False Reports of Jihadists "Quitting" or Abandoning Islamic Supremacism

By Jeffrey Imm/The Counterterrorism Blog


Another strategic error in the failure to address the ideological basis of Jihad in Islamic supremacism is that the lack of such a strategic debate allows a series of false and misleading reports about Jihadists allegedly “renouncing” jihad or abandoning Islamism. The point of these media reports are to suggest that either (a) there is no jihadist threat, or (b) what threat does exist is diminishing as “extremists” realize the folly of violence. Such reports have one clear purpose: quash public debate on the real ideological basis behind Jihad, with the secondary purpose of questioning Jihad as a “real threat.”

The Jihadist who is still a Jihadist

One example is the July 13, 2008 UK Guardian/Observer article by Lawrence Wright “The heretic — How Al-Qaeda’s mastermind turned his back on terror.” It is clear from a close reading of the article that the headline simply is not accurate, but the Guardian/Observer doesn’t expect most of the public to read the article closely, they are simply looking for a headline to influence public opinion.

Mr. Wright’s article is to “inform” the public how Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, aka Dr. Fadl, has rejected terrorism. In Mr. Wright’s first paragraph, he trumpets how Al-Sharif was “rejecting al-Qaeda’s violence,” having written in a 2007 fax that “[w]e are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that.” (The last part of Al-Sharif’s sentence should have been a tip-off to the observant reader.) Mr. Wright goes on in “Part One” of his article about the importance of Al-Sharif to Al-Qaeda, and how important his alleged defection from “terrorism” is.

In “Part Two” of Mr. Wright’s article, 75 paragraphs later, he writes that “[d]espite his previous call for jihad against unjust Muslim rulers, Fadl now says such rulers can be fought only if they are unbelievers, and even then only to the extent that the battle will improve the situation of Muslim.” So, how does that make Al-Sharif against Jihad? Only if rulers are “unbelievers”? After all, per Mr. Wright’s own article, Al-Sharif is the one with the historical ideology that identified virtually every Muslim who didn’t agree with him as a takfiri (unbeliever).

Further on in “Part Two” of Mr. Wright’s article, in paragraph 78, Mr. Wright states: 

“Fadl [aka Al-Sharif] does not condemn all jihadist activity, however. ‘Jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing,’ he declares. The jihads in Iraq and Palestine are more problematic. As Fadl sees it, ‘If it were not for the jihad in Palestine, the Jews would have crept toward the neighbouring countries a long time ago.'”

In paragraph 79, Mr. Wright goes on to state: “Speaking of Iraq, he [Al-Sharif] notes that without the jihad there, ‘America would have moved into Syria.'”

In summary, Mr. Wright claims that Al-Sharif is against Jihadist terrorism, except for Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and rulers who are “unbelievers.” This is how Al-Sharif “turned his back on terror.” Anywhere else where Al-Sharif supports Jihad? Who knows where else Al-Sharif might call for Jihad if you asked him for more details? Thailand, Philippines, Somalia, etc? But the Guardian/Observer expects that its readers and the public will never get that far and will not realize that the article is merely a transparent attempt to discourage debate on the Jihadist threat.


A Non-Revolt against Jihad

On June 11, 2008, the New Republic published an article by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, “The Unraveling – The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.” In the article, the authors once again refer to Al-Sharif’s [aka Fadl’s] so-called beliefs on “illegitimate” terrorism and bombings in “Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.” Apparently, per Lawrence Wright’s July 13, 2008 article, “elsewhere” does not include Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, etc. This is not mentioned in the Bergen/Cruickshank article, as they are focused on Al-Sharif’s condemnation that “jihad … was blemished with grave Sharia violations during recent years.” In commending Al-Sharif’s “harsh words,” it never occurs to the writers to question the Sharia ideology of Islamic supremacism itself; the focus of such writing is to concentrate on specific individuals and tactical actions — reviewing their ideology or the basis for Jihad is not a topic for discussion.

