Thursday, December 20, 2007

More on fractured jihad movement... update

Eli Lake at the NY Sun is a tad late in his news that Sayd Imam al-Sharif is disgruntled with the current jihad rules of engagement. I posted originally about his manifesto from the London prison back on Nov 13th, and updated with Zawahiri's response just yesterday.

But in addition to repeating an important development that is widely ignored by most the media outlets, Eli's expanded on the story with some very interesting details... that al-Sharif believes a special Islamic court should be created, and that OBL and Zawahiri should be tried.

In a serialized manifesto written from prison in Egypt, Sayyed Imam al-Sharif is blasting Osama bin Laden for deceiving the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and for insulting the Prophet Muhammad by comparing the September 11 attacks to the early raids of the Ansar warriors. The lapsed jihadist even calls for the formation of a special Islamic court to try Osama bin Laden and his old comrade Ayman al-Zawahri.


His latest texts are a renunciation of his earlier work, saying the military jihad or war against apostate states and America is futile. But the ex-jihadist also calls into question the virtue of Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri. In some ways the manifesto reads in parts like a spicy Washington memoir by an embittered former official.

Of his old associates he writes, "Bin Laden, al-Zawahri, and others fled at the beginning of the American bombing [in Afghanistan], to the point of abandoning their wives and families to be killed along with other innocent people," according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute. It goes on, "I think that a sharia court should be established, composed of reliable scholars, to hold these people accountable for their crimes — even if in absentia — so that those who are ignorant in their religion do not repeat this futility."

Mr. Sharif also says Mr. Zawahri informed on his friends after he was arrested following the Sadat assassination in 1981. "I don't know of anyone in Islamic history having committed such deceit, fraud, falsification, and betrayal of trust with such hostility to someone else's book, and perverted it - no one before Ayman al-Zawahri," he wrote.

Note here that al-Sharif is aligning his interests with original Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. Omar, himself, is also suffering from rifts in his organization with the influx of foreign fighters loyal to OBL. Ray Robison noted this dissention in the ranks almost two months ago. And now many western analysts are johnny come lately to the same revelation... also seeing this rift as the beginning of an end to AQ. Or, at least in it's present incarnation.

The author of "Inside Al Qaeda," Rohan Gunaratna said in an interview this week, "There is nothing more important than a former jihadist as important as Dr. Fadl criticizing the jihadist vanguard." Mr. Gunaratna, who acts at times as a consultant for American and Western intelligence, described the reformed theologian as "both an ideologue and operational leader, but he was primarily an ideologue."

An expert on Islamic terrorism with the Jamestown Foundation, Steven Ulph, also said the defection of Mr. Sharif could hemorrhage support for Al Qaeda. "The important point to make, when you have the combination of a respected ideologue, plus someone who was in the field, say these things it is more important than having a Saudi sheik that moderates his message," he said.

The director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, Frank Cilluffo, said, "Here you have someone with the stature and credibility, who more or less wrote the book on jihadism and is oft cited by other jihadists, making the case against it. This is someone with the heft on legal and religious grounds to make the counter argument that we can't."

Zawahiri first claimed that al-Sharif was coerced into recanting his support of the current jihad. Then, in his recent video, accused him of being "Liberal Islam", and a revisionist. Do others believe this outspoken rebellion is coerced?

But Mr. Gunaratna also said he believed Mr. Sharif's conversion was genuine. "He has had a genuine change of heart because we are seeing a trend today in Egypt where the original members of both of the major jihadist organizations are turning, the senior members of these groups, many have gone back and been remorseful," he said. "He is not an exception because there is a trend. . . The traditional jihad movement is almost coming to an end. What has it accomplished in more than 25 years?"

For years we've all hoped "moderate Islam" would speak out against the jihad methods. Apparently we were barking up the wrong tree. We just needed to be patient enough, and successful in the many skirmishs, to get the other factions of the jihad movement annoyed enough to speak up. They evidently carry far more weight than the moderates - for their words are having an effect on the AQ umbrella groups daily.

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