Khalil al-Anani wrote an article two days ago about the ideological connection between Sayyid Imam and the Mumbai attackers. There are bits I disagree with, but he’s right to highlight the contribution of Sayyid Imam’s earlier works to the attackers and the contribution of his current revision to our understanding of those attacks. A paraphrastic summary follows:
At the same time Sayyid Imam was finishing his revisions, mujahids in India carried out an operation that Imam laid the foundation for more than 20 years ago in his book, al-`Umda. Perhaps it is fitting that Imam is finishing his new book, The Denudation, just as Indian commandos ended the Mumbai tragedy.
The thread tying them together is what Imam says in his new book, describing Al Qaeda as a group of crooks and mercenaries. They are like any group that appeals to jihad for the sake of justifying their crimes. That’s what the Deccan Mujahideen did when they announced their responsibility for the Mumbai attacks.
I won’t dwell on the new book, which would require a comprehensive study. Rather, I only want to point out what it reveals regarding the reality of the Jihadis and their secrets. We are confronting a clear situation of collapse among the leaders of jihad. Imam is one of the leading theorists of the first generation of Jihadis, that generation that worked with US intelligence to free Afghanistan from the Soviets. He was one of the founders of the al-Jihad group in the late 1970s and led it from 1987 to 1993. He published two important books, one of which, it is said, Zawahiri stole and published serially in the Mujahidun magazine, which led Imam to leave the group and go to Yemen.
When Imam published his first book, some believed it was an unprecedented event and others exaggerated its importance, claiming that it would end the violence in the world. Of course that didn’t happen.
In the Document, Imam revised many of his ideas that had brought so much violence to the world. Perhaps the best thing that happened was that it opened fire on Zawahiri, and revealed many of the secrets of his Jihadi movements, especially in Imam’s interview with al-Hayat. At the time, this interview seemed more important then the revisions themselves. In it, Imam spoke very abusively about Zawahiri. Zawahiri responded with a book accusing Imam of working with Egyptian security and US intelligence to produce the book.
Imam’s latest response has come in the Denudation. In it, Imam does not just give a jurisprudential response or refute attacks on his person; he accuses Zawahiri of being a mercenary and a collaborator. His most damning charge is that Zawahiri worked for the Sudanese. Even more, he excommunicates Zawahiri because Zawahiri ignores the provisions of jihad.
Of the 11 principles that Imam describes as the beliefs of Zawahiri and his group, five of them were practiced by the Mumbai attackers:
- “The jurisprudence of justification.” The Mumbai group justified its attack by saying it was done to release Muslims from prison and to stop the persecution of Muslims in India.
- “The jurisprudence of human shields,” which justifies killing civilians in infidel countries because they are serving as shields for the government. All of those killed in Mumbai were civilians.
- “Excommunication and killing for nationality,” or “mass killing.” The Mumbai attackers clearly went after people based on their nationality.
- Violating the pact of safe passage. The attackers entered India without anyone stopping them and quickly attacked. [This is not technically violating a pact of safe passage. See the relevent sections in the Denudation.]
- Attacking the far enemy. Militants attacked Americans and Brits, according to one of them, to protest their countries’ support for India against Pakistan and thus mobilize Indian Muslims behind them.
The publication of Imam’s new book and what happened in Mumbai both push us to reconsider what has become of the “Jihadi condition” around the world and to read its new coordinates. Here are five things to consider:
- These are not classical Jihadi operations like those carried out throughout the 1980s in service of a just cause, like expelling an occupier or returning the rights of the country’s inhabitants. These are operations undertaken by organizations and groups of mercenaries trying to implement crosscutting political and ideological agendas.
- The new groups do not hesitate to distort jihad with their corrupt ideas, as Imam has said. He has pointed out a number of ways they do this and you can see them clearly underpinning their operations.
- The common trend in most of these organizations is that they are made up of very young boys, not over 20.
- Britain has become a breeding ground for the “new Jihadis,” a phenomenon that has increased steadily over the past three years. This means we need to study the relationship between these Jihadis and their home countries.
- The Mumbai attacks herald the end of the al-Qaeda stage and its monopoly over suicide operations around the world. This launches a new phase of “Jihadi” action, the most important features of which are the globalization of planning and training and the localization of goals and implementation.