Sunday, June 01, 2008

Jihad and Dr. Fadl's Inner Rebellion

Ayman al-Zawahiri in background
(The New Yorker, June 2, 2008)

Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, which traces the line of jihadi terrorism from Sayyid Qutb theory to its 9/11 praxis, has written a long article for The New Yorker about a prominent jihadi theorist who has had second thoughts during his imprisonment in Egypt.

The article, "The Rebellion Within: An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism" (June 2, 2008), which can be read in its original, 14-page form or as a single-page document, describes the changed views of Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, a former leader of the Egyptian terrorist group Al Jihad and better known as Dr. Fadl (but with other pseudonyms as well, e.g., Abdul Qader bin Abdul Aziz), whose earlier ideas on jihad had influenced Al-Qaeda's founders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri as well as a number of other Islamist extremists and Islamist terrorist organizations.

Known for his radical views in The Essential Guide for Preparation (Al-'Umda fi I'dad Al-'Udda, 1988) and The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge (1994), both of which place jihad at the center of Muslim piety, Fadl's retractions -- or what he prefers to describe as clarifications -- are rather surprising.

Yet, I wonder if his core beliefs about the centrality of jihad have changed . . . or if he has merely grown more realistic with age and defeat and is using his recent book, Rationalizing the jihadi action in Egypt and the world (Wathiqat Tarshid Al-'Aml Al-Jihadi fi Misr w'Al-'Alam, 2007), to repackage older ideas. Consider the following concerning Fadl's views:
Fadl acknowledges that "terrorizing the enemy is a legitimate duty"; however, he points out, "legitimate terror" has many constraints. Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks in America, London, and Madrid were wrong, because they were based on nationality, a form of indiscriminate slaughter forbidden by Islam. In his Al Hayat interview, Fadl labels 9/11 "a catastrophe for Muslims," because Al Qaeda's actions "caused the death of tens of thousands of Muslims -- Arabs, Afghans, Pakistanis and others."

The most original argument in the book and the interview is Fadl's assertion that the hijackers of 9/11 "betrayed the enemy," because they had been given U.S. visas, which are a contract of protection. "The followers of bin Laden entered the United States with his knowledge, and on his orders double-crossed its population, killing and destroying," Fadl continues. "The Prophet -- God's prayer and peace be upon him-- said, 'On the Day of Judgment, every double-crosser will have a banner up his anus proportionate to his treachery.'"

At one point, Fadl observes, "People hate America, and the Islamist movements feel their hatred and their impotence. Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy's buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours? . . . That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11." (Wright, "The Rebellion Within," page 10)
Aside from the technical issue concerning "double-crossing," Fadl's view seems primarily to be that the terrorist jihad against America on 9/11 was wrong because it didn't succeed, but that's a dubious position to maintain, for the fortunes of war can change, and nobody can know the long-term outcome to this conflict.

Still, Fadl has thrown down a gantlet to Al-Qaeda's elite and other Islamist extremists, who have reacted angrily to his critique.

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At 7:04 AM, Blogger Oberon said...

......sometimes.....i talk to strangers.

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

But without addressing the blog entry and probably not even reading it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I read it Jeffery.

And I even went over and looked at Obi won's site.

Your entry makes a point, I get the feeling that you're still in the process of searching and so have left us "the reader" to draw his/her own conclusion(s).

Sometimes I talk to strangers too (without all the periods) but I try not to make it a habit.

"Yet, I wonder if his core beliefs about the centrality of jihad have changed . . . or if he has merely grown more realistic with age and defeat..." (Those periods indicating there are omitted words.)

I wonder too.


At 3:08 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, JK. Of course, I express those doubts without having read Dr. Fadl's book(s), so I'm doubtless missing out on a lot.

Jeffery Hodges

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