Ideologie durch die Führung der Libyschen Kämpfergruppe. Diese fasste sie im September 2009 unter dem Titel «Berichtigende Studien zum Jihad-Begriff» zusammen, einem Werk, das Seifulislam den weiterhin im Untergrund in Algerien oder in Mali kämpfenden Exil-Libyern zur Lektüre empfahl. Diese Kämpfer im Exil rief Seif zur Heimkehr auf und bot ihnen ebenfalls die Aufnahme in das Programm zur Resozialisierung an.


comments
Washington Post    May 29, 2010

Former militants now wage battle within Libya to discredit al-Qaeda
By Sudarsan Raghavan

TRIPOLI, LIBYA -- His life as a militant began with a call to holy war. It ended inside a prison in his native Libya. In between, Sami al Saadi orchestrated attacks against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, moved in Osama bin Laden's inner circle and befriended Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader.

Released from prison in March after he renounced violence, Saadi and other top leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group are now waging an ideological battle to de-radicalize extremists and discredit al-Qaeda. "Let's leave Libya's dark chapter behind us," Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam said the day Saadi was set free.

Libya, itself a former sponsor of terrorism, has joined a small but growing number of Arab and African nations that are using religion-based rehabilitation programs to isolate al-Qaeda and inoculate Muslims from bin Laden's narrative. Scores of militants have been released under the program, and U.S. officials say they are watching to see whether such models can serve as a blueprint for combating extremism at a time when al-Qaeda remains a long-term strategic threat.

"It is a new frontier in the fight against terrorism," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. Yet Libya's experience also shows the limitations of efforts to reform Islamists who harbor deep-rooted grievances against U.S. policies and have spent their adult lives fighting for what they believed was just under the guidelines of Islam.

At one moment, Saadi seemed to embrace a new beginning. "Perhaps we can convince al-Qaeda not to attack the West," he said. But he later sounded less sure: "I don't believe bin Laden is calling for the killing of any single civilian."

The scion of a wealthy religious family, Saadi dropped out of college in 1988 to wage jihad, heeding an influential Sunni theologian's call to Muslims to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. Saadi said he first went to Saudi Arabia and then to Pakistan along with scores of Libyan fighters. He made his way to Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden at a training camp and was impressed by his "devoutness."

After the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, Saadi helped found the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The group's goal: to overthrow Gaddafi and turn Libya into an Islamic state. By the late 1990s, the militia had staged dozens of attacks in Libya, including three assassination attempts on Gaddafi. "There was no way but to face the regime with force," Saadi recalled thinking, a faint smile emerging on his face, haggard and gray from years in prison.

The group thrived under Taliban rule and forged close ties to the radical regime's leaders. But it was divided on al-Qaeda. In several meetings before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, bin Laden urged the Libyan fighters to join him in confronting the West, especially the United States, Saadi and two other senior leaders said in their first extensive interviews with a journalist since their release from prison in March.

Some of the fighters were against the idea, warning that the United States might retaliate against the Taliban. "We did not have any ambitions to export our conflict outside of Libya," recalled Khalid al-Sherif, the group's military commander. But others embraced bin Laden's global jihad.

Today, one of the group's leaders, Abu Yahya al-Libi, is the spiritual leader of al-Qaeda's North African branch, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has launched suicide bombings and killed Western hostages.

A deal is offered
After the Sept. 11 attacks, many of the Libyan leaders fled Afghanistan. Pakistani and CIA operatives arrested Sherif in Peshawar in 2003. Saadi was arrested in China in 2004. The group's emir, Abdullah al-Sadeq, was captured in Bangkok in 2004. All three men were handed over U.S. soldiers and eventually returned to Libya, they and Libyan officials say.

Upon their arrival in Tripoli, the men were each thrown into a small cell. In late 2008, the offer from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi arrived: Give up violence and get your freedom. The government was concerned that Libyans were joining al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in neighboring Algeria, its birthplace.

The offer was rare in the Arab world, where regimes have long used brutality to suppress political conflicts, and Libyan internal security officials opposed it. But Gaddafi convinced his father that the group no longer posed a threat. "I want Libya to be a safe place," said the younger Gaddafi, who has no official role in the government but has emerged as an influential voice in fostering national reconciliation. For the jailed militants, there was little choice. Their group had suffered severe military losses.

Reform efforts
A well-respected moderate Islamist, Ali al-Salabi, was enlisted as a mediator to conduct religious dialogues with the jailed militants. Unlike similar programs in Saudi Arabia and Yemen that focused on reforming grass-roots militants, Salabi met solely with the group's top leaders, who were expected to guide the fighters under them.

Encouraged by the younger Gaddafi, the leaders wrote a 400-page manifesto renouncing violence, challenging al-Qaeda's philosophies and condemning attacks on Western civilians in Muslim nations. But some of the leaders who split from the original fold have publicly declared that the group had joined al-Qaeda.

Many of the former fighters said they still believe in waging war against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also consider the conflicts in the Palestinian territories and Somalia, where Islamists are fighting a U.S.-backed transitional government, legitimate forms of jihad.

"When America invades a country, the insurgency is legal and lawful. From a religious point of view, it is permissible and we have to support it," said Sadeq, the group's emir. "And U.S. policies in Israel and other places adds fuel to the fire." Salabi, the mediator, agreed. "Violence against occupation is a sacred act," he said. "It is a sacred jihad."

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, expressed concern about such comments. "I don't know how you parse jihad," he said. "If it means that, 'If you don't do it in Libya, you are free to go and do it elsewhere,' that would be a little troubling to us."

It remains to be seen how the former militants will adapt to a Libya that in recent years has moved closer to the West. Saadi said his country is not "an ideal state under Islam." Others demanded strict Islamic sharia laws, with public amputations for convicted thieves and head-to-toe coverings for women. "I am still a Salafist," said Tarreq Muftah al-Ghunnay, the group's former commander in Jordan, referring to the ultra-strict brand of Islam espoused by bin Laden.

The younger Gaddafi said he was confident the government could keep most of the released prisoners from returning militancy. But "nobody can guarantee anything 100 percent," he said.

