The Return of Al Qaeda and Jihad

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). 


NY109_waWith the ousting of Muhammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, in the opinion of many Islamists, al-Qaeda has been vindicated and the terror-jihad exonerated. 

According to the Associated Press, in a new video, al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri “said the military coup that ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi provides proof that Islamic rule cannot be established through democracy and urged the Islamist leader’s followers to abandon the ballot box in favor of armed resistance [i.e., jihad].”

In fact, in the Arabic video, Zawahiri gloats over two points that he has championed for decades despite widespread opposition: that the Brotherhood was foolish to engage in democracy and elections in the first place, and that the triumph of Islam can only be achieved through jihad.

Interestingly, these two points go back to a long but internal debate between nonviolent Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and violent jihadis, like al-Qaeda. While both groups pursue the same exact goals—a Sharia-ruling caliphate followed by the subjugation of the “infidel” world, according to Islamic teachings—they follow different strategies.  The Brotherhood has long argued that, because the Islamic world is militarily weaker than the West, now is not the time for an all-out jihad, but rather a time for infiltration and subversion, a time for taqiyya and short-lived promises.  Conversely, jihadis generally disavow pretense and diplomacy, opting for jihad alone.

Since the 1960s in Egypt, Ayman Zawahiri was an outspoken proponent of jihad (see “Ayman Zawahiri and Egypt: A Trip Through Time for a brief biography).  In the early 1990s, he wrote an entire book titled Al Hissad Al Murr, or “The Bitter Harvest,” where he argued that the Brotherhood “takes advantage of the Muslim youths’ fervor by bringing them into the fold only to store them in a refrigerator. Then, they steer their onetime passionate, Islamic zeal for jihad to conferences and elections…. And not only have the Brothers been idle from fulfilling their duty of fighting to the death, but they have gone as far as to describe the infidel governments as legitimate, and have joined ranks with them in the ignorant style of governing, that is, democracies, elections, and parliaments.”

Even so, after the terror strikes of 9/11, many became critical of al-Qaeda, whose actions were seen as setting back the Islamist agenda by creating more scrutiny and awareness in the West.  The attacks further set off the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and gave many Arab governments—including former President Mubarak’s—free reign to suppress all Islamists. As Montasser al-Zayyat, Zawahiri’s biographer, wrote:

The poorly conceived decision to launch the attacks of September 11 created many victims of a war of which they did not choose to be a part…. Bin Laden and Zawahiri’s behavior was met with a lot of criticism from many Islamists in Egypt and abroad…. In the post-September 11 world, no countries can afford to be accused of harboring the enemies of the United States. No one ever imagined that a Western European country would extradite Islamists who live on its lands. Before that, Islamists had always thought that arriving in a European city and applying for political asylum was enough to acquire permanent resident status. After September 11, 2001, everything changed…. Even the Muslim Brotherhood was affected by the American campaign, which targeted everything Islamic.

If the West “targeted everything Islamic,” that was obviously short lived; for, from a different perspective, the post 9/11 world has proven to be the heyday of the Muslim Brotherhood.  For starters, many Islamists began to see the wisdom of the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy of publicly renouncing violence (jihad) and appropriating Western language and paradigms in an effort to infiltrate and subvert.

And it certainly worked: the Brotherhood got what they wanted; their strategy of opting for elections and renouncing jihad, coupled with a highly sympathetic Obama administration, culminated with the Brotherhood leaving Egypt’s prisons and filling the highest posts of government, beginning with the presidency.

However, now that the Brotherhood and Morsi have been ousted, the jihadis—chief among them Zawahiri, leader of al-Qaeda—are in full “we told you so” mode, renewing the argument that Islamic Sharia can never be established through infidel democracy, but rather only through jihad, long recognized as the only way to force people—including Muslims themselves—to comply with Allah’s rule on earth.  And it’s becoming harder for nonviolent Islamists to argue otherwise, especially the now disgraced Brotherhood.

Thus, among an increasing number of Islamists, al-Qaeda’s strategy—jihad and terror—have been justified and may well return in full force.  Indeed, it’s in this context that one must understand recent news that the U.S. “ordered the unprecedented closure of embassies in 19 countries across the Middle East and Africa,” a decision sparked by Ayman Zawahiri’s recent communiques.