Then the Bergen/Cruickshank article moves on to the alleged progress in the “ideological battle against Al Qaeda” in the growing Islamist sinkhole of the United Kingdom, without actually detailing what “ideologies” form the basis of such battles. Based on the authors’ interviews with “militants who have defected from Al Qaeda, retired mujahedin, Muslim community leaders,” the authors state that “when Al Qaeda’s bombs went off in London in 2005, sympathy for the terrorists evaporated.” The authors make no mention of the British Jihadist terror attempts and plots since 2005, including the 2006 transatlantic airline plot to attack the United States, as Jihad is not really their concern, just “Bin Laden.”

As Melanie Phillips points out regarding the UK, the Bergen/Cruickshank article argues the fallacy that “the only extremists are al Qaeda and others who support terrorism in Britain. They thus extol as moderates those who oppose al Qaeda and terrorism in Britain.” This is clear from those portions of the Bergen/Cruickshank article such as “Kamal El Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates,” when the Muslim Brotherhood (“Jihad is our way”) is anything but “moderate.” Melanie Phillips also references comments in thearticle about the Masjid-al-Tawhid mosque and Usama Hassan, pointing to reported comments by Hassan’s father Sheikh Suhaib Hassan seeking “the establishment of an Islamic state under Sharia law,” and a letter from Usama Hassan stating that “I, of course, support a just Caliphate based on the Prophetic model…. your charge that I reject the Caliphate is a lie and slander, may Allah preserve us.”

The Bergen/Cruickshank article then sheepishly admits that “[m]ost of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad).” Since there is popular support against the tactical measures in Iraq, this is a transparent argument to conceal the fact that such Jihadists are indeed still Jihadists.

But the real point of the Bergen/Cruickshank article is that the values of equality and freedom do not matter when addressing Islamic supremacism. The authors state that: “If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West’s, that matter.” This is where the mass denial among the free press on Jihad and Islamic supremacism has taken our culture. Our values of equality and freedom don’t matter in a war of ideas against Islamic supremacism.

Imagine news writers stating in the late 1960s that the values of freedom and equality don’t matter in the war against white supremacism – just the views of whites who sought segregation or racial inequality, or in the 1940s in the war against Nazi supremacism arguing that just the views of Aryans who sought to create a “master race” mattered. This failure to defend the values that enable a free press is where denial on the ideology of Islamic supremacism leads us.


Failure to Ask Tough Questions

With a free press unwilling to defend the values that enable it, it is not surprising that tough questions are not asked to groups and individuals who appear to condemn “terrorism.”

The UK-based Quilliam Foundation’s recent testimony on political Islamism to the Senate Homeland Security panel was beneficial. But while the Quilliam Foundation is lauded as an anti-Islamist organization, tough questions about the Quilliam Foundation’s ideological basis are not being asked in the media, or answered by the foundation.

In March 2008, I challenged the gullibility of the American media as shown by the March 6, 2008 report by U.S. News and World Report “Egypt’s Grand Mufti Counters the Tide of Islamic Extremism.” In my March article, I stated that alleged “moderate” Egyptian Grand Mufti Sheik Ali Gomaa (also spelled “Ali Gum’a”) was anything but “moderate,” providing a series of his comments (translated by MEMRI) in articles such as: “The New Egyptian Mufti – Dr. Sheikh ‘Ali Gum’a: Opinions About Jihad, Supporting Suicide Bombings, and Forbidding Muslims in the U.S. Military From Fighting Other Muslims,” “In Interview, Egyptian Mufti Ali Gum’a Questioned On Treatment of Women in Islam, Blames ‘Secularists’ For Terrorism Worldwide,” or “The Mufti of Egypt: The True Face of the Blood-Sucking Hebrew Entity has Been Exposed.” Yet the U.S. News and World Report article portrayed Sheik Ali Gomaa as “moderate” calling for “sharia law… [as] the best antidote to Islamic extremism.”

A month later, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch.org asked questions about the Quilliam Foundation that have not yet been addressed, and challenged the Quilliam Foundation to reject Islamic supremacism. He pointed to the Quilliam Foundation’s web site where it describes itself (“About Us”) as stating: “Just as Muslims across the globe have adopted from and adapted to local cultures and traditions, while remaining true to the essence of their faith, Western Muslims should pioneer new thinking for our new times. Here, Muslim scholastic giants, such as the noble Abdullah bin Bayyah and Shaikh Ali Goma (Mufti of Egypt), have provided ample guidance.”