comments
solami wrote:     7/27/2010 12:03:13 PM
    With interest and concern, I have taken note of the persistant and commendable efforts of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his associates to raise the awareness of the humanitarian, political and social dimensions of political and Jihadist prisoners, notably in Libya. I join others congratulating all those involved in this truly humanitarian enterprise for their magnificent achievements to date (e.g. Libya frees more than 200 Islamist prisoners, BBC, 23 March 2010). And I encourage them all to pursue their often miunderstood and indeed difficult undertakings, and to do so particularly off worn-out tracks.
    With interest, because as a student of history and the humanities, in these times it is not often that uncustomary and visionary - and whats more, repeatedly successful - approaches to dealing with politically motivated detainees appear and stay on one's radar screen (e.g. Camille Tawil, Libya closes the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, March 30, 2010; Former militants now wage battle within Libya to discredit al-Qaeda, Washington Post, May 29, 2010: www.solami.com/jihadrevisited.htm).
    With concern, because the release of political and Jihadist prisoners is one thing. However, their lasting re-integration into civil society is an alltogether different ball game. And effectively addressing the causes underlying the actions which brought them into prison is, of course, yet another, and perhaps the more difficult subject as religious.matters are involved. In each case, public awareness and benevolant tolerance if not support, particularly among the decision-makers, is seen to be crucial for any related program's more than superficial success.
    Saif's visionary approach is understood to have afforded the detainees self-discovery and dialogue among themselves which brought them genuine new insights into the true meaning of key motivating terms, such as Jihad. It remains to be seen how lastingly effective these new insights will be. But we all are contributors to the ultimate success - or failure - of this novel approach, in that we either join in the related discussion, or ignore its very existence.
    The Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation will thus have a unique opportunity to promote said - indispensable - global discussion by publishing the full text of the former detainees' ground-breaking analysis "Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People" in all major languages. With its international outlook, its roots in the capital of human rights, Geneva, and its mooring in monotheistic traditions, chances are that in this it will be supported notably by and find effective allies in the Al-Azhar-supported SLM Center (www.solami.com/SLM.htm), the International Committee for European Security and Co-operation (.../ICESC.htm), and the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers (.../a33a.htm)

swallow37 wrote:    5/30/2010 11:14:50 AM
    Since Muammar Gaddafi staged his military coup on September 1, 1969, and wrestled the reigns of power from Libya’s democratically elected government, he proceeded to rule the country through brutality and oppression of Libya’s population. In order to implement his rule, he had adopted policies of impoverishment; destruction of educational institutions; spreading corruption and immorality; neglect and
deliberate destruction of health institutions; and total control of media outlets. Such created conditions, have resulted in widespread unemployment, and despair among all segments of Libyan society,
particularly the youth, who comprised the largest segment of the population. Several of those young, desperate people have traveled outside of Libya and volunteered to fight against the Soviet Union, and to
return to use their learned military skills to depose their oppressor, Muammar Gaddafi. It was the despair they had experienced at home that drove them to Afghanistan and other war fronts.
    Muammar Gaddafi is now approaching his 70’s, and is about to pass the reigns to his son, Seif Al Islam, ignoring the wishes of the Libyan population for genuine change in policies, and the right to decide their fate and destiny. Seif is already marketing himself, not to Libyans, but to American and European powers, as their hope of defeating Al Qaeda, which was a natural byproduct of intolerable home environments, created by totalitarian rulers such as his father. The international community’s best short and long-term interests are better served through support of genuine democracies, instead of investing in current dictatorships and tyrannies. We should be mindful that we live as close neighbors in a global village, where any good or harm affecting one constituent will be felt by others. Whatever good that comes to Libya, the international community will reap its benefits, and whatever harm it experiences will reach all others sooner or later.

Bobthornton wrote:    5/30/2010 4:19:31 AM
Hmmm, while I have no doubt on the integrity of the Libyan administration in combatting Al Qaeda, I'm a bit more skeptical about the boys at Langley.
It is a well known fact that the CIA has credible intel that Al Qaeda is know hell bent on detonating the A.l Q.aeda Khan Nukes as a symbol of its power resurgence, preferably somewhere in the West. All the
intel prior to 9/11 pointed to hijacked planes ramming a Nuclear Station, and the test events prior to 9/11 from the Jihadistani IC 814 hijacking to bombs in Kenya proved this.
So what do we have in Washington? A bury your head in the sands policy...let's just appease the terrorists all is well.... Hmmm, whatevere happened to won't negotiate?

  fr3dmars wrote:    5/30/2010 12:10:22 AM
Thank God, Allah or the FSM, as you choose, for anything resembling sanity in the discussion. Heck - Barry Goldwater was wrong on nearly every issue, but at least he'd discuss it rationally and, on occasion
be persuaded to act for the people.

helloisanyoneoutthere wrote:    5/29/2010 9:51:52 PM    Recommend (1)
I've always thought that the US military should hire Karl Rove as their Director of Propaganda.
If he was able to keep the wool pulled over the eyes of most Americans in Bush's first administration through his lies, deceit and innuendo campaigns, certainly he can snowball uneducated Afghan villagers for a couple of years until al Qaeda is eradicated. Hey, it's worth a try!

HookedOnThePost wrote:    5/29/2010 7:50:19 PM
They need to lose their Biblical-era fear of women. Men who are afraid of women are not afraid to kill women and children.

tmcproductions2004 wrote:    5/29/2010 6:30:35 PM    Recommend (3)
Well, hire rush limbaugh, hannity beck,et al and put them to good use. Their blowhard tactics will make mincemeat out of those guys in no time.
They got people to believe a war hero was a coward, a black prez is a racist, the speaker of the house is a femi-nazi, the former first lady was a lesbian murderer. The list is endless.
They could mop the floor with this guys in no time at all.

jm125 wrote:    5/29/2010 6:06:15 PM    Recommend (2)
"floridanco wrote: A quij look at ths thoght it ws articl on obama. Wo new?"
What are you trying to talk about and how does Obama rate as a terrorist? He has already taken out more muslim terrorists lowlifes than the retarded and deranged bushies did in 8 years.

Speranza wrote:    5/29/2010 5:04:55 PM    Recommend (4)
The greatest fallacy of US thinking on Islamic terrorist radicalization is that the extremist religious ideology is the driving factor. Research is showing that the ideology is merely a cover for an underlying impulse - that, in fact, religious extremism plays a minor role compared to other psycho-social factors. Very few terrorist recruits are persuaded by the ideology and fewer still are indoctrinated.




Al-Shorfa    June 2, 2010
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Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces prospect of becoming a marginal group
Analysis by Camille Tawil in London

The improvement of Iraq's security services is a key reason for al-Qaeda's shrinking presence.[AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images]

In an audio recording released recently, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command in al-Qaeda after Osama Bin Laden, mourned the death of the leader of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Umar Al-Baghdadi and his war minister, Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir. Both were killed in an Iraqi intelligence operation carried out last April in western Iraq with assistance from US forces.

Despite the fact that Al-Zawahiri called on those whom he described as the "lions of the Islamic State of Iraq" to continue their jihad against the enemies in anticipation of "the imminent victory by Allah's permission" few are convinced that what is occurring in Iraq can be considered a form of jihad. Fewer believe that the "victory" that Al-Zawahiri talks about could possibly ever happen.

Why?

There is substantial evidence indicating that the branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq is nearing complete disintegration and will become a small marginal group incapable of anything other than launching minor strikes here and there, without having any fundamental impact on the course of events in the country.

This will continue to be so, unless major developments take place inside Iraq itself (such as the repercussions of the failure to form a new government to the satisfaction of a wide section of the population and the political establishment), or in the stances of the neighbouring countries that are able to complicate or calm the situation in Iraq.

Following are some evidence that led to the above conclusions:

First, the death of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and his minister of war, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was not the result of a random strike against the branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq. It was part of a series of successful operations in recent years carried out by the Iraqi security agencies with assistance from US forces.