No doubt Western apologists will now argue that it’s in the West’s interest to support and make concessions to the Muslim Brotherhood, since the alternative will be a renewal in jihadi terror.  However, aside from the fact that such an argument is tantamount to submitting to blackmail—not to mention the fact that the resumption of jihad is just another reminder that al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood are two faces of the same coin—is it not better to get the ugly truth out in the open now, while the U.S. still has some power and influence, rather than later, when it will likely be even more infiltrated and handicapped?

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  • davarino

    No concessions, no giving in till their all gone and defeated. Make no mistake, this is a war and we are going to fight it, either now, or later. We will pussy foot with this bunch, like we did with Hitler, until we eventually have a national epiphany that islam is not a religion of peace.

  • Joseph

    What Zawahiri really means by armed ‘resistance’, as though he is some kind of political entity, is ‘armed destruction’, which is what we find in all the European nations where muslims have been infiltrated under the guise of immigration and the false ‘notion’ that these people will assimilate into polite society…..Zawahiri is no ‘revolutionary’, not in the way we ‘Westerners’ see them. Take Che Guevarra for instance. In the ‘Cuban thing’ he was a revolutionary. And in wanting to export his ‘revolution’ he went to Bolivia. But the people there were not really “into” revolution and that is when Che became an armed thug. Zawahiri is an armed thug…AlQaeda, whether they are CIA or not, is just an armed gang, criminals who every day reveal themselves for what they truly are….murderers, rapist, child-slavers and pedophiles…..

    • jackdiamond

      “whether they are CIA or not”…had to throw in that canard? Jihad is quite “revolutionary” towards Western civilization (even while making full use of its means to achieve the “end”). Yes, Zawahiri means destruction. It is arguable that this is the historic role of Islam, destroying civilizations– which the current revival of salafist Islam is reclaiming. Jihad is also not incidental to Islam, it is prescribed (2:216)
      like fasting and prayer are prescribed. It is ordained. “Jihad (holy
      fighting in Allah’s cause) is ordained for you, though you dislike it.”
      And this Jihad can only end when the whole earth is Islamized and
      there is no more need, it’s end defines its purpose. The Muslim Brotherhood only differ in tactics, they are also waging Jihad but recognize the Ummah’s weakness and vulnerability to the West. They opposed 9/11 because it was “too soon.” Not the idea of attacking America itself. Those Muslim immigrants in Europe forming Islamic colonies are also waging Jihad, through Hijra, migration. Something also inaugurated by their prophet Muhammad. Whether the (Muslim) “people” are not “into” this particular revolution (whatever groups or countries lead it) remains to be seen.

      • KT Shamim

        Fact is that Islam has prescribed specific conditions for fighting holy wars. So this is highlighted in the verses below that first granted permission to fight:

        [Qur'an 22:40-41] “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them —

        Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ — And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful, Mighty —”

        Condition 1: Wronged
        Condition 2: Driven out from homes
        Condition 3: Because they said ‘Our Lord is Allah’

        Condition 3 no longer applies today and all Muslims waging so-called Islamic wars with stones, guns, bombs, etc. are just using Islam to politicize.

        [Qur'an 2:257] “There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; … ”

        [Qur'an 18:30] “And say, ‘It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.”

        [Qur'an 6:108] “And if Allah had enforced His will, they would not have set up gods with Him. And We have not made thee a keeper over them nor art thou over them a guardian.”

        Islam doesn’t need, never needed, never wanted to spread by any force. Islam spreads by winning people’s hearts through the power of love.

  • victoryman

    “The return of Al Qaeda and jihad? My dear sir, they never left.

    • Ulrick

      Looks like FPM is buying into Obama propaganda about al-Qaeda being “weakened” and “on the ropes,” after making a resurgence in Iraq, conquering Northern Mali, getting away with embassy attacks in Libya, becoming a big force in Syria, among being able to speak freely in several Arab Spring states, and that’s saying nothing of Afghan-Pakistan. The only place al-Qaeda is losing is Somalia, and that’s just as much because of famine, internal failures and jihadists finding better places to go than anything governments have done. But now we’re supposed to pretend they’re making a comeback since some embassies closed down.

  • Texas Patriot

    Great article. But it is obvious that the Brotherhood approach is far wiser.

  • Clare Lopez

    Might suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood are not “nonviolent Islamists” (whatever that means) but rather pre-violent jihadis–but that’s only in the US and 80 or so other coutnries where they’ve not yet turned to violence. MB has a long history of violence in Egypt and Syria, and may yet again turn back to the violence explicit in its motto (“Jihad is our way, Dying in the way of Allah our highest aspiration”) in Egypt as well. And let’s not forget where AQ and HAMAS and the rest came from: as Eric Stakelbeck puts it, the MB is the grandaddy of them all, jihadis all.

