The good guys aren’t the only ones who have problems with former supporters turning on them:
One of Al Qaeda’s senior theologians is calling on his followers to end their military jihad and saying the attacks of September 11, 2001, were a “catastrophe for all Muslims.”
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.
The disclosures from Mr. Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl and Abd al-Qadir ibn Abd al-Aziz, have already opened a rift at the highest levels of Al Qaeda. The group’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, a former associate of the defecting theologian in Egypt, personally mocked him last month in a video, remarking that he was unaware Egyptian prisons had fax machines. Meanwhile, leading Western analysts are saying the defection of Mr. Sharif indicates the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda.
As some of those experts point out:
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.”
StratFor had an analysis the other day making a similar point; I’ll excerpt one key paragraph here:
It … is clear that al Qaeda is feeling the weight of the ideological war against it — waged largely by Muslims. Al-Zawahiri repeatedly has lamented specific fatwas by Saudi clerics declaring that the jihad in Iraq is not obligatory and forbidding young Muslims from going to Iraq. In a message broadcast in July, al-Zawahiri said, “I would like to remind everyone that the most dangerous weapons in the Saudi-American system are not buying of loyalties, spying on behalf of the Americans or providing facilities to them. No, the most dangerous weapons of that system are those who outwardly profess advice, guidance and instruction …” In other words, al Qaeda fears fatwas more than weapons. Weapons can kill people — fatwas can kill the ideology that motivates people.