ANALYSIS: Disappointing 'Exoneration' turns into personal vindication

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

After a two-week run in Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, The Exoneration, Sayed Imam s response to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, has proved to be a big disappointment.

Imam, also known as Dr Fadl, was the former leader of Egypt s Jihad Group and the author of several influential books, written in the early 1990s, which have been cited by militants, including Al-Qaeda, to justify the use of violence. In addition, he was a close associate of Zawahri and Osama Bin Laden for many years in Afghanistan and Sudan.

After his extradition from Yemen to Egypt in 2002, Fadl led a series of jail-house discussions which culminated in the November 2007 publication of his new book Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the Arab World, or what is widely referred to as the Revisions, which saw this ultra-conservative religious man distance himself from his previous support for the blanket use of violence in the name of Jihad.

Al-Zawahri, the target of the Revisions’ sharpest criticisms, responded with a 200-page book, mocking Imam as the Sheikh of the Marines and suggested that his change of heart was a result of torture in jail.

The Exoneration was written in response to Zawahri’s book and, given Fadl s strong Jihadist credentials, there was some expectation that a serious work, based on a profound argument of Islamic ideology, might have had some positive effect on Al-Qaeda linked groups throughout the region.

The Exoneration, however, is little more than an exchange of insults between Imam and Zawahri. The author accuses Zawahri of working as an agent of the Sudanese, claims that he was not told of the 9/11 attacks beforehand because the group lacked confidence in them, and calls him a stupid, poor and unserious leader.

While few would argue that it is a bad thing to have the leader of the world s bloodiest terrorist group insulted in his hometown newspaper, the childish nature of the book suggests it will not be taken seriously by Al-Qaeda affiliated militants throughout the region.

The first Revisions were based on intellectual reflection even if the ideas were superficial. But what s happening now are not Revisions. This is like a catfight between two people cursing each other in the street, Abol Ela Mady, co-founder of the Al-Wasat Party, said.

Montasser Al-Zayyat, a prominent lawyer who defends many of the Islamic groups and was repeatedly detained for alleged membership in violent groups, agreed. On a recent episode of the Al-Arabiya program The Death Industry, he showed his disgust saying You won t believe me but I didn t even read past the second segment.

When Imam published his Revisions in 2007, Zayyat was optimistic. He, however, sees no value in Imam’s newest release, which is based heavily on unverifiable accusations of treachery.

“Sayed Imam is clearly a scholar but what value do these accusations have if no one who wasn’t a party to these events can verify their truth? asked Zayyat.

However, there still are some points worth reading for those interested in the topic. As an insider, Imam’s writing promise interesting revelations and analysis.

In part eight, he asked the question “Why hasn’t Al-Qaeda ever carried out operations in Palestine? Why is it, he wonders, that on the issue that inspires more passions on the so-called “Arab street, Al-Qaeda, which claims to act in defense of the Umma or the nation, has produced nothing?

Certainly, the purpose of raising such question is to ridicule Al-Qaeda, but Imam makes some interesting points in the process.

Financially, the Palestinians do not need Al-Qaeda as “the Palestinian fighters have their own sources of funding so they have no need for Bin Laden s money.

And militarily, the Palestinians are drastically more sophisticated than Al-Qaeda, Imam adds.

Imam notes how his former group, Tanzim Al-Jihad, which would form the backbone of Al-Qaeda in 1998, received its military training from Palestinian groups in Lebanon between 1990 and 1992. This is the foundation of most of the operations which are currently being carried out in Afghanistan, he says.

“The Jihad group got their expertise from the Palestinians, which they then transmitted to Al-Qaeda.

Furthermore, Imam mocks Bin Laden and Zawahri s unsophisticated strategy in comparison to the Palestinians “who use violence according to the traditional rules of guerilla warfare limited use of force in order achieve certain objectives.

Bin Laden s strategy, on the other hand, is to “kill as many of the enemy as possible even if this leads to organizational suicide.

For these reasons, “there is nothing that Bin Laden and Zawahri have to offer the Palestinians from a military standpoint, explains Imam.

Aside from scattered bits of Jihadist dirty laundry, The Exoneration offers little that is new and is probably a meaningless personal attack by Imam against his long-time rival Zawahri. It is unlikely to convince anyone currently involved in any religion-based violent groups in any place in the world to change their approach.

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