Jihadi dispute points to deeper radicalism among youths
A leading jihadi theologian – and adviser to the late leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq – is under fire for ‘moderating’ his views.
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Zarqawi's "dream of a Salafi-Jihadist movement ... is coming to fruition with a new generation of militant youth," wrote Shishani in The Jamestown Foundation's "Terrorism Focus." And "though they are, in many cases, poorly trained and without direct contacts to al-Qaeda, this younger generation appears to be even more radical than their Jordanian predecessors." Another noteworthy development, this time in Egypt, was reported by Steven Brooke in this month's CTC Sentinel, published by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Brooke, a Washington-based analyst, noted that while an organized jihadist movement "remains a remote possibility" for now, "a non-violent but especially stern ... brand of Salafist Islam has elbowed its way into Egypt's religious landscape."
This strain of Islam rejects political engagement, which puts it in opposition to the country's largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Although Egypt's authoritarian government welcomes this avoidance of politics, the Salafist strain is potentially problematic because of its tendency to see other Muslims and non-Muslims as inferior, a stance that disposes some to adopt violent tactics.
"While this trend is non-violent," writes Brooke, "their rigid conception of belief, occasionally antagonistic posture toward religious minorities, and tendency to withdrawal from society" have led some observers to warn of increased "social violence."
Brooke says that many analysts had put Egyptian society's increasing conservatism in recent years "at the feet of the Muslim Brotherhood. But I think there are deeper dynamics going on.... And as America tries to figure out this Islamist dilemma, I think it's important to understand that there is a spectrum there."
Maqdisi inspired jihadis worldwide
But it is the Maqdisi dispute that has caught the most attention from experts following jihadi politics.
According to the Militant Ideology Atlas, a study of jihadi writings put out in 2006 by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, Maqdisi's writings inspired jihadis all over the world. He was respected not only for his intellect and learning, but also because he had spent time in prison. Released in March 2008, he is currently under house arrest in the Jordanian town of Zarqa.
Born in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Maqdisi grew up in Kuwait and studied in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. He came to Jordan in 1992, where his preaching soon gained him many followers and where he became friends with Zarqawi, a Jordanian who emerged a decade later as leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and nemesis of American forces.