Sakset/Fra hofta

Flere autoriteter innen jihad-bevegegelsen har tatt avstand fra Al Qaida den senere tid. Det gjør at populariteten er synkende. Deres største feil var at de ga blaffen i at muslimer ble drept, sier Paul Wilkinson ved Aberdeen-universitetet.

Aksjoner som den mot den danske ambassaden i Islamabad blir ikke forstått eller godt mottatt. Bare muslimer ble drept, hva er poenget? spør pakistanere. Nå kan man som vestlig si: ville det vært ok om vestlige ble drept? Svaret er nok delvis ja for mange. Men faktum er at Al Qaida har utløst religiøs borgerkrig i Irak og ellers bryr seg lite om muslimsk blod. Det budskapet har sunket inn hos vanlige folk, og religiøse ledere tar avstand.

Usama Hasan er imam ved Tawhid-moskeen i Leyton. Han har lenge tatt avstand fra Al Qaidas metoder. Det har gitt han stemplet «overløper» og «forræder», men nå begynner vinden å snu, sier han.

After the 9/11 attacks on America, and especially since the 7/7 bombings in London, Hasan began to question Al-Qaeda. He was particularly horrified that a Tube train on the Piccadilly line was blown up. «To me the Piccadilly line was home, because my house in north London was near one of its stops,» he said. «I just could not understand why anyone would attack London.

«I realised that Muslims had to speak out against the extremists. We had to teach that jihad is a just war, but groups like Al-Qaeda have perverted it.»

His journey is a reflection of one which is being taken by a number of leading figures in the extremist milieu. An article published recently in The New Republic, the American journal, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank – both respected experts on terrorism – outlined a radical change in thinking on Al-Qaeda’s strategy among some of the most respected thinkers in the Islamist world.
For the first time, they reported, men whose previous pronouncements had been used as a justification for jihad were speaking out against it. They were not embracing the West, by any means, but they were questioning the ideological basis upon which Al-Qaeda, as a scattered movement, relies. In the battle for «hearts and minds» the group appeared to have scored an own goal.

What is behind this change in thinking and what effect is it having on Al-Qaeda abroad and in Britain?

Kritikken kommer fra folk som har spilt en kjernerolle i Al Qaida, bla. mannen som introduserte takfir-begrepet – at muslimer som ikke tror på den riktige måten kan drepes.

The most prominent attack on Al-Qaeda’s methods has come from Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, an Egyptian radical who has been called the «ideological godfather» of the group and who was a former mentor of Zawahiri.

The shift in his thinking is significant because it was Sharif – also known as Dr Fadl – who gave prominence to the doctrine under which Al-Qaeda justifies many of its attacks on co-religionists.

In the 1990s he promoted takfir, which says that Muslims who do not support jihad or who had participated in elections in the «puppet regimes» of the Middle East or in the West, had become kuffar, or infidel, and consequently legitimate targets of jihad.

Late last year came a remarkable change of heart. Sharif, who is languishing in a Cairo prison cell because of his terrorist activities, published a book which argued that the jihad waged by groups like Al-Qaeda was «blemished with grave sharia violations during recent years . . . Now there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non-Muslims, in the name of jihad».

Speaking to an Egyptian newspaper, Fadl went further. «Zawahiri and his emir Bin Laden are extremely immoral,» he said.

His words sent tremors throughout the jihadist world. Al-Qaeda does not have a central organisation and has been a movement based more on ideas, rather than concrete plans for political change. Here was one of its former theorists attacking those very ideas.

Ayman al-Zawahiri tok kritikken så alvorlig at han skrev et 200 sider langt svar.

En annen kritiker har selv vært en åndelig far for Osama bin Laden.

Sheikh Salman al-Oadah, a leading religious scholar from Saudi Arabia, addressed the Al-Qaeda leader in a television interview to mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11. «My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt?» said Oadah. «How many innocent people, children, the elderly and women have been killed . . . in the name of Al-Qaeda?»

As a cleric, Oadah cannot be dismissed as a Saudi government stooge. He was instrumental in the fundamentalist awakening of Saudi society in the 1980s, known as the sahwa. His fiery sermons against the presence of US troops on Saudi soil after the first Gulf war helped to turn Bin Laden against America. He also signed a religious ruling in 2004 with 26 other scholars that gave Islamic backing to Iraqis fighting US forces. He has a mass following among young men and women throughout Saudi society and the Islamic world.

Former jihadis seem to be lining up to condemn Bin Laden. In November last year Noman Benotman, ex-head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which is trying to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gadaffi, published a letter which asked Al-Qaeda to give up all its operations in the Islamic world and in the West, adding that ordinary westerners were blameless and should not be attacked.

Når så viktige og toneangivende åndelige ledere tar avstand og kritiserer Al Qaida, kan det ikke unnlate å gjøre inntrykk. Meningsmålinger viser at noe lignende kan ha skjedd med vanlige folk.

The evidence from opinion polls show that the Arab street is following the lead of these figures. Last week a survey by the Pew Research Center, a respected American polling organisation, showed that support for Bin Laden had come down considerably in Muslim countries. It found that while in 2003, 56% of Jordanians had confidence in Bin Laden «to do the right thing in world affairs», today only 20% believed the same. Over the same period, support for the Al-Qaeda leader among Lebanese Muslims has plummeted from 20% to 1%.

The poll also revealed that in 2002, 33% of Pakistanis believed that suicide bombings were justified. The figure has now dwindled to 9%.

Hva sier politiet og sikkerhetspolitiet. Kan de melde om en tilsvarende avradikalisering? Poliiet er forsiktig. De har ikke senket beredskapen, og antall personer som overvåkes har steget, fra 1.600 til 2.000.

Det minnes om at det trengs få personer for å utløse et angrep.

Paul Wilkinson, a terrorism specialist at St Andrews University, is also cautious. He says that while its policy of attacking co-religionists was «probably its biggest mistake», Al-Qaeda does have the ability to strike again. «We must remember Al-Qaeda is not a mass movement and you don’t need that many people to hatch a plot – 9/11 only took 19.»

Men at religiøse ledere, som tidligere har støttet og gitt religiøs legitimitet til Al Qaida, nå tar avstand fra dem, er betydningsfullt.

Al-Qaeda: the cracks begin to show

A succession of leading Muslim radicals has condemned the terror group’s tactics as its support in Islamic countries falls off dramatically. Is Britain following the pattern?