Al-Qaeda began to lose ground in late 2005 when the policies and tactics of its former leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were criticised from within the leadership of al-Qaeda inside Iraq and abroad. When the Americans killed him in 2006, al-Zarqawi's tactics had already turned a large section of the Iraqi people against al-Qaeda – the indiscriminate bombings, the beheadings, and the targeting of Shias based on their religious identity and the expansion of the fighting beyond Iraq's borders.

Al-Zarqawi's successor, an Egyptian from Yemen, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri), was unable to recruit new blood into the branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq despite the fact that he agreed to pursue what al-Zarqawi started – apparently under pressure from the leadership of al-Qaeda – which was to transfer the command of the jihad inside Iraq to Iraqis instead of being commanded by foreigners who are not well-acquainted with the sensitivities of the Iraqi people. Al-Zarqawi was a Jordanian national, and most of his field commanders were from his country or from Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, and even from North Africa and the Gulf.

Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir turned the branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq - which used to be known in early 2006 as Shura Al-Mujahideen (the Consultative Council of the Jihadis) – into a part of the Islamic State of Iraq, which was founded in October 2006, with the Iraqi Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its Emir.

It was clear to many at the time that the appointment of al-Baghdadi to this position was meant to counter criticism that the jihad was being run by foreigners who are unfamiliar with the Iraqi population and that the final decision remained in the hands of al-Qaeda, whose representative Abu Hamza al-Muhajir occupied the post of minister of war in the so called "Government of the Islamic State."

But al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir were unable to stem al-Qaeda's decline. Dozens of groups which operated under the banner of the so-called "resistance groups" revolted against al-Qaeda and began to fight against it in the context of what was known as the Sahwa (Awakenings).

Perhaps even more significant than the stance of the Sahwa was the success of the American tactic of adding thousands of troops in order to clean up entire regions of al-Qaeda, and staying there until the regular Iraqi forces take charge of security there.

In the beginning, this mission faced wide scepticism regarding its success. However, it passed the test with flying colours as Iraqi forces took charge of security in most parts of the country. They now stand ready for the withdrawal of US forces by the end of 2011.

With the deployment of Iraqi forces in various cities, security agencies are having greater success in establishing a network of agents and informants who work for the interests of their country and not for the Americans or others. This has led to the discovery of many al-Qaeda hideouts which forced it to constantly change locations as security operations grew stronger.

Al-Qaeda has also lost the regions it once controlled in Anbar in western Iraq because of the Sahwa revolt against it and in Baghdad following deployment of security forces in its former strongholds in Sunni neighbourhoods. The organisation was compelled to move to the largest city in the north, Mosul in Ninawa province. However, the Iraqi and American forces followed it there, and its elements were forced to hide in regions far away from the large cities in the provinces of Diyala and Salah al-Din (where al-Bahgdadi and al-Muhajir were killed).

Secondly, al-Qaeda in Iraq has lost, as a result of what has been detailed in the previous point, a significant amount of the support that it used to have from jihadis in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Initially, the success of al-Qaeda in Iraq was largely because of its ability to attract hundreds of Arab youths who wanted to take part in what they considered a jihad against the Americans in Iraq. Many of the youths who poured into Iraq in 2003 joined the branch of al-Qaeda led by Al-Zarqawi. A significant number of them volunteered to take part in what they considered martyrdom operations. The organisation was able to execute a series of simultaneous suicide attacks against multiple targets.

However, this outpouring of jihadis arriving mostly via Syria started to dry up after al-Zarqawi's death. Since then, the zeal of these Arab youths to take part in the events happening in Iraq started to die down, especially with major jihadis questioning whether what was going on in Iraq was really jihad. They pointed out that it had turned into indiscriminate violence.

Thirdly, the slowdown in the flow of jihadis into Iraq was accompanied by a change in the positions of the neighbouring countries, particularly Syria, which was the main crossing point for them into Iraq.

A series of clashes and bombings took place in Syria, carried out by jihadis linked with al-Qaeda in Iraq (and Lebanon). This could have been the motivation behind the change by the Syrian authorities, who adopted a strict policy toward Arab youths arriving in the country whose final destination was suspected to be Iraq. The measures taken by the Syrians apparently helped to cut the lifeblood of al-Qaeda inside Iraq, leading to its further isolation.

Despite this, Iraqi authorities have complained that radicals operating from inside Syria were responsible for a series of bombings that took place a few months ago, which is still a point of contention between the governments of Syria and Iraq.

Fourthly, the Iraqi government succeeded in establishing state institutions to replace those that collapsed and disintegrated completely following the invasion and the overthrow of Former President Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

The most recent Iraqi government success was its handling of parliamentary elections in March 2010. These elections were widely praised for their fairness, despite the fact that they did not come out with a clear winner.

These elections witnessed greater participation by Sunnis in the political process, many of whom felt marginalised after the demise of the previous regime. Now they have successfully affirmed their presence by their alliance with the Al-Iraqiya List, headed by Ayad Allawi, which finished first in the elections with a minor advantage over the list led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

No matter how long the dispute between the Iraqi factions persists with regard to the formation of the next government, the last elections showed that Iraq is on a path towards building independent institutions, which will hopefully be able to take charge of the country completely when the last American soldier withdraws.

Because of all these reasons, it seems that al-Qaeda in Iraq is in an unenviable position. The appointment of two new leaders, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Qurashi, who has been sworn in as the Emir of the Believers in the Islamic State of Iraq, and Abu Abdullah al-Hassani al-Qurashi as Prime Minister and vice-emir, could be postponement of a certain fate, which is that this "state" is down to its last breath.




Al-Shorfa    June 21, 2010

Al-Qaeda losing supporters in jihadi groups across Arab world
Analysis by Camille Tawil in London

Leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) explain their decision to renounce violence at a press conference in March, 2010. [MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images]

In addition to security restrictions that it faces in many countries around the world, al-Qaeda has been facing another significant challenge for years from within the "jihadi" circles it tapped to recruit fighters. The challenge concerns the use of armed violence – and in many cases, indiscriminate violence –to achieve al-Qaeda's goals.

These disagreements are no longer limited to a particular group or country. They have expanded to include a wide mix of "jihadi groups" which have reviewed their ideas and ceased many of their past activities, which al-Qaeda is still carrying out.

The main rift within the circles of the so-called jihadi groups in the Arab world first appeared in the mid to late 1990s.

The Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group), which was the largest armed jihadi group in Egypt, surprised the jihadi movement in Egypt and abroad when it announced unilaterally in May 1997 that it would cease all its operations.

Al-Qaeda apparently did not appreciate the announcement that Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya made. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad – which is a smaller "jihadi" faction than Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya and a co-founder of the "International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders" which was announced by Osama Bin Laden in February 1998 in Afghanistan – tried to convince Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya that it is not necessary for it to declare the cessation of fighting against the Egyptian government.

This group, led by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, sent a message to the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya that what it was doing constituted a "cessation of jihad", and that this is not permissible in Islam because "Jihad has been prescribed until the Last Day".

