Al-Qaeda’s New Orders: Avoid Killing Christians and Shia

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Opposition fighters rest on the front line in the Saif Al-Dawla neighbourhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo on 29 September 2013. (Photo: AFP - Jm Lopez)

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Thursday, October 10, 2013

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a new statement, considered to be orders for the coming phase. The emir of the international organization changed his old tone, and called to avoid killing Shia, Christians, Hindus, and Sufis in the context of "warding off sin," in order to "focus on striking the American spearhead."

Emirs are usually accorded with allegiance and obedience, however, the jihadi emirs in Syria are different. ISIS did not like the mediation by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to solve the dispute with al-Nusra Front, preferring to "keep things as they were." Emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, abandoned his own emir, insisting that "the State [ISIS] will remain."

Zawahiri announced a new approach in the work of al-Qaeda, doing away with the old fundamentalist approach that prioritized killing a “close apostate” over fighting “distant infidels.” He announced a new adage: "Striking the head will wilt the tails," according to one jihadi.

A closer look at Zawahiri’s second message – his first was announced last June – titled "General Guidelines for Military Activities," reveals a major shift in the organization's approach. Moreover, the statement could be construed as a criticism of the work of ISIS, which keeps killing its detractors.

Jihadi websites have been sharing Zawahiri’s latest message, issued by the Sahab Foundation for Media Production, officially used by al-Qaeda. In the statement, Zawahiri spoke of two main issues that need to be tackled in this phase: one is military-related and the other related to “the call.” Military action is “aimed primarily against the spearhead of international infidels, the US, and its ally, Israel. Second, it is against their local allies who rule our countries," the statement said.

"Targeting the US is meant to wear it down and deplete its resources, so it will end up like the Soviet Union and retreat back to its base, due to military, human, and economic losses. This will weaken its grip on our countries and its allies will fall one by one," he announced.

"The blows by the mujahideen in Afghanistan and Iraq led to wearing down the US," maintained Zawahiri. "[Due] to the threat against US security since 11 September 2001, the US began to allow venting popular anger [in the region], which blew up in the faces of its collaborators."

In his message, addressed to al-Qaeda's "Islamic Nation," Zawahiri mentioned that most countries witnessing an upsurge in al-Qaeda activities. "Confrontation in al-Sham [Syria] is with US collaborators who will not allow an Islamic entity to exist, let alone if it was jihadi. Their bloody history in attempting to eradicate Islam is known and witnessed."

Despite speaking of "US collaborators ruling our countries" and speaking of targeting its local agents, he believed that "it is different from one place to another. In principle, the conflict should not be with them directly, except in the countries where confrontation is necessary."

"Concerning Jerusalem, the main and primary confrontation is with the Jews. There should be patience concerning local rulers in the Oslo authority, as much as possible." He also mentioned that "confrontation with [local rulers] in Afghanistan is related to fighting the Americans."

As for Pakistan, "it complements fighting the Americans for the liberation of Afghanistan, then creating a safe region for mujahideen in Pakistan, then attempting to create an Islamic regime in Pakistan."

"The goal of the conflict in Iraq is the liberation of Sunni areas from the Safavi heirs of the US," he added.

In Algeria, "where US presence is small and negligible, the struggle is against the regime, in order to weaken it and spread the influence of jihad in the Islamic Maghreb, countries on the western coast of Africa, and Sub-Saharan countries."

In Somalia, "the struggle is with the collaborators, since they are the spearhead of the crusader occupation."

He gave the mujahideen some directions, which he believed were "vital in this phase of bringing in dividends and warding off sin." He called them "not to fight the deviant groups like the Rawafid [a derogatory term used for Shia], the Ismailis, the Qadiyaniat, and deviant Sufis, unless they attack the Sunnis."

Zawahiri believed that confrontation should "be limited to the active fronts with them, show that we are in a position of self-defense, and avoid targeting their non-combatants and families in their place of residence or their worship houses, their festivities, or their religious gatherings. But the disclosure of their falsehoods and their ideological and behavioral deviance should continue."

However, in places "under the control and rule of the mujahideen, these groups should be dealt with with wisdom after they receive the call, awareness, and uncovering of suspicions, and promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, as long as it does not cause bigger harm or lead to the expulsion of the mujahideen from those areas or a revolution by the masses against them."

Zawahiri called "to avoid attacking Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus in Islamic lands. If they are belligerent, the reply should be equal to the aggression. We should indicate that we are not the ones who will start a confrontation, since we are busy fighting the head of international infidelity, and that we are keen on living with them in peace and harmony, if the nation of Islam rises soon, by the will of God."

In his directives, Zawahiri called to "avoid killing and fighting non-combatants, even if they were family with those who fight us, when possible." He called on members to refrain from harming Muslims through bombing, killing, kidnapping, and damaging money or property. "Refrain from targeting enemies in mosques, markets, and gathering places where they mix with Muslims or those who do not fight us."

In terms of the call, "it aims to make the nation aware of the threat of the crusade invasion, elucidate the meaning of oneness and that rule is to God, and achieving Islamic brotherhood and the unity of Islamic land as a prelude to the return of the caliphate."

This work "is on two fronts," he explained. "The first is awareness and education of the jihadi vanguard, which carries the burden of establishing the caliphate and will continue to do so. The second is raising the awareness of the masses, inciting them, and aiming to mobilize them to rise against their rulers and favor Islam and those who strive toward it."

Zawahiri called on Muslims to "consider targeting the interests of the Western crusader-Zionist alliance anywhere in the world to be one of their most important duties." He asked them "to make every effort to release Muslim prisoners by all means, including attacks against prisons or taking hostages from countries participating in the invasion of Muslim land, in order to exchange them."

"Anywhere there is a chance to reduce conflict with local rulers, to use it for awareness, providing information, instigation, conscription, and collecting funds and partisans – we should invest in this to the highest degree. Our battle is long and jihad needs safe bases and continuous reinforcement with men, money, and expertise."

Zawahiri also spoke of the disagreements with other Islamic groups. "Disagreements with other Islamic groups should not lead us to neglect confronting the enemies and opponents of Islam militarily...or politically."

He indicated it was "necessary to support them and thank them for all their right actions and sayings and give them advice for any mistake they make. The reply and advice should be based on a serious scientific approach and avoid personal attacks and bickering."

"If a group belonging to Islam is implicated in fighting for the infidel enemy, it should be replied to with the minimum needed to stop its aggression, in the aim of shutting the doors of strife between Muslims or hurting those who do not ally with the enemy."

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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