This “Shaikh Ali Goma (Mufti of Egypt)” is the same individual referenced in my March 2008 challenge to the U.S. News and World report. To date, the Quilliam Foundation has not publicly replied to this or changed its website defending him as a “Muslim scholastic giant.” In addition, UK Islamist groups have reported that the UK’s Abdullah Quilliam was both a proponent of Jihad and the Islamic caliphate. I have not seen a response to this either.

We need to have the courage to ask ideological questions of other potential allies in fighting Jihad as well as defend the values of equality and freedom. This won’t happen without a real debate on the ideology that forms the basis for Jihadist action. However, many in the press want no debate on such an ideology, because they claim that there is no global Jihadist threat at all.
The Media’s Big Lie on Jihad and the Civil War of Ideas in America

An organization that provides commentary space for terrorist supporters and promotes individuals that seek non-intervention against Jihad might be considered a fifth columnist organization during war time.

But what happens when such an organization is the Washington Post newspaper? What happens when a major U.S. newspaper decides to refuse to print the news on the most important story in the world? Sadly, that it is precisely the circumstances that Americans find themselves in today with major media organizations and major newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The problem is summed up in the Washington Post’s July 13, 2008 column by Glenn L. Carle “Overstating Our Fears,” where the author states “we do not face a global jihadist ‘movement’.”

That position has become the mantra of the Washington Post’s and New York Times’ editorial boards and the editorial managers of the major news media outlets. It is a predetermined bias by which news reporting, news analysis, and commentary is filtered. This denial on global jihad is why less than 10 to 20 percent of the news regarding Jihad ever reaches the masses of the American public. This media denial on global jihad is why most of the American electorate has not yet been encouraged to seek its elected representatives to deal with this issue or to develop strategies to examine the ideological basis for Jihad.

Such media managers have successfully accomplished promoting the “big lie” that global jihad does not exist, with the presumption that if you deny it frequently enough, you will silence the debate. This concerted effort to suppress news reporting on Jihad and its ideological basis has allowed media managers to control the debate so completely that the Washington Post has no fear in actually coming right out and publishing its mantra that “we do not face a global jihadist ‘movement'” in its Sunday newspaper commentary section.

In the context of media managers programming the public that there is no global jihadist threat, it is little surprise that there are not mass objections to deceptions on Jihad in other media sources. What’s the problem with authorssaying that our values shouldn’t be the basis for a war of ideas? What’s the problem with authors claiming that Jihadists are against terrorism when they obviously support Jihadist terrorism in most of the major battlefields of Jihad? What’s the problem with the Washington Post providing editorials for Hamas, Hezbollah, promoting non-interventionists against Jihad, and condemning critics of Islamic supremacism? So what if the Washington Post published Bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war 10 days after the 9/11 attacks? To many, there is no problem, because they are programmed to believe there is no global jihadist threat.

The fact is that global Jihadist threats continue to grow. But to news organizations that won’t report a majority of the news, such facts are invisible to the public. This is why I started publishing a daily news feed of anti-terrorism news in 2002. It soon became clear that after the initial year of the shock from the 9/11 attacks, news reporting on Jihad was rapidly becoming inconsistent, due to debates over a potential war with Iraq. In a society where news reporting on Jihad was almost exclusively reactive in nature, the Iraq war became a new focus and a different interest. The media focus went from the immediate post-9/11 “how to defend America” viewpoint to a focus on “how to prevent war in Iraq and other parts of the world.” Non-interventionist ideology, previously a focus of ultra-conservatism and xenophobes, was then newly embraced by left-wing media managers. With the failure to find WMDs in Iraq in 2003, such growing non-interventionist ideology in the media grew from a whisper to a full-throated shout.

At the same time, I saw an increasing number of global jihadist attacks around the world, which has continued to grow today. In September 2006, I wrote about this problem of the media failing to adequately cover news reporting on Jihad. As previously mentioned, due to the inconsistency of any major American media source to consistently cover global news on Jihad, I created my own daily news feed. In 2003, I saw the global Jihadist news in global media sources increase to about 2000 unique reports per year, increasing to 6400 reports by 2004, 5400 reports by 2005, 7000 reports by 2006. By 2008, I am seeing 10,000+ reports on global Jihadist activity per year (this is being very conservative).