However, what Al-Gamaa's critics did not understand is that the group had already been convinced of the wrongness of taking up arms in order to overthrow the government, and the wrongness of resorting to violence, and that it had recanted this position based on conviction and not to please the Egyptian government.

It is true that the leaders of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya were imprisoned, but it is also true that they have been convinced of the wrongness of their taking up arms against the regime without any pressures.

These people, some of whom were the pillars that laid down the framework of the jihadi ideology, which legitimized taking up arms in order to overthrow the "apostate regimes", have reviewed their course of action from the 1980s, and they concluded that their policies have brought about havoc for the members of their group and their supporters, and for Egyptians in general.

They then discovered – as they explained in detail in studies they published– that their legal Islamic justifications for taking up arms and killing contained mistakes that are unacceptable in the Islamic religion. So, they announced their retraction and apologised for what they did and pledged to never resort to violence again.

The revisions of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya were made in conjunction with other setbacks suffered by jihadis across the Arab world.

In Algeria, violence reached its peak in the second half of the 1990s with the heinous massacres of thousands of citizens.

The actions attributed to the Armed Islamic Group led to the alienation of a large segment of jihadis who were fighting to overthrow the Algerian government under the pretence that it prevented an Islamist party – the Islamic Salvation Front – from assuming power after it annulled the election results in the beginning of 1992.

The jihadis who were displeased with the actions of the extremists in the Armed Islamic Group responded by engaging in secret talks with the government, which resulted in their announcement in the summer of 1997 ending all armed activities. The government responded by issuing a general amnesty to all individuals who would lay down their arms by the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000.

The same agreement was reached in Libya in the 1990s when the security forces of Colonel Gaddafi crushed a rebellion started by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in 1995.

When it was defeated militarily, the LIFG withdrew outside of Libya, and began reviewing the reasons that led to the setback it suffered.

It moved to Afghanistan, where it announced in secret – like the Egyptian Islamic Jihad did previously – the cessation of its operations inside Libya. However, this hiatus did not come out of conviction that resorting to violent action in order to overthrow the government was not the right thing to do. This situation persisted until after the "war on terror" which the United States declared after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In the aftermath of this, the leaders of the LIFG were finding out that they were falling one by one everywhere in the world, until they finally ended up in Libya's prisons.

There, the same thing happened to them as happened to the leaders of the Egyptian Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya.

The Libyan Islamists began reviewing their ideologies and concluded that they were wrong in taking up arms against the regime. They published jurisprudential revisions under the title "Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability, and the Judgment of the People" in which they laid down the principles that led them to that conclusion. Without naming names they criticised the use of violence against Arab regimes, which al-Qaeda and its affiliates are still advocating.

Before the LIFG published its revisions in 2009, it was preceded by the former emir of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Dr. Fadl, considered the "theoretician of the jihadis", because his books (such as The Essential Guide for Preparation (for Jihad) and The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge) were being taught since the early 1990s in al-Qaeda training camps on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Dr. Fadl, who was handed over to Egypt by Yemen in 2004, was highly critical of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, who replaced him as the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1993.

Sceptics of Dr. Fadl said he was "in captivity" in Egyptian prisons, and could have been forced to make this statement about his positions. However, he refuted this during media appearances and during prison visits where he tried to convince the jihadi prisoners to embrace his revisions that were first published under the title "Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World."

Between the revisions of Dr. Fadl and the revisions of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, many other Islamist scholars, including salafis, jihadis, ikhwanis have announced similar positions, criticizing what they considered radicalism in al-Qaeda ideology.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq, once led by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, received a significant share of criticism, as his actions brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Criticism was also directed against al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, which led a series of bombing attacks that caused public outrage and jeopardised national security in a country which took pride in the idea that its application of sharia law provided security to its citizens. Al-Qaeda's actions rocked the Saudis' sense of security.

Saudi authorities responded by launching an intense security campaign against al-Qaeda cells, accompanied by counselling sessions with those arrested in order to convince them to abandon what the government called "misguided ideology".

The influential religious establishment in Saudi Arabia proceeded along the same line and adopted firm positions forbidding even giving financial help to Al-Qaeda.

The actions of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb did not escape criticism, even from within jihadi circles, some of whom went public against the leadership of al-Qaeda and its actions, such as kidnapping for ransom and bombing attacks that kill innocent citizens.

Leading all these critics was Hassan Hattab, former emir of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which became the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb in January 2007.

Against this backdrop of revisions, al-Qaeda will sooner or later have to review whether its current policies are truly serving the goals it set for itself, especially given that a wide segment of jihadis who were once allies are today convinced Al-Qaeda has "gone astray".




Magharebia    July 23, 2010

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's revisions: one year later
Despite hurdles and limited media coverage,
the revisions presented Islamic legal reasoning that remain unchallenged by al-Qaeda.
Analysis by Camille Tawil in London

A Libyan man cries of joy as he greets a relative upon his release from prison in Tripoli. [Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images]

The experiment of Libya's dialogue with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) did not gather as much media attention as some participants probably hoped it would. However, this does not diminish the importance of the outcome. The Libyan state opened the door to absorbing jihadists who renounce the use of violence as a means for change and to reintegrating them into society.

Despite the many shortcomings of this experiment, it undoubtedly remains one of the pioneering approaches that deserve examination, in order to measure the extent of its success in turning the page of struggles between Arab governments and armed Islamist groups.

The dialogue between the Libyan government and the LIFG began in 2006 and reached its peak in the month of Ramadan in 2009 when the leadership of the group published major revisions under the title "Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of the People".

The revisions resorted to Islamic legal arguments to conclude that it is not permissible to take up arms in order to overthrow Arab and Islamic governments.

The authors of the revisions were six of the leading figures of the LIFG: the emir, Abdul Hakim al-Khuwailidi Balhaj (Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq); his deputy, Khalid Muhammad Al-Sharif; the spiritual leader, Sami Mustafa Al-Saaidi (Abu al-Munzir al-Saaidi; the group's first emir, Miftah al-Mabruk al-Thawadi (Abdul Ghaffar); the military commander, Mustafa Al-Said Qunayfid (Abu al-Zubair); and Abdul Wahhab Muhammad Qayid, the elder brother of Abu Yahya al-Libi.

The authors acknowledged they were wrong for taking up arms against the regime of Colonel Muammar Kadhafi, which they unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow in the mid-1990s.

They also criticised at length interpretations they deemed contradictory to the teachings of the Islamic religion, such as indiscriminate violence that some armed groups commit in the name of jihad, an indirect reference to some operations carried out by al-Qaeda or other organisations which espouse the same ideology.

The LIFG leaders added to their revisions a letter of apology to Kadhafi for attempting to overthrow his regime and assassinate him. In the letter, they stated that they were wrong in even forming an armed group, which was understood to be their agreement to dissolve it.

The LIFG stances shocked some of the Islamists aligned with jihadist movements aligned with al-Qaeda.

Some al-Qaeda supporters posting on internet forums were not pleased with the initiative and called for the continuation of fighting against individuals they described as apostates in the Arab world (the governing regimes) and against the West, which they claim supports these regimes and keeps them in power.

