In a recent posting, I referred to a document that was released by Shaikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's former right hand man and al-Qaeda's current leader, to educate his followers and those of other groups involved in the global Islamic jihad. I want to take a more in-depth look at what could be termed "Miss Manners for the Global War Against non-Muslims".
In September 2013, As-Sahab Media, an al-Qaeda media outlet, publicly released Zawahiri's "General Guidelines for Jihad" in both Arabic and English. Here is the Arabic title page:
Generally, these sorts of communications within the Islamic community were released by way of secure communications but in this case, the concept of "keeping it within the family" was ignored. Terrorist groups usually like to keep their messages private because the airing of internal discord hurts an organization's popular support and can reveal strategies to counter-terrorists that may allow them to defeat the terrorist organization.
In this document, it appears that Zawahiri's guidelines suggest that he is not speaking of a grand vision of the goals of terrorism, rather, he is speaking directly to holy warriors who are attached to organizations marginally connected or completely disconnected from al-Qaeda as we can see in this paragraph:
"We call upon the heads of all groups and organizations that work under Qaidatul Jihad Organization (Al Qaida) and all our supporters and sympathizers to spread these guidelines amongst their followers, whether in positions of responsibility or ordinary individuals; for this document contains no hidden secrets, rather it is a general policy guideline. Its purpose is only to secure the interests established by the Shariah and avert harm in this stage of the Islamic Jihadi work by interpretive judgment (Ijtihad) that does not oppose the rulings of the Shariah and conforms to its principles."
For those of us in Western society, we can best think of this recommendation as "missionary work" among the jihadi. In Islam, this is known as "da'wa" or "da'wah" which means "to invite" or "to summon", in particular, calling others to Islam (or your particular brand of Islam).
The document gives us a clear idea of where the global jihad will be waged:
"As far as targeting the proxies of America is concerned, it differs from place to place. The basic principle is to avoid entering in any conflict with them, except in the countries where confronting them becomes inevitable.
For example, in Afghanistan, the struggle against them is a part of the fight against Americans.
In Pakistan, the struggle against them complements the fight for the liberation of Afghanistan from American occupation; then it aims at creating a safe haven for the Mujahideen in Pakistan, which can then be used as a launching pad for the struggle of establishing an Islamic system in Pakistan.
In Iraq, the struggle against them aims to liberate the Sunni territories from the Safavid (Shiite) successors of America.
In Algeria, where American presence is negligible and obscure, the struggle against the system aims to weaken it and spread Jihadi influence in the Islamic Maghreb, the West African coastal region and the countries of the southern Sahara. Recently, the prospects of a clash with America and its allies are also becoming evident in this region.
In the Arabian Peninsula, the struggle against them is because of their being proxies of America.
In Somalia, the struggle against them is because of their being the spearhead of the Crusader occupation.
In Syria, the struggle against them is based on the fact that the rulers of Syria do not allow the mere existence of any Islamic entity, let alone a Jihadi one, and their bloody history of trying to uproot Islam is a well-known fact.
In the environs of Jerusalem, the foremost and primary battle is against the Jews, and patience must be exercised, as much as it is possible, with the local rulers who have assumed power under the Oslo arrangement." (my bold)
Note that the Shaikh emphasizes the need for the creation of a safe haven for holy warriors in what is now the United States' nominal ally in the region, Pakistan.
In case other parts of the world think that they are free and clear of terrorist threats:
"This being said, it should remain clear that the policy of focusing on the head of disbelief (America) does not conflict with the right of the Muslim masses to wage Jihad with their tongues or by taking up arms against those who oppress them. Hence it is right of our Muslim brothers in the Caucuses to perform Jihad against the Russian aggressor and its allies. It is a right of our brothers in Kashmir to engage in Jihad against the criminal Hindus. It is equally a right of our brothers in Eastern Turkistan to engage in Jihad against the Chinese oppressors. Likewise, it is a right of our brothers in the Philippines, Burma, and in every land where the Muslims are subjected to repression to engage in Jihad against those who oppress them." (my bold)
So, pretty much everywhere in the world where there is a perception of anti-Muslim sentiment is vulnerable.
The recurrent theme in the "terrorist "to do" document are the two usual suspects, Israel and the United States:
"The military work firstly targets the head of (international) disbelief, America and its ally Israel, and secondly its local allies that rule our countries.
"The purpose of targeting America is to exhaust her and bleed her to death, so that it meets the fate of the former Soviet Union and collapses under its own weight as a result of its military, human, and financial losses. Consequently, its grip on our lands will weaken and its allies will begin to fall one after another."
Here's a phrase that is particularly pertinent after the so-called Arab Spring:
"What transpired during the revolutions in the Arab world is a proof of waning American influence. After receiving relentless blows at the hands of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and Iraq and facing constant threat to its national security since September 2001, America decided to create some outlet to allow the release of public pressure in Muslim countries. However, the situation blew up in the face of its proxies. By the permission of Allah, the coming stage will witness further decrease in American influence on world affairs and further retreat of America into its own shell, which will also weaken the governments of its allies an proxies."
In light of the "failure to launch" democracy in Egypt, the Shaikh is not far off on his assessment.
Shaikh Zawahiri goes on to be more specific about jihadi behaviours that are allowed and those which are not:
"Focus on spreading awareness amongst the general public so as to mobilize it. Similarly, focus on spreading a greater level of awareness and understanding amongst the Mujahid vanguard to create an organized, united, ideological, and aware Jihadi force that strongly believes in the Islamic faith, adheres to its rulings, shows humbleness to the believers and deals with the disbelievers with firmness."
"In the military sector, focus should be maintained on constantly weakening the head of international disbelief (America) until it bleeds to death both militarily and financially, its human resources are drained and it withdraws to its own shell after reaching a stage of retreat and seclusion, (sooner rather than later, with the permission of Allah)."
"Avoid entering into an armed clash with the local regimes, except if forced to do so, for example when the local regime is a part of the American forces, as in Afghanistan; or where it wages war against the Mujahideen on behalf of the Americans, as in Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula; or where it does not tolerate the mere presence of Mujahideen, as in the Islamic Maghreb, Syria, and Iraq. However, entering into an armed conflict against them must be avoided whenever it is possible."
"Avoid meddling with Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities living in Muslim lands. If they transgress, then a response proportionate to the transgression should suffice. This response should be accompanied with a statement that we do not seek to initiate a fight against them, since we are engaged in fighting the head of disbelief (America); and that we are keen to live with them in a peaceful manner after an Islamic state is established in the near future, Allah willing."
"Refrain from killing and fighting against non-combatant women and children, and even if they are families of those who are fighting against us, refrain from targeting them as much as possible."
"Refrain from harming Muslims by explosions, killing, kidnapping or destroying their wealth or property."
"Refrain from targeting enemies in mosques, markets and gatherings where they mix with Muslims or with those who do not fight us."
Most critically, Zawahiri goes on to note that any confrontation should not be a Muslim – Muslim battle over religious disagreements (i.e. inter-sect violence), rather, it should be against those who are the enemies of Islam.
It is most interesting to see that now, terrorists have a handbook of do's and don'ts. Apparently, certain acts of terrorism now fall outside of what is acceptable behaviour.
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