By Arab News
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
TIME magazine has published a lengthy report predicting the end of Al-Qaeda. The prediction was based on a number of important events, such as the killing of its leader Osama Bin Laden and the killing of a large number of its members in Yemen.
The report covered in detail the great setbacks Al-Qaeda suffered, but I do not agree with the conclusion about the “end of Al-Qaeda.” I believe the new realities say otherwise. We are today witnessing alarming escalations of the organization’s activities in various parts of the world. Al-Qaeda is not only fully alive and kicking but has become more powerful. It is now able to recruit more members and spread widely in the world. It has succeeded in building alliances and mergers in a number of places in the world.
We should not ignore the fact that the reemergence of political Islam has, thanks to the Arab Spring, made the jihadists more enthusiastic to spread their ideas and expand activities. They exploited the weakness of the official religious, security and media organizations that were active against the terrorist ideology in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and strengthened their presence. They also encouraged extremist groups in other countries to raise their voices and expand their activities.
I do not claim that the Islamic governments in these Arab Spring countries are behind Al-Qaeda’s return. On the contrary, these governments are in fact its victims. Paradoxically, the jihadist groups that are linked to Al-Qaeda or are supporting its political line have turned against these Islamists governments and started fighting them. The Internet website “Mujahedeen in Egypt” — the mouthpiece of the jihadists in Egypt — has openly declared its opposition to the new Islamist regime in Egypt. The site considered the rule of president Muhammad Mursi null and void.
The government of Mursi has committed a grave mistake when it hastened to release imprisoned terrorists and pardoned the jihadists who escaped to foreign countries. The government believed that the pardoning of the jihadists would lead to national reconciliation and encourage them to participate in peaceful political work instead of violent jihadist activities. The government did not realize that the ideologies of these people were totally against democracy, and that they would only accept their extreme interpretation of Islam in the management of the state’s affairs. The result was that four of the released jihadists were among the terrorists who attacked the Egyptian security forces in Sinai killing 16 soldiers before their operation against the Israeli side.
The big surprise came during the protests against the anti-Islam film when demonstrators hoisted black banners similar to the Al-Qaeda flag on the US Embassy in Cairo. They also pasted photos of Bin Laden on the embassy’s walls. The demonstrators in Tunisia did the same thing after forcefully taking over the embassy’s premises. Although more than a thousand security men besieged the mosque in which Abu Ayyad, the main suspect behind the attack against the embassy took refuge they finally had to abandon the siege fearing more clashes with his followers.
Away from the limelight, Al-Qaeda is mushrooming in the African Sahel countries, North Africa and the sub-Saharan states. It is actually running towns and operating airports. Al-Qaeda has become a force to reckon with in the African Sahel. Its terrorist operations are estimated to be more than 2,200. Not all Al-Qaeda members were from the rank and file. An executioner of one of Al-Qaeda’s suicidal operations was a Somali who returned from America. He turned his back to the life of luxury in the United States to kill a number of his countrymen whom he considered infidels.
Another proof that Al-Qaeda is very much alive is the news about the discovery of a terrorist cell in Riyadh that was planning to kill a number of high personalities and attack important buildings. It was found out that the cell was maintaining communications with Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
There is no doubt that Al-Qaeda is not just a military organization, it is rather an intellectual entity. Until now, this group with extreme ideology could not be beaten and in fact it has been easily able to market itself internationally including in Western countries, which allotted large funds to fight it in various parts of the world. Paradoxically, it transmitted its extremist thought to the world with the help of Western technology. The extremists use social communication tools such as YouTube and Facebook to spread their ideologies. They also have open electronic sites on the Internet. These sites do not name themselves after Al-Qaeda, but it is clear that their extreme ideology propagating violence is supporting Al-Qaeda with men, money and weapons.