CAIRO: Al-Qaeda’s chief ideologue and strategist, Ayman Al-Zawahri, has published a 212-page book on militant websites slamming his former radical colleagues in Egyptian prisons for disavowing armed struggle and turning their backs against violence.
The book, released online on Sunday, is the latest salvo in an intellectual war between the ideological founders of Al-Qaeda and Islamic militancy, many of whom have become disillusioned with the suicide bombings and attacks on civilians that have become the hallmark of the movement.
“This message that I present to the reader today is the most difficult, if not the hardest I have written in my life, Al-Zawahri wrote in the introduction to “Exonerations, published by Al-Sahab, Al-Qaeda’s media wing.
He slammed a series of “revisions renouncing violence published by prominent jailed Islamist thinkers, saying “it serves the interests of the Crusader-Zionist alliance with the Arab leaders to drug the mujahideen and drag them away from the confrontation.
The most recent renunciation came in 2007 from Sayed Imam, who was once a top leader in Egypt’s Islamic Jihad group and an associate of Al-Zawahri. Imam’s writings in the 1980s laying an Islamic legal basis for violent action against “infidel regimes, were highly influential among Al-Qaeda militants. But his “revisions argue that such violence is banned under Islamic law.
Imam followed in the footsteps of other jailed thinkers over the years from Egypt’s radical groups that once fought a bloody guerrilla war against the state that resulted in over a thousand deaths and the imprisonment of tens of thousands but now condemn armed struggle.
Experts on Islamist movements say that these revisions could rob groups like Al-Qaeda of the entire ideological basis for their violent actions.
A video praising recently slain Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan leader Abu Laith Al-Libi issued Wednesday included an advertisement for the book, describing it as a way to counteract an image of the Islamic world as “helpless, submissive, fearful, the way Al-Zawahri said America and the West want Islam to be.
In the book, Al-Zawahri maintains that far from being an internal reappraisal of the movement, these revisions are instigated by the United States to weaken a movement that has inflicted so many defeats on them.
“The entire crime of Al-Qaeda and the mujahideen is that they have faced the Americans, the Jews and the agents and so American-made propaganda, such as this document, have been unleashed so that the world would forget and ignore the real criminals, he wrote.
Al-Zawahri – seen by many counterterrorism experts to be Al-Qaeda’s operational chief, rather than Osama bin Laden – is believed to play a large role in directing Al-Qaeda’s strategy on the ground and issues frequent videos and audiotapes, often laying out the network’s doctrinal line.
The former doctor was originally part of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1970s and was imprisoned and tortured by the Egyptian state before he escaped to Afghanistan and joined bin Laden to form Al-Qaeda in the 1990s. -AP