    • http://1389blog.com/ 1389AD

      You got THAT right.

      The MB are simply more covert about their violence. Even in non-Muslim countries where they are a small minority, they aid and abet and collect huge amounts of money to fund violence whenever they get the chance. I would agree that the MB is the umbrella group for the Sunni faction of the worldwide jihad, including AQ, Hamas, and the Taliban.

    • amjad.

      No MB is a peace full organisation and only want all things as per constitutional right .right..they had win the lection through a democratic procedure so why army make coup?? and after that they have right to protest on the injustice event but what r happening now there?? how many peaceful peoples killed by army and injured there?? but why?? they want only their right…there is great mis-conception about the islamists ,it is a simple fact of democracy that if the publice choice a way that is there right so why the liberels propagating against them and whey they are harrasing??? am not understand…only see their double standard..or this is justice??? naturally when reaction will come from the MB then start imposing blame on them,its a very painful picture.

  • Tom Lewis

    This statement if true demands a response: By all Freedom loving people throughout the entire world.

    If Jhadist Muslims are declaring war on the rest of mankind, then bring it on, and we shall finish this contestable delusion called Jhadist Islam.

    Show me Muslims who disagree with this declaration of war by the Jhadist and we shall live in reasonable peace, but they, the reasonable Muslims must fight with the rest of mankind against those who declare war on us. If they do not, then they are also part of the Jhadist. There is no middle ground any longer.

    This declaration of War by Jhadist is the beginning of the end of Jhadist Islam, for no more will the religion of called Jhadist Islam be a religion of war, when the last Jhadist is dead and buried. It is not just the Government of the United States, it is now the world at large that must now take up arms and completely annihilate Jhadist Islam. No mercy, No prisoners No more Jhadist.

    This statement demands clarity, by the Jhadist who have declared war on the rest of mankind. Is it true what you declare, or are you just words that are not serious.

    • Steven Currie

      My conclusion is that the “moderate” Muslims don’t object much. Two reasons for this conclusion. First, it is the duty and goal of every Muslim to actively spread Islam worldwide. While not all of them believe in murder, violence and force, they quietly support those who do because the violent ones are working toward the shared goal of a worldwide Caliphate. Second if you were surrounded by violent people, who, with just an accusation of blasphemy or apostasy, if you don’t support the violent ones, can have you jailed, tortured or murdered, how much are you going to object to their methods?

      • Tom Lewis

        I know that the moderates are cowards, and will let the Jhadist freaks do some severe damage.
        I know how these guys behave when they have caught you, so the first thing is not to get caught.
        If caught and if possible, do a hell of a lot of confusion, and destruction. I will not accept Islamic BS no matter what they do.
        If jhadist Muslims terrorist engagements gets down right ugly, I will give my life to defend – what I considered good. How I do it depends on what happens. Its only speculation until the threat becomes real.

  • george mack

    Further to your article, I can report that ambivalence, if not downright equivocation on the meaning of jihad is alive and well in Indonesian islamist circles. – see if you can make sense of it! http://rossrightangle.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/islamist-scholars-deny-jihad-means-war-however/

  • Ellman48

    Before the 1917 revolution in Russia there were groups and parties that wanted the czar to surrender absolute power in a parliamentary democracy and there were the Bolsheviks who wanted revolution and the demolition of everything the country was founded on. Mao Tse Tung and Fidel Castro, among others, followed the Bolshevik example and achieved the enslavement of their societies. One might wonder how the US will eventually surrender its sovereignty, culture and freedoms: thru stealth infiltration, propaganda, political correctness or through violent revolution. This is the very question that now confronts Egypt. The MB approach has been found wanting. The succeeding attempts at achieving power may follow the Bolshevik/Al Qaida models. Egypt may very soon resemble Syria, embroiled in its own civil war.

    Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt: the Obama regime has played a part in each of these country’s turmoils and tragedies. Things haven’t turned out exactly the way Barack and Hillary anticipated. So Obama gets John McCain and Lindsey Graham to go to Egypt to save Morsi and the democratic path to enslavement. Brilliant! These two idiot Republicans will now enable Obama to wash his hands of Egypt and blame whatever happens on them. The Republicans don’t shoot themselves in the head; they give the gun to a Democrat and let him pull the trigger!

  • james

    I like the witch doctors idea of putting young Jihadis’ in the refrigerator.By the way…what is that MARK on his forehead?