Libyan rebel says Osama bin Laden's death won't stop jihadist flow
'Al Qaeda [is] getting more and more organized and bringing people [to Libya] from abroad,' says the rebel, who has been contacted by militants wanting to fight against Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
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Al Qaeda has suffered defeats in Iraq and across the Islamic world in recent years, and is seen by many as a spent force that can no longer muster the organization and trained militants needed to carry out spectacular attacks like those of 9/11.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Osama bin Laden death: reaction
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Further proof of Al Qaeda’s demise is seen in the pro-democracy Arab awakening, in which secular people-power revolutions from Tunisia and Egypt to Syria and Yemen have rendered Al Qaeda’s religious brand of jihad irrelevant by showing that there is a different, more effective way to bring down unjust autocratic rulers.
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But the views of Naluti, who studied Islam in Yemen and was jailed years for his religiosity, are instructive in understanding how Al Qaeda will continue beyond Bin Laden.
Persuading jihadists to temper their views
Col. Qaddafi has claimed that the entire opposition are Al Qaeda “terrorists,” and feigned wonder that a Western-led coalition has rejected his uncompromising tactics. That firm stance is no different from how the US or Europe deal with Al Qaeda militants attacking their nations, he suggested.
But Qaddafi’s view is “not accurate,” says Naluti, who notes that Qaddafi has long challenged religious beliefs he considered a danger during nearly 42 years of rule. Naluti studied Islamic theology in Yemen for two years in the mid-1990s under moderate sheikhs – at schools, he says, where extremists were expected to either moderate their views or were kicked out.
He was placed on a Libyan government watch list, entered the country illegally from Tunisia using smuggler routes, and then was arrested during a routine check in Tripoli. His beard and short trousers marked him as a Salafist, which prompted 13 days of interrogation and torture – including electric shock treatment to sensitive parts of the body, he says – followed by four years in prison.
But even behind the prison walls, this believer and like-minded moderates had some success in convincing hard-line jihadists – among them mujahideen veterans who fought the US-backed war against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan in the 1980s – to temper their views.
“I [had been] studying with sheikhs who refused this extremism,” recalls the Libyan believer. “This is one of the problems: Anyone who is ignorant goes to some [extremist] and they change their minds. One has to protect himself with good knowledge.”