Anyone who reads the daily newslinks on CounterterrorismBlog.org or other sources can readily tell you that the numerous Jihadist reports around the world are hardly isolated incidents as the Washington Post editorial board would have the public believe.

You won’t see the majority of these reports on global Jihadist activity in the Washington Post or the New York Times, and if the story is not about Iraq, you will see very few on the front page. You won’t see the majority ofthese on CNN, FOX News, or the major networks. This is not because of the inability of these news media to report the news on global jihad, it is because of an editorial policy dictating that there is no global Jihadist threat, which has grown out of a non-interventionist world view on Jihad from media managers themselves.

According to the Washington Post, its principles include: 
— “The newspaper shall not be the ally of any special interest, but shall be fair and free and wholesome in its outlook on public affairs and public men.”
— “The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.”

Americans should ask themselves how the Washington Post and much of the American media changed from organizations with such principles to apologists for terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and to organizations with a focus to suppress the news when it comes to global jihad.

The war of ideas is not just between Western values of equality and freedom versus Islamic supremacism.

America also faces a civil war of ideas between the ideologies of Jihadist denial versus the Jihad confrontation. To get to the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism, we must overcome the civil war of ideas on denial versus confrontation on Jihad. In this civil war, every advocate of liberty and equality must assume a role in ensuring that the truth on global jihad and Islamic supremacism continues to get to the American people, regardless of the obstacles provided by the ideology of denial and the mass media.

This is our fight for America.

Sources and Related Documents:

July 13, 2008 – Guardian/Observer: The heretic — How Al-Qaeda’s mastermind turned his back on terror — by Lawrence Wright
June 11, 2008 – The New Republic: The Unraveling – The jihadist revolt against bin Laden — by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank
May 28, 2008 – The Spectator: Dangerous naivety — by Melanie Phillips
Response from Usama Hassan to Open Letter
January 25, 2007 – This is London: Mosque disputes claim
July 18, 2008 – Crossroads in History: The Struggle against Jihad and Supremacist Ideologies – Counterterrorism Blog – by Jeffrey Imm
March 10, 2008 – Jihad, Islamism, and the American Free Press – Counterterrorism Blog – by Jeffrey Imm
March 6, 2008 – U.S. News and World Report: Egypt’s Grand Mufti Counters the Tide of Islamic Extremism
MEMRI: The New Egyptian Mufti – Dr. Sheikh ‘Ali Gum’a: Opinions About Jihad, Supporting Suicide Bombings, and Forbidding Muslims in the U.S. Military From Fighting Other Muslims
MEMRI: In Interview, Egyptian Mufti Ali Gum’a Questioned On Treatment of Women in Islam, Blames ‘Secularists’ For Terrorism Worldwide
MEMRI: The Mufti of Egypt: The True Face of the Blood-Sucking Hebrew Entity has Been Exposed
July 10, 2008 – Summary of Statement by Maajid Nawaz, Former Hizb ut-Tahrir Official, at Senate Hearing – Counterterrorism Blog – by Andrew Cochran
April 24, 2008 – JihadWatch.org: UK: New Muslim think-tank says it will challenge the jihad ideology with the true, peaceful Islam
May 21, 2008 – Islam 21st Century – Strangers in our Midst — by Muhammad Nizami
Quilliam Foundation – About Us
July 13, 2008 – Washington Post: Overstating Our Fears — by Glenn L. Carle
August 10, 2007 – Why The New York Times Can Legally Help The Enemy in The War on Terror – Counterterrorism Blog – by Jeffrey Imm
July 24, 2007 – U.S. News Media and Terror Group Figure Editorials – Counterterrorism Blog – by Jeffrey Imm
July 23, 2007 – What is Missing in the Current Debate on Islam – by Douglas Farah
September 9, 2006 – 9/11 and News Reporting on Jihadist Terrorism – Counterterrorism Blog – by Jeffrey Imm
Washington Post – Principles of the Post