However, it is noteworthy that after the publication of the revisions in its complete version, there has been no Islamic legal reasoning from al-Qaeda or its supporters rejecting what the LIFG presented. This clearly indicates that critics have not found any Islamic jurisprudential deficiencies in the principles on which the LIFG leaders based their conclusions.

The Libyan authorities rewarded the LIFG in March by releasing three of its six leaders who co-authored the revisions, in addition to 200 Islamist jihadists who were either affiliated with the LIFG or with the "Iraq networks", which included youths arrested under suspicion that they were preparing to leave for Iraq and engage in fighting there, or even to prepare for operations inside Libya itself or in neighbouring countries.

The release of these prisoners was not the only step taken regarding these individuals. Dr. Saif al-Islam al-Kadhafi, the son of the Libyan leader, who has been a pivotal figure in all the dialogues that occurred between the imprisoned LIFG leaders and the chiefs of the security agencies since 2006, promised that the government would take care of those released from jail and help them reintegrate into society and rebuild their future.

So far, it has not been clear as to how this help is being provided – or if it is being provided at all – and whether the government has provided them with homes or job opportunities, or even loans so that they can start their own business projects to earn a living.

Honouring these promises will be of utmost importance. It could remove any excuses some could use to encourage the released prisoners to return to violence, based on the pretext that the government did not honour its promises.

However, this is not the only hurdle preventing a complete reconciliation between the government and the freed jihadists.

One hurdle is the extremism displayed by some of the youths eager to take part in what they consider as jihad, whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia.

Indications of this extremism emerged during the dialogue that took place among the Islamists themselves inside the Libyan prisons before the release of the LIFG leaders earlier this year.

In the prisons, it became apparent that the LIFG leaders belonged to a different generation from the "neo-jihadists", who were openly supportive of al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. This new generation, according to a recent London seminar evaluating the LIFG revisions, refused to engage in any type of dialogue with regimes they deemed as "apostate".

Despite the wide Islamic knowledge that LIFG leaders possess, some of the imprisoned youths were solely focused on waging jihad, even though they lacked the knowledge about many of its conditions, which the LIFG leaders tried to explain to them, but to no avail.

The reconciliation between the Libyan state and the Islamists could be at danger if an al-Qaeda affiliated cell engaged in violent acts and bombings. This could prompting a reaction by the government against all the Islamists that have been released, regardless of whether or not they support al-Qaeda.

Another hurdle is the ambiguity surrounding the stance of some in the Libyan state towards reconciliation with the jihadists. This could possibly be due to the nature of the jamahiriya system of government.

Even though Saif al-Islam al-Kadhafi was successful in securing consent of the authorities to release the LIFG prisoners, other parties within the Libyan regime do not trust the Islamists. Some high ranking officials in the Libyan government believe that the LIFG leaders changed their stances only after they were defeated militarily, and after the group was wiped out, initially inside Libya in the mid-1990s, and subsequently when the LIFG leaders were handed over to Libya after their arrests abroad in the context of the "war on terror". Some Libyan security officials openly stated they still viewed the Islamists as security threats.

But perhaps the most significant hurdles, and to which none of the two parties addressed, have to do with the political future of those jihadists who agreed to renounce violence and who now reject the actions of al-Qaeda and groups with similar ideologies.

The released prisoners are undoubtedly keen to spread their ideas one day, but in a peaceful manner this time. However, the Libyan government to this day opposes the existence of political parties, considering that the system of the jamahiriya is the best means for citizens to express their views and ambitions without having recourse to political parties, whether they are Islamist or secular. However, this is a problem that can be resolved in the long term.

Whatever these hurdles are, and there are many of them, it is certain that the success of the dialogue experiment in Libya or its failure will have positive or negative effects on the ongoing conflicts in many Islamic countries between the regimes and armed jihadists.

And regardless of their success or failure, which is something that cannot be determined in the short term, the LIFG revisions provide a definitive legal Islamic reasoning that effectively bans taking up arms to overthrow governments in the Islamic world. And this reasoning remains unchallenged by al-Qaeda.

This content was commissioned for Magharebia.com.





July 30, 2010

As Some Young Muslims Turn to Radicalism, Concern Grows
By SOUAD MEKHENNET

FRANKFURT — Before Abi left her parents’ house in northern Germany last year, she asked her father, “Daddy, what can I bring you from my journey?” He looked up from his book and answered, “Some perfumed oil.” “Will do,” she said, hugging him goodbye.

He is still waiting, more than a year later, for her to return.

Abi, now 23, and her husband never made the trip they said they had planned to Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca and Medina. Instead they became part of a growing number of young Muslims from Germany and other European countries who travel to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, eventually ending up in the camps of groups affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

One German man, Eric Breininger, was later reported killed in a battle with Pakistani troops.

A Turkish-language Web site announced that in recent days nine foreign fighters were killed as they traveled to carry out operations with the Taliban. Two of them were identified as Germans, from Bonn and Berlin.

Others have been arrested on a variety of charges. In one case, several people were convicted of planning attacks against American military facilities in Germany.

Intelligence officials are concerned that the young people, most in their 20s, will be used by the militants for propaganda purposes or trained to take up arms. They also worry that some will slip back into Germany to recruit others or to join sleeper cells and ultimately commit acts of terrorism.

“This is a very dangerous situation and German security services are very nervous about it,” said Guido Steinberg, terrorism expert of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. “Al Qaeda and other organizations have put Germany on their target priority list as one of the top places.”

Security officials believe that the number of young Germans who make the trip is relatively small, perhaps fewer than 200 since the early 1990s. But they also believe the number is growing, inspired in part by German-language videos on the Internet, including some made by a group called German Taliban Mujahedeen, which promise a happy life with others committed to Shariah law.

It is difficult to pin down an exact figure because most of those headed for the border regions first leave Germany by car, to elude airport security checks; many go to Turkey and then illegally into Iran, where they meet smugglers who take them to their destination.

Security officials are also troubled because it appears that whole families are now making the move, after selling all their possessions and taking their savings from the bank.

A man who helps smuggle foreigners into the region offered an explanation for the need for cash. In the past, said the man, Abu Yahia, who is from Waziristan, the militant groups once had enough money to support those who joined them. Now, he said, with all the fighting going on, the newcomers are asked to “bring enough money so they can support the groups and themselves.”

The parents of Abi — her mother is German and her father is from a West African country — are appalled by their daughter’s transformation from a Westernized dental student to a radicalized Muslim. (Fearing harassment, the parents consented to be interviewed only if their names were not disclosed. Abi is a shortened form of their daughter’s real name.)

The changes came slowly, they say, after Abi fell in love with a young Iranian man, who grew up in Germany. After marrying in a mosque in 2008 — a shock to her father, though he is Muslim — the young couple changed their behavior and their dress. He converted from Shiism, started to follow a radical Sunni form of Islam and grew his beard; she started wearing head scarves and cut off contact with friends. “My husband told her that this was not what Islam was teaching, to stop friendships, but she would not listen,” Abi’s mother said.

