March 18, 2008
In a 47-minute video statement, the commander of al-Qaeda’s forces in Afghanistan issued an appeal for professionals such as physicians and engineers to join the jihad against Coalition forces in that country (Al-Sahab Media Production Organization, March 6). Mustafa Ahmad Abu al-Yazid, an Egyptian jihadist leader and close associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, called for much-needed professionals to join the mujahideen. Abu al-Yazid, already under an Egyptian in absentia death sentence for terrorist activities in that country, spent two years in Iraq before being appointed as the leader of al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan last year (Al-Jazeera, May 24, 2007).
The appeal comes on the heels of a similar call for professionals to join the ranks of the mujahideen in Iraq, suggesting al-Qaeda operations are suffering from an inability to recruit professionals to their cause. Abu al-Yazid is himself a skilled financial operator, believed to have arranged financing for multiple terrorist attacks.
Abu al-Yazid repeatedly condemns the introduction of nationalism and “patriotic bias” to the Muslim world, suggesting that such notions are the result of Western design and influence. The al-Qaeda commander also attacks the generation of Arab nationalist leaders that took power in the post-war Middle East: “These rulers were greater transgressors against Islam and the Muslims than their masters, the Christians and the Jews. Their names were Muslim, but their hearts were Christian.” There are extensive quotes from Ibn al-Tamiyya, the 13th century Islamic scholar and advocate of jihad—controversial and oft-imprisoned in his own time—a popular source of legitimization for today’s jihadis.
Four situations are identified in which jihad becomes obligatory for Muslims, including defense of a Muslim nation, being close to the scene of conflict, the liberation of Muslim prisoners and the case of an imam issuing a call for jihad. In what may be a reference to a similar shortage of religious scholars willing to advocate al-Qaeda’s cause, al-Yazid takes the unusual step of advising would-be jihadists: “Do not let yourselves be deceived by the fraudulent claim that no jihad is permitted without the sanction of an imam.”
The appeal addresses the difficulty experienced professionals would endure in abandoning their families and homes to take up jihad: “We direct a special call to specialized people like doctors and electronic engineers, due to their urgent need by the mujahideen… We call on the fathers and mothers not to become a barrier between their children and paradise and to present their children for the sake of God… we say to the Muslim wives do not be a barrier between your husbands and paradise; the righteous woman who loves her husband is the one that desires for him to get into paradise and to be saved from Hell, but she is the one who says to him when she knows that Islam is calling him: ‘Take my gold and money and conduct jihad for the sake of God and we will meet in paradise, God willing.’”
This article first appeared in the March 18, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus