The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released an audio statement on 8 May 2016. The speech was entitled, “Hasten to Syria,” “Go Forth to Syria,” or “March Forth to Syria,” depending on translation. An English-language translation has been made available and is reproduced below, with some editions in transliteration and some important sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading
As-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publication, al-Qaeda’s media outlet, produced an English translation of a speech by the organization’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on 13 January 2016. The speech was entitled, “Syria Is Entrusted Upon Your Necks”. The speech does focus on the West, particularly its de facto alliance with the pro-Assad coalition—namely Russia and Iran—and calls for the Syrian rebellion to unite with al-Qaeda to resist this conspiracy. What is more noticeable, however, is the two enemies on whom Dr. al-Zawahiri really focuses: Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State. The Saudis are accused—not without reason—of having been allied closely to the West and thwarting the jihadist projects at every turn. And al-Zawahiri makes a fierce ideological assault on the Islamic State, comparing them with the Khawarij and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), whose conduct in Algeria in the 1990s and their justifications for it took Islamist extremism to new depths. The speech is reproduced below with some minor editions, to transliteration and punctuation, and some interesting and important sections highlighted in bold.
On June 23, 2015, the Islamic State (IS) spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani gave a speech, “O Our People, Respond to the Caller of Allah”. Al-Adnani, noting the coming of Ramadan, called on Muslims to journey to the caliphate, saying that hijra (emigration) in this month—and martyrdom—is the most blessed. Al-Adnani called on Muslims—specifically Iraqi Sunnis and Syrian rebel and Islamist insurgent groups—to unite around IS, which had no theological factions or ethnic distinctions among its membership, being the only pure expression of Islam, ruling by god’s law. Iraqi Sunni militias and Syrian rebels had betrayed the religion by seeking favour from, and even seeking alliance with, Western states. Al-Adnani threatened the town of Haditha, specifically the Jaghayfa clan, that if it surrendered now its repentance would be accepted, but if the town was overrun first then they would be slaughtered. Al-Adnani played heavily on the interlinked themes of anti-Shi’a sectarianism and the spreading influence of Iran and its proxies, repressing Sunnis. The old guard of the jihadi movement—clerics like Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (though neither are mentioned by name)—are attacked for not being on the battlefields. Al-Adnani also accepted the allegiance of the Russian-based faction that declared itself under the caliph’s authority, naming the group Wilayat al-Kavkaz. An English transcript of the speech was posted by IS and is reproduced below with some minor editions in transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading
Syria’s rebellion was already fighting for its life, squeezed between the regime and the Islamic State (I.S.) in Aleppo, and on Friday night a new front appeared to open. Jabhat an-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, announced that it was forming an Islamic Emirate. According to a translation by Hassan Hassan, Nusra’s commander, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, said that they would now start implementing the shari’a “in the full sense of the word,” and “without compromise, leniency, ambiguity, or politeness.” Golani specifically says that Nusra will begin implementing the hudud, the harsh punishments like amputation for theft, which Nusra has very deliberately not done so far, saying war conditions suspended such punishments according to the Holy Law. At a more material level, it avoided garnering them bad press for savagery against the civilian population. Golani dismissed with contempt the secular rebels as “grovelling” to the West, and declared I.S.’s Caliphate “void” and its members ghulat (extremists).
Since the Syrian rebellion went to war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in January, there has been a parallel campaign of political warfare by the rebels and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Jabhat an-Nusra, to delegitimize ISIS. This has often taken the form of referring to ISIS as Kharijites or the Khawarij.
This Khawarij are an ancient sect who broke from the Rashidun (Rightly-Guided) Caliphate in the name of righteous revolt in 658, and continued their campaign against the caliphate—by then in the hands of the Umayyads—for a century and more. Regarded as perhaps the first terrorists in Islamdom (by another definition it would be the Nizaris, a.k.a. “The Assassins”), the connotations of the Khawarij label are extremism and deviance, particularly a tendency to excommunicate (make takfir against) Muslims not only for sins that do not merit excommunication, but simply for reasons of political exclusivism. Continue reading