At the beginning of March last year, Abi, her husband and three others left their homes in Germany and ultimately made their way to the Pakistani border region of Waziristan. At the beginning Abi told her parents through e-mail that she and her husband wanted to live in an Islamic society, though her husband later sent signals to his parents that he wanted to return to Germany. But then he appeared in a propaganda video with a gun in his hand. “I knew then, that it would be very tough for them to return,” Abi’s mother said.

Security officials, as well as the parents of Abi, her husband and other parents of young people who have gone to the Pakistani border region, hope to learn more about their situation from Rami Makanesi, a 25-year-old German national of Syrian descent, who was recently arrested by Pakistani officials while in the tribal district of North Waziristan.

Since his arrest Mr. Makanesi has been in the custody of Pakistan’s main spy service, the ISI. According to a senior ISI official, Mr. Makanesi told Pakistani investigators that he was a member of Al Qaeda and had trained suicide bombers for them in Waziristan. “He did not leave the impression that he was someone who had no idea what he was doing there,” said the ISI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly about the case.

Mr. Makanesi also spoke about dozens of Qaeda-recruited Europeans fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “He spoke about six other German men who had been in the same region with him,” the official said.

“There are connections between the circles from Hamburg to circles in Berlin, Bonn and Frankfurt,” said a senior German intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the case. “It is very possible that Mr. Makanesi has met some people from Germany who traveled from other cities as well.”

One of the families desperate for some information is that of Thomas, a 24-year-old convert to Islam who has grown more observant over the past two years. The family grew alarmed when Thomas, now using the name Haroun, and his wife began talking about moving to a place where they could practice their faith more completely.

“We went to the police and intelligence service and asked for help, because we noticed how they had changed,” his mother said. “We’ve cried for help.” But the authorities had no legal basis to intervene.

Last September, he and his wife told his parents that they were leaving Berlin for a trip to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Instead, they made their way to Waziristan.

At the beginning, Thomas sent e-mails to his parents, telling them the living conditions were tough. Last December, he wrote that he didn’t know if he would see the next summer.

“Since then no message, no idea if he is still alive or dead, no certainty, which is making it very complicated,” his mother said.

German security officials say that they believe Thomas went through military training in Waziristan. “We have indications that he has appeared in one propaganda video, but with his face covered,” one official said.

The parents of Abi and Thomas still hope that their children will return to Germany. But security officials say that in nearly all cases those who return continue to associate with more militant Muslims.

Abi’s mother says the signals that she is getting from her daughter about a return are not very hopeful.

Abi has told her mother that Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan are oppressed and need help. That reaction is typical for her daughter, who always wanted to help people, Abi’s mother said, adding, “I was always proud of her for this.”

Then tears filled her eyes, as she said: “My husband and I became very weak because of what she has done, and I would like to ask her, ‘Doesn’t the Koran say you should never lie to your parents and have to honor them?’ ”




Foreign Policy    July 30, 2010,   20.10

Is Islamism Islam's Cure or Curse?
On various tracks to drain the terrorism swamps
by Iconoclast

    Studying the terrorism dropout cases (Michael Jacobson, Learning From Dropouts, FP Feb 1, 10) evidently offers helpful clues - if done on a timely basis, with the results not lost on the way to hopelessly saturated decision-makers (Dana L. Priest and William M. Arkin, A hidden world, growing beyond control, Washington Post, July 19, 10). More promising avenues to effectively drain the terrorism swamps are seen to avail themselves within that community - and indeed within the global Muslim community, if helped from without.

    With interest and concern, I have thus taken note of the persistant and commendable efforts of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his associates to raise the awareness of the humanitarian, political and social dimensions of political and Jihadist prisoners, notably in Libya. I join others congratulating all those involved in this truly humanitarian enterprise for their promising achievements to date (e.g. Libya frees more than 200 Islamist prisoners, BBC, 23 March 2010). And I encourage them all to pursue their often miunderstood and indeed difficult undertakings - and to do so particularly off worn-out tracks in dead-end valleys.
    With interest, because as a student of history and the humanities, in these times it is not often that uncustomary and visionary - and whats more, repeatedly successful - approaches to dealing with politically motivated detainees appear and stay on one's radar screen (e.g. Camille Tawil, Libya closes the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, March 30, 2010; Former militants now wage battle within Libya to discredit al-Qaeda, Washington Post, May 29, 2010: www.solami.com/jihadrevisited.htm).
    With concern, because the release of political and Jihadist prisoners is one thing. However, their lasting re-integration into civil society is an alltogether different ball game. And effectively addressing the causes underlying the actions which brought them into prison is, of course, yet another, and perhaps the more difficult subject as religious.matters are involved. In each case, public awareness and benevolant tolerance if not support, particularly among the decision-makers, is seen to be crucial for any related program's more than superficial success.
    Saif's visionary approach is understood to have afforded the detainees self-discovery and dialogue among themselves which brought them genuine new insights into the true meaning of key motivating terms, such as Jihad. It remains to be seen how lastingly effective these new insights will be. But we all are contributors to the ultimate success - or failure - of this novel approach, in that we either join in the related discussion, or ignore its very existence.
    The Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation and others involved in the arduous task of draining the terrorist swamps will thus have a unique opportunity to promote said - indispensable - global discussion by publishing in other languages as well, and by promoting the debate over the former detainees' ground-breaking analysis "Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People".

Jihad revisited
With my current-life Western upbringing, I have been an occasional observer but not a serious student of Islamism and its multiple violence-based outgrowths. But I now think insiders have it about right when they come to share the insights of Ben Otman, Said al-Islam Gaddafi of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development, and the Quilliam Foundation’s Maajid Nawaz (www.solami.com/jihadrevisited.htm#Nawaz): "I turned away from Islamism, because I recognized it as the curse of Islam." And ever since my long-term friend and tutor, Egypt’s Ibrahim Kamel, the co-founder of the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers (…/a33a.htm), convincingly offered me his interpretation of the term Islam as meaning nothing more and nothing less than submission to the Almighty One God, I’ve thus been able to recognise this Islam as the prophesied universal all-inclusive «religion» - somewhat analoguous to Einstein’s yet-to-be found unified field theory.

That said, those preaching and practicing Islamism and its characteristic neglect of the sanctity of life may also yet evolve to recognise themselves as being indeed not the promoters but rather the misguided and self-defeating adversaries not only of all non-Muslim communities but, moreover, of true Islam itself. Encourageingly, alternative approaches and developments are not only conceivable but become visible, not least in the land of the two rivers, the craddle of civilization, e.g. in the form of the joint 1992 declaration Vivant Sequentes of representatives of the constituant ethnic and religious communities of Iraq's Mosul Vilayet (.../a31.htm#VIVANT ¦ .../UNGA.htm).

