Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave a nine-minute speech on 6 March 2018, entitled, “France Has Returned Oh Descendants of the Lions”. The essential message is that European “invaders” are back in the Maghreb, the Muslim-majority states west of Egypt (those states to the east are referred to as the Mashriq), either directly or through local regimes that adhere to the foreigners’ program, political and economic. Al-Zawahiri condemns the post-“Arab Spring” governments that have sought stability by compromise between the revolutionary movements that ousted the dictatorships and the old elites. For al-Zawahiri, the only just solution one achieved by a violent, jihadist campaign that sweeps the old order out entirely. An English transcript of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media, and is reproduced below.
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In the name of Allah, and praise be to Allah and prayer and peace be upon the messenger of Allah and upon his family and his companions and those who followed him.
Oh Muslim brothers everywhere, may Allah’s peace and mercy and blessings be upon you.
As for what follows:
I would like to direct these words of mine to our Muslim umma [community or nation] in the Islamic Maghreb, and I say to it:
You have been—throughout the history of Islam—an impervious shield for your umma against invaders and aggressors.
In the modern age, pages of light were written in the record of history in the resistance of the French and the Italians and the Spanish and the English.
And it continues to resist and fight, even forcing the disbelieving invader to leave, and leaving behind its supporters, who are of our skin and speak with our tongue.
And you were hoping from your rulers—after the departure of the foreign invader—to rule you by Islamic shari’a, and impart justice upon you, and simplify the shura [consultation], and grant victory to the oppressed, and stamp down the corrupt.
But the supporters of the disbelieving invader pursued you in the worst manner, and approached you in the most terrible of methods, and spread deviations of creed and behaviours, and prevented shari’a and fought it, and stripped you of your money and your wealth, and imposed tyrants and the corrupt and thieving upon you.
They surrendered to a regime of the greatest international criminals, were subjected to its economic laws, and recognized the existence of Israel.
Then came the revolutions of the mighty Arab people, its spark was launched from the glorious Qayrawan [Tunisia], and its earthquake shook the world mightily. The umma was given glad tidings toward the approaching demise of tyranny as the tyrant of Tunisia fled and Libya rose up against its tyrant. The tyrants of the Maghreb hurriedly sought to contain the wave of anger, and the criminals of Algeria shuddered.
But the conspiracy was bigger than the deceived people, and the old corruption returned more ferocious and even more corrupt, and those who shared in the conspiracy were those who claimed that they were Islamic movements, raised on the manhaj [methodology] of defeat, and the culture of compromise, and how they triumphed over a revolution ridden by people who surrendered.
The peoples’ revolutions were preceded and coincided with a courageous jihadist uprising, which prevailed in the Islamic Maghreb from the peaks of the Atlas and the coasts of Tunisia and even to the plains of the Sahel and the desert and the Muslim country of Sudan, they allied together against the international and local apostasy. They waged campaigns against it, and they steadfastly pushed and defended, and the disbelieving invaders were forced to return by themselves another time.
Oh descendants of the lions, these are those who fought your fathers and killed them and expelled them. They have returned to kill your Muslim brothers and expel them, and to remind you that you are still under their occupation and their oppression.
So where are you? Where is your Islamic zeal? Where is your eagerness? Where is your settlement of your duties for the inheritance of your fathers?
These are the ones who insulted your prophet—may Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him—and violated his sanctity, and they have come to occupy your land, and kill your brothers.
How can you be pleased with that?
Your Lord, glorified and exalted is He, says: “The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves” [Al-Ahzab (33): 6], and He says, “Verily, those who malign Allah and His Messenger, Allah has cursed them in this world, and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating torment” [Al-Ahzab (33): 57], and Allah, glorified is he, says: “Those who believe in him, and honour him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him [the Qur’an]—it is they who will be successful” [Al-Araf (7): 157].
Where are you from those who invade your land with soldiers who insulted your prophet, may Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him.
Where are you from which your Lord, glorified is He, who said: “O you who believe! What is the matter with you, that when you are asked to march forth in the Cause of Allah [i.e. jihad] you cling heavily to the earth? Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But little is the enjoyment of the life of this world as compared with the Hereafter” [Al-Tawba (9): 38]. Where are you from which your Lord, glorified is He, who said: “What is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated, and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You a protector, and raise for us from You one who will help’. Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut. So, fight against the allies of Shaytan [Satan; the Devil]. Indeed, Shaytan’s plot has ever been weak” [An-Nisa (4): 74-76].
And our final prayer is praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds, and Allah’s prayer and peace be upon our master Muhammad and upon his family and his companions. And may Allah’s peace and mercy and blessings be upon you.