By Hasan Suroor
While it is true that the al-Qaeda’s fortunes in
The Central Intelligence Agency Director, Michael Hayden’s claim in a recent interview to the Washington Post that the al-Qaeda is facing a “near strategic defeat” after seven years of the aggressive United States-led “war” on terror has sparked an intense debate on the current state of the global jihadi movement, and whether the CIA has got it right.
Is the Islamist militancy, really, in meltdown — battered by
Mr. Hayden’s remarks drew gasps of surprise on both sides of the Atlantic as they contradicted previous U.S. intelligence warnings (the most recent and famous being the National Intelligence Estimate based on inputs from various American intelligence sources) that the al-Qaeda remained a formidable threat. These warnings echoed the British assessment that the al-Qaeda was very much alive and capable of striking at will though it might have its off-days — more as part of a strategy to lull the “enemy” into complacency and give itself a breather, rather than as a sign of weakness.
Mr. Hayden was, of course, speaking in the specific context of the recent successes in Iraq where Americans have been able to turn around some of the worst terror-affected regions by following a twin strategy of deploying thousands of extra troops (part of the famous “surge” launched late last year) and winning over disillusioned Sunni supporters of the al-Qaeda. Many of them are now working with American troops to flush out their former comrades — not because they have suddenly fallen in love with Americans but because either they have fallen out with the al-Qaeda, or simply got fed up of the continuing violence.
What is often less acknowledged is the contribution of countries in the region to the al-Qaeda’s current difficulties.
The cumulative effect of all this has been a significant drop in al-Qaeda operations. The Islamic State of Iraq, a pro-al-Qaeda website, has been reported as admitting that al-Qaeda operations dropped by 94 per cent between 2006 and 2007. So, while it is true that the al-Qaeda’s fortunes in
According to experts, the al-Qaeda’s links with other groups, in
The Guardian quoted a prominent Egyptian specialist on Islamist affairs, Dia Rashwan, as saying although there is no doubt that the al-Qaeda is facing a “crisis,” it is too early to write its obituary. As an “idea,” the al-Qaeda will continue to wield influence as long as the American foreign policy in
Analysts also argue that the al-Qaeda’s “strategic defeat” in
So, it is a fallacy to see every extremist group as an extension of the al-Qaeda. Many have no direct links with it even though they may be inspired by its ideology. The idea, therefore, that the collapse of the al-Qaeda in
The good news, however, is that political Islam itself — the source of al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups — is under pressure and there is growing dissension within Islamist ranks generally. Commenting on the Hayden controversy, The Economist (June 7) noted that irrespective of the accuracy of CIA’s claims, there were signs of “what looks like a growing schism within jihadism.” It referred to two articles by “independent researchers” — one in the New Yorker magazine by Lawrence Wright, author of a book on al-Qaeda; and the other in the New Republic by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank who have written extensively on former jihadists. All three — it said — concluded that radical Islam was facing an internal “rebellion” with many of the former Islamists joining mainstream Muslim leaders in “a powerful coalition countering [the] al-Qaeda’s ideology.”
The most high-profile of these ex-Islamists is Sayed Imam al-Shareef, an associate-turned-bitter-foe of Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri, now languishing in an Egyptian jail. He has questioned some of the fundamental aspects of the al-Qaeda’s ideology such as its claim that Islam allows targeting of all infidels and apostate Muslims.
The journal said it was not clear how much of al-Shareef’s attack on the al-Qaeda was motivated by his personal quarrel with al-Zawahiri and the pressure on him to “repudiate” his former allies but his word carried weight as he was a respected scholar in his own right and commanded a significant following. Indeed, his criticism evoked a massive response on Islamist websites with people asking the al-Qaeda to explain why it was killing innocent Muslims in the name of Islam.
A similar debate is going on in
Mr. Husain, a British-born Bangladeshi, has described the book as a “protest against political Islam.” Since its publication last year, it has become the most discussed analysis of Islamist mindset. It is not so much what Mr. Husain says that is significant (it is all good old common sense) but the fact that he realised the “error” of his ways and felt sufficiently strongly about the issue to go public. And he is not the only one: there are enough of them to pass for a Brotherhood of ex-extremists.
Indeed, a group of reformed Islamists, including Mr. Husain, has come together and launched a much-hyped think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, with the aim of exposing and challenging the “weaknesses, inconsistencies and failings of Islamist thought and actions.” It also promises to offer an alternative to the “rigidity of Islamism and extreme Wahhabism.” The Foundation (named after William Henry Abdullah Quilliam, a 19th century English convert to Islam, who built
Although some have branded it a creation of intelligence agencies, it is, at least, making the right noises. Which itself is important in the current climate. Extremist circles apart, there is a distinct change in the Muslim mood generally in most countries as reflected in the recent developments in India like the anti-extremism Muslim rally in Delhi and the Deoband clerics’ fatwa against terrorists. Much of it might be prompted by sheer pragmatism as the anti-Muslim backlash starts to bite the community but, to use the old cliché, better late than never,
But whether this change will go far enough to rattle the jihadis will depend on how the American foreign policy in the Muslim world unfolds in coming months. One more Iraq-like adventure (in
Source: The Hindu
Source: The Hindu