Noman Ben Otman’s insightful interview of last October with Frank J. Cilluffo and F. Jordan Evert of George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute (Reflections on Jihad: A Former Leader’s Perspective) thus appears as a commendable illustration of the above. Of course, as is quite normal among truly open-minded intellectuals with different backgrounds and life experiences, differences of opinion are thus not excluded but often mutually enriching, if handled properly. E.g. his apparent reluctance to recognise the inherent significant values of genuine tribal socities - as compared to the demanding and often unrealizable conditions of true democracy, with the doors thus widely opened to selfish and reckless demagogues. He also mentions the «right» felt by some Muslims to «build a Nation State based on Sharia law». This would seem to stand in contrast to the very concept of modern nation states - as opposed to the Ummah, the Caliphate of bygone times. By the same token, I for one fully share most of his other views thus expressed, notably:
„There are many lessons one can take from this [revision] process, but the most important one is sometimes we face problems which appear to be unsolvable because our minds have been set by default. And when we start to think of the unthinkable we find that those unsolvable problems are actually solvable, and the main problem was our way of thinking, not the problem itself.“ (see also: …/puzzle.htm)

Other noteworthy insider pearls of Ben Otman which - to the layman like myself - appear to hold the road:
„The main three different points here between Al-Qaeda and the Sunni sect of Islam are:
-     First; the issue of loyalty. Al-Qaeda practically transformed this concept from its traditional understanding—which is that all Muslims are loyal to each other—to the notion that all Muslims should be loyal to Al-Qaeda and if you're not, that means there is something wrong with your faith, belief, and creed, and you may end up being identified as a non Muslim from Al-Qaeda's point of view. This understanding is one of the main sources of bad and sometimes evil reactions committed by Al-Qaeda members.
-     Second; their understanding of Jihad, which has been transformed from ethical and moral action based on justice to be nonsense terrorist activities.
-     Third; traditionally Muslim leaders are of two characters. One is people with authority and power, like presidents, kings, and princes. They are the source of political legitimacy. The other is people who have the moral power, the Scholars (Ulama), and they are the source of religious legitimacy. Traditionally this is the structure of power in the Muslim society.“

Finally, Ben Otman’s general observation: „And if under any circumstances you begin considering war, you should first stop to think of peace.“ reflects, of course, a well-moored yet idealistic concept which may well hit the walls of reality (…/NPT.htm). Just think of the fundamental wisdom engraved in the latin proverb: "Si vis pacem, para bellum" (If you desire peace, prepare for war!: .../y2k.htm)" Or take the case of the apparently endless Palestinian/Israeli gridlock (…/gridlock.htm ¦ .../palestineinexile.htm). Or the equally mutually poisoning Kashmir conflict (.../ICESC.htm#Hostage). Here, as in other cases, the lessons drawn from the nine-stars puzzle (…/puzzle.htm) may be helpful. In as much as the worn-out tracks of Jihad and other violence-based strategies manifestly lead nowhere, except to prolongued chaos, disaster and regression. And as only out-of-the-box thinking of visionary, principled and courageous personalities offer a chance for lasting solutions and genuine peace. To be sure, both individual and social progress is possible by drawing inspiration from meditation and deep-draught reflextions. And all those worthwhile objectives may indeed be effectively promoted also by a serious study – both among Muslims and non-Muslims – of the above-mentioned ground-breaking analysis „Corrective Studies in Understanding Jihad, Accountability and the Judgment of People“ (…/jihadstudy.pdf). In the same vein also recommended are Aldeeb’s original landownership research „Common goods in Islamic and Arab law - Question of fire (oil)“   (…/aldeeb08.htm), and other fundamental studies sponsored by the Al Azhar-supported SLM Center (…/slm.htm).





July 18, 2011

Exiled Islamists Watch Rebellion Unfold at Home
By SOUAD MEKHENNET and ERIC SCHMITT

LONDON — Abu Sohaib spends most of his time online these days, following the news from his native Libya. He is in constant contact with friends on the ground there, helping them map out strategy to fight the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

“I would like to be there myself; I tried to go,” he said, pausing to look at the car keys in front of him. “But Tunisia and Egypt wouldn’t let me in even after their revolution.”

Abu Sohaib, his nom de guerre, is on a watch list for suspected terrorists not only in Libya and its neighboring countries, but also in some European countries. He is a senior commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a former militant organization that once was aligned with Al Qaeda. The New York Times is withholding his real name because he said he fears for his safety.

Today, members of the group have renounced Al Qaeda and are part of the mosaic of rebel fighters united under the umbrella of the Transitional National Council, the opposition leadership that the United States formally recognized as Libya’s legitimate government on Friday.

American, European and Arab intelligence services acknowledge that they are worried about the influence that the former group’s members might exert over Libya after Colonel Qaddafi is gone, and they are trying to assess their influence and any lingering links to Al Qaeda.

The group, whose fighters number more than 500 men, including many with combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, was part of the social fabric of eastern Libya, its leaders say. Its members’ relatives are in Benghazi, the wellhead of opposition to the government in Tripoli. Its fighters opposed Colonel Qaddafi in the 1990s, were captured and died in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. They hid from Qaddafi security forces in the caves in Darnah until the Libyan revolution. In short, many Libyans say, the men are seen not as an alien, pernicious force but as patriots.

Libyans have held positions in the Qaeda ranks in the past, with the most prominent men being Abu Laith al-Libi and Abu Yahya al-Libi. “It is easy to change a name and say, ‘We are not part of Al Qaeda,’ but the question is if they have changed their ideology and I doubt it,” said a senior Arab intelligence official.

An American intelligence official who follows North Africa said that dozens of the former group’s members trained and fought alongside militants in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.

Abu Sohaib insists that he and his brethren have severed ties to Al Qaeda and have warned the terrorist group it is not welcome in Libya. “It has been made very clear to them, that it is better for them to stay out of the country,” he said.

Here in London, Abu Sohaib and a dozen or so former commanders make up a rear-guard headquarters of sorts, with some members shuttling between London and Benghazi to strategize and share donations collected from the sizable Libyan expatriate community in Britain. “We are part of the Libyan people and we just want to help our country,” Abu Sohaib said.

The formal American recognition of the rebel leadership allows the rebel government access to $30 billion in Libyan assets held in the United States. Of that, however, only about $3.5 billion is in liquid funds, and the rest in real estate and other Libyan government investments, State Department officials say. It is unclear how and when the money will be distributed to the transitional government, and what oversight mechanism will be placed to monitor it.

In another sign that Colonel Qaddafi’s days in power may be numbered, White House and State Department officials acknowledged on Monday that Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state responsible for the Middle East, met with members of the Libyan government on Saturday in Tunis.

“This was not a negotiation,” a State Department official said in an emailed statement. “It was the delivery of a message. The message was simple and unambiguous and the same message we deliver in public: Qaddafi must leave power so that a new political process can begin that reflects the will and aspirations of the Libyan people.”

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was formed in 1995 with the goal of ousting Colonel Qaddafi. Driven into the mountains or exile by Libyan security forces, the group’s members were among the first to join the fight against Qaddafi security forces, although the new transitional leadership has sought to distance itself from the fighters because of their past ties to Al Qaeda. “We wanted to live in a country in which we can live and promote Islam the way it should be,” said Abu Sohaib. “We are sure Islam is good for everyone.”

