Hearts and minds of the ummah
By Alan Caruba
"We must repeat what we mentioned previously, that the majority of Muslims don't comprehend this and possibly could not even imagine it. For that reason, many of your Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia. The sharpness of this questioning increases when the attacks are on one of their mosques…this matter won't be acceptable to the Muslim populace."
Ayman al-Zawahiri is Osama bin Laden's closest adviser. On July 9 he penned a 13-page letter (Microsoft Word format) to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, known to his admirers as "the sheik of slaughters" for his penchant to behead infidels and Muslims alike. It is al-Zarqawi who is directing the "insurgency" against American and coalition forces in Iraq. "Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages," warned al-Zawahiri.
Most of us don't have the time to read the entire letter as I did, so let me share some insights that might have been only briefly alluded to in the mainstream press. It is impossible to understand the full, true importance of this letter on that basis alone.
Among the most striking aspects of the letter is the fact that Osama bin Laden is referred to only once and his name is followed by the phrase "God save him." This may just be a common phrase or the acknowledgement that he is in jeopardy. He is, of course, the most wanted man on the face of the planet. No other reference is made and this suggests that al-Zawahiri was more in command of al-Qaida at the date of the letter than bin Laden for whatever reason.
The primary intent of the letter, however, is al-Zawahiri's belief that al-Qaida and its Iraq campaign is in trouble. At one point al-Zawahiri asks for a hundred thousand dollars because operational funds were not available. This suggests that the war America is leading is experiencing some success. Al-Zawahiri points out early in the letter that "the real danger comes from the agent Pakistani army that is carrying out operations in the tribal areas looking for mujahedeen."
All this is good news, but we must never lose sight of the ultimate objective of al-Qaida. Al-Zawahiri makes it quite clear that "the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon), Egypt, and the neighboring states of the Peninsula (Saudi Arabia) and Iraq; however, the center would be in the Levant and Egypt."
The purpose of the Islamic Revolution has always been total control over the Middle East and, from there, to launch a campaign to dominate the rest of the world. For this, the Middle East must be rid of all secular leadership, i.e., its "elected" dictators such as Egypt's Mubarak or the monarchs such as those who rule Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
The primary obstacle to this goal is the United States. This is why we were attacked on September 11, 2001. Secondarily, Muslims view the existence of Israel as undermining their assertion of being the final, ultimate expression of God's will that Islam rule the world. The very existence of Israel has always been regarded as a threat to Islam. The subjugation of Jews and Christians has always been an essential tenet of Islam.
Another theme of al-Zawahiri's letter is the perfidy of the Shia or Shiite community. The rivalry between the Sunnis and Shiites goes far back in Islamic history, beginning not long after the death of Muhammad. "Their prior history in cooperating with the enemies of Islam is consistent with their current reality of connivance with the Crusaders." One suspects al-Qaida's enmity has not gone unnoticed by Shiites everywhere. Al-Zawahiri is not unmindful of this, warning that "this matter won't be acceptable to the Muslim populace…"
"And can the mujahedeen kill all of the Shia in Iraq?" asks al-Zawahiri. "Has any Islamic state in history ever tried that? And why kill ordinary Shia considering that they are forgiven because of their ignorance?" In short, it's bad for the short-term goals of the insurgency.
There is, therefore, considerable irony that al-Zawahiri is ultimately worried about Muslim perceptions of al-Qaida's goals. "I say to you that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle for the hearts and minds of our Umma (the Muslim people). And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us…we don't need this."
Al-Zawahiri has kindly spelled out some important truths. Al-Qaida is on the run and having problems funding its operations despite the occasional suicide bombing in places like London and Bali. Iraq, as President Bush has repeatedly said, is the battlefield on which al-Qaida and the Islamic Revolution must be defeated. And, finally, this is a battle, too, between two major Islamic factions in which the Sunnis are seeking victory.
The only way al-Qaida and its Iranian counterparts can win is if the forces of appeasement and surrender in Western nations abandon the battlefield, i.e., the world, to them. Don't take my word for it; take the word of Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qaida announced on Thursday, Oct. 13, that the al-Zawahiri letter was a fabrication. In war, the first victim is the truth, so what we know is that al-Qaida has acknowledged the success of the letter, whether real or not, in revealing its known goals.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, October 2005
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