Aug 07 2008
When al-Qaeda hit America on 9-11-01 it was seen by many inside and outside of Islam as the future of Islam. There were many Muslims who were shocked and horrified, but there was no loud and universal denunciation of al-Qaeda. Many thought (and predicted) the Muslim street would rise up and over throw the governments of the Arab Muslim states and all turn on the path that Iran was on.
When we went into Afghanistan to face the Taliban, there were many who again predicted the Muslim Street would rise up and stop us. A wave of Jihadis from across the Muslims states stretching from the Middle East to Indonesia would flair up and come crashing onto our forces in Afghanistan. It did not happen.
Then, when we invaded one time Ayman Zawahiri (al-Qaeda’s number 2 and military leader) ally Saddam Hussein’s Iraq the predictions came fast and furious that the Muslims Street would definitely rise up this time – for The Great Satan had entered Mesopotamia, the heart of Muslim Arab culture. In Iraq al-Qaeda, in fact, did call out to Islamist extremists for action. And there was a wave of volunteer fighters who heeded that call and entered Iraq to fight the Americans from Syria and Iran. Syria and Iran also provided assistance to the fledgeling Muslim Force building against us.
But something happened that changed the world from the path of 9-11 with al-Qaeda rising to dominance. The Muslim Street finally did rise up in full. And al-Qaeda went from becoming the future of Islam to the enemy of Islam for all its heinous and despicable crimes against innocent Muslims. The horror stories of al-Qaeda unleashed will haunt humanity for all of history.
This sea change began in Anbar Province Iraq where American military commanders experimented with counter-insurgency tactics (which includes increasing troop strengths in order to pull of, commonly referred to as The Surge). They reached out to Muslims ready to hunt down and kill al-Qaeda for their crimes against their families, tribes and communities. And the Anbar Awakening was born.
After seeing the incredible results in the heartland of al-Qaeda’s stronghold in Iraq, where Muslim Sunnis allied with US Forces and drove al-Qaeda out of the region, the combination of Surge (counter-insurgency tactics) and Muslim Awakening spread across Iraq like a wave of peace and hope for a new future. al-Qaeda had been so brutal that it was clear the body politic, the Muslim Street, had reacted to its atrocities as the cancer it is. It had to be excised and it was.
This wave that started in Anbar and spread out across Iraq has not stop moving – it knows no artificial boundaries such as borders. It’s energy is the combination of horror stories, first hand accounts, of what al-Qaeda did to mutilate, torture and kill Muslims into submission to their diseased brand of Islam. The force of horror carries this wave and to this day still causes the Muslim Street to rise up and act.
Al-Qaeda’s violent methods and tactics have been coming under mounting criticism this year from Islamist scholars who once supported it.
One by one they have been coming out in public to denounce the organisation’s actions as being counterproductive.
But at the same time, a leading British de-radicaliser says the number of young British Muslims attracted to violent extremism is growing – and, he claims, the UK government is partly to blame.
In the living room of his London home, the Libyan former jihadist Nu’man Bin Othman reads out part of the open letter he sent recently to al-Qaeda’s no 2 and chief strategist, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri.
He tells him that al-Qaeda’s tactics have been a failure and – most damningly – its methods un-Islamic.
He even questions its very claim to speak for Muslims.
What is so striking about this is that Bin Othman is no armchair commentator, he is a former comrade-in-arms of Osama Bin Laden.
Together they fought the communists in Afghanistan in the 1990s and as recently as the summer of 2000 he attended the al-Qaeda leader’s ‘summit’ of jihadists in Afghanistan.
Yet now, while like many Muslims he still deeply disapproves of western policies and actions in the Middle East, Bin Othman is telling his former allies that al-Qaeda’s strategy of apparent indiscriminate killing is wrong.
When immersed in turbulent times it is sometimes hard to step back and appreciate the forces moving us. But one reason European Islamicists may be ‘rising’ as a serious threat is because their Middle East counterparts are waning. They may not be increasing very much (yet sadly it doesn’t take many of these sick fanatics to do massive damage.
al-Qaeda has become the face of evil, the face of death and horror. It still bombs and kills, but it is not gaining recruits, it is gaining enemies. It’s numbers are dwindling not growing. It is losing ground as democracies expand in the birth place of al-Qaeda’s madness. It is not the future of Islam. The Muslim Street rose up and decided al-Qaeda is the enemy. Enough of an enemy that allying with America seemed to be a very good decision – in the end. And we made good and stood by the Muslim Street as well.
There is a bond there now, one that could have only been destroyed if we had left our new allies to die at the hands of al-Qaeda’s thugs as we turned tail and ran away.