Abu Sohaib is a soft-spoken man in his mid-40s, well built and well trained, as his biceps show under his checkered chemise. He has lived for many years in Britain; before that he had been to Saudi Arabia and also Afghanistan and Pakistan. “There was a time when the British wanted to hand us over to Muammar el-Qaddafi , though they knew we would be tortured,” he said, staring at his hands.

That distrust of the West still gnaws at other members of the group. A 36-year-old Libyan associated with the fighting group who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Salah and who travels between Europe and Libya said: “We start to question the true intentions of the West in Libya. If they would have wanted to kill Muammar el-Qaddafi, they could have done it several times. I guess this is about making as much money with oil and weapons deals as possible.”

Officially the fighting group does not exist any longer, but the former members are fighting largely under the leadership of Abu Abdullah Sadik, who had been arrested in Bangkok in 2004, interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency and then handed over to the Qaddafi security forces and released this year, security officials believe.

“Isn’t it interesting how they were hunting us for years and were working with Muammar el-Qaddafi?” said Abu Sohaib, referring to the United States, which after Libya disbanded its unconventional weapons program in 2003 worked closely with Libyan authorities to combat terrorism. “Now we are cooperating with NATO and the West, those who used to put us in jail.”

Souad Mekhennet reported from London and Stuttgart, Germany, and Eric Schmitt from Stuttgart. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington, and Kareem Fahim reporting from Cairo.





September 1, 2011

In Libya, Former Enemy Is Recast in Role of Ally
By ROD NORDLAND

Abdel Hakim Belhaj - Moises Saman for The New York Times

TRIPOLI, Libya — Abdel Hakim Belhaj had a wry smile about the oddity of his situation.

Yes, he said, he was detained by Malaysian officials in 2004 on arrival at the Kuala Lumpur airport, where he was subjected to extraordinary rendition on behalf of the United States, and sent to Thailand. His pregnant wife, traveling with him, was taken away, and his child would be 6 before he saw him.

In Bangkok, Mr. Belhaj said, he was tortured for a few days by two people he said were C.I.A. agents, and then, worse, they repatriated him to Libya, where he was thrown into solitary confinement for six years, three of them without a shower, one without a glimpse of the sun.

Now this man is in charge of the military committee responsible for keeping order in Tripoli, and, he says, is a grateful ally of the United States and NATO.

And while Mr. Belhaj concedes that he was the emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was deemed by the United States to be a terrorist group allied with Al Qaeda, he says he has no Islamic agenda. He says he will disband the fighters under his command, merging them into the formal military or police, once the Libyan revolution is over.

He says there are no hard feelings over his past treatment by the United States.

“Definitely it was very hard, very difficult,” he said. “Now we are in Libya, and we want to look forward to a peaceful future. I do not want revenge.”

As the United States and other Western powers embrace and help finance the new government taking shape in Libya, they could face a particularly awkward relationship with Islamists like Mr. Belhaj. Once considered enemies in the war on terror, they suddenly have been thrust into positions of authority — with American and NATO blessing.

In Washington, the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on Mr. Belhaj or his new role. A State Department official said the Obama administration was aware of Islamist backgrounds among the rebel fighters in Libya and had expressed concern to the Transitional National Council, the new rebel government, and that it had received assurances.

“The last few months, we’ve had the T.N.C. saying all the right things, and making the right moves,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s delicacy.

Mr. Belhaj, 45, a short and serious man with a close-cropped beard, burst onto the scene in the mountains west of Tripoli only in the last few weeks before the fall of the capital, as the leader of a brigade of rebel fighters.

“He wasn’t even in the military council in the western mountains,” said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the Transitional National Council from Zuwarah in the west. “He was nothing, nothing. He arrived at the last moment, organized some people but was not responsible for the military council in the mountains.”

Then came the push on Tripoli, which fell with unexpected speed, and Mr. Belhaj and his fighters focused on the fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, where they distinguished themselves as relatively disciplined fighters.

A veteran of the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, Mr. Belhaj has what most rebel fighters have lacked — actual military experience. Yet he has still not adopted a military rank (unlike many rebels who quickly became self-appointed colonels and generals), which he said should go only to members of the army.

Dressed in new military fatigues, with a pistol strapped backward to his belt, Mr. Belhaj was interviewed at his offices in the Mitiga Military Airbase in Tripoli, the site of what had been the United States Air Force’s Wheelus Air Base until 1970.

Last weekend, Mr. Belhaj was voted commander of the Tripoli Military Council, a grouping of several brigades of rebels involved in taking the capital, by the other brigades, a move that aroused some criticism among liberal members of the council.

However, his appointment was strongly supported by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the council, who said that as Colonel Qaddafi’s former minister of justice he got to know Mr. Belhaj well during negotiations leading to his release from prison in 2010. Mr. Belhaj and other Islamist radicals made a historic compromise with the Qaddafi government, one that was brokered by Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the Qaddafi son seen then as a moderating influence.

The Islamists agreed to disband the Islamic Fighting Group, replacing it with the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change, and renounced violent struggle. “We kept that promise,” Mr. Belhaj said. “The revolution started peacefully, but the regime’s crackdown forced it to become violent.”

Mr. Belhaj conceded that Islamists had no role in creating the revolution against Colonel Qaddafi’s rule; it was instead a popular uprising. “The February 17th revolution is the Libyan people’s revolution and no one can claim it, neither secularists nor Islamists,” he said. “The Libyan people have different views, and all those views have to be involved and respected.”

Forty-two years of Qaddafi rule in Libya had, he said, taught him an important lesson: “No one can make Libya suffer any more under any one ideology or any one regime.” His pledge to disband fighters under his command once Libya has a new government was repeated to NATO officials at a meeting in Qatar this week.

Some council members said privately that allowing Mr. Belhaj to become chairman of the military council in Tripoli was done partly to take advantage of his military expertise, but also to make sure the rebels’ political leaders had him under their direct control.

Many also say that Mr. Belhaj’s history as an Islamist is understandable because until this year, Islamist groups were the only ones able to struggle against Colonel Qaddafi’s particularly repressive rule.

After Mr. Belhaj and a small group of Libyan comrades returned from the jihad against the Soviets, they formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and had a secret base in the Green Mountain area of eastern Libya, until it was discovered and bombed, and many of its followers rounded up.

Mr. Belhaj escaped Libya in the late 1990s and, like many antigovernment exiles, was forced to move frequently as Libya used its oil resources as a way to pressure host countries.

“We focused on Libya and Libya only,” he said. “Our goal was to help our people. We didn’t participate in or support any action outside of Libya. We never had any link with Al Qaeda, and that could never be. We had a different agenda; global fighting was not our goal.”

He said that America’s reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks led to his group’s classification as terrorist.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the rapprochement between Libya and Western countries led to the apprehension of several anti-Qaddafi activists, who were returned to Libya by the United States.

While Mr. Belhaj insisted that he was not interested in revenge, it is not a period of his life that he has altogether forgotten. “If one day there is a legal way, I would like to see my torturers brought to court,” he said.

Steven Lee Myers and Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington.