One of al-Qa’ida’s founders, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (aka Dr Fadl) has written a book from prison condemning Osama bin Laden and his strategy:
Twenty years ago, Dr Fadl became al-Qaeda’s intellectual figurehead with a crucial book setting out the rationale for global jihad against the West.
Today, however, he believes the murder of innocent people is both contrary to Islam and a strategic error. “Every drop of blood that was shed or is being shed in Afghanistan and Iraq is the responsibility of bin Laden and Zawahiri and their followers,” writes Dr Fadl.
The terrorist attacks on September 11 were both immoral and counterproductive, he writes. “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?” asks Dr Fadl. “That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11.”
He is equally unsparing about Muslims who move to the West and then take up terrorism. “If they gave you permission to enter their homes and live with them, and if they gave you security for yourself and your money, and if they gave you the opportunity to work or study, or they granted you political asylum,” writes Dr Fadl, then it is “not honourable” to “betray them, through killing and destruction”.
This verbal attack has been taken so seriously that Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s 2nd in command, has taken time to write a 200 page rebuttal to it:
Zawahiri has alleged that his former comrade was tortured into recanting. But the al-Qaeda leader still felt the need to compose a detailed, 200-page rebuttal of his antagonist.
The fact that Zawahiri went to this trouble could prove the credibility of Dr Fadl and the fact that his criticisms have stung their target. The central question is whether this attack on al-Qaeda’s ideology will sway a wider audience in the Muslim world.
Fouad Allam, who spent 26 years in the State Security Directorate, Egypt’s equivalent of MI5, said that Dr Fadl’s assault on al-Qaeda’s core leaders had been “very effective, both in prison and outside”.
He added: “Within these secret organisations, leadership is very important. So when someone attacks the leadership from inside, especially personal attacks and character assassinations, this is very bad for them.”
A western diplomat in Cairo agreed with this assessment, saying: “It has upset Zawahiri personally. You don’t write 200 pages about something that doesn’t bother you, especially if you’re under some pressure, which I imagine Zawahiri is at the moment.”
I think this is a sign that Islamist extremist is on the wane. It has manifestly failed to deliver the goods, and so is likely to recede from now onwards, and by 2015-2020 it’ll be apparent that it is on the way out.