Benotman's letter to bin Laden outlines al-Qaeda's distorted understanding of Islamic principles

[File] "Armed violence has reached its end," says Benotman.

[File] "Armed violence has reached its end," says Benotman.

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The recent call by Libyan Islamist Noman Benotman to his former "comrade-in-arms" Osama bin Laden to halt al-Qaeda's armed operations throughout the world represents a new step in the "jihad" by this one time leader of the Islamic Fighting Group.

Benotman's "jihad" appears focused on responding to what he views as the distorted understanding of Islamic principles held by bin Laden's organization. Al-Qaeda's operations, he believes, are a primary cause behind the tarnishing of Islam's image, even though al-Qaeda sees its actions as defending the religion.

Benotman -- or, as he is known in Afghanistan, Abu Mohammad al-Libi -- is no stranger to this subject. He was a former mujahid in Afghanistan who joined the war against the communist government in Kabul and its Soviet backers in the 1980s. There, he joined the newly established Fighting Group founded by Libyan Afghans to fight the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and replace him with an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. In the context of his work for the Fighting Group, Benotman had a close relationship with al-Qaeda leaders during their stay in Sudan in the 1990s. The relationship continued when they were asked to leave Khartoum in 1996 and moved to Afghanistan.

The "jihad" waged by the Fighting Group against the Libyan government between 1995 and 1998 soon collapsed. The group was forced to retreat to Afghanistan, where bin Laden was trying to recruit other active jihadist factions to join him in his war against what he called "Jews and Crusaders", as reflected in his establishment of the World Islamic Front in 1998.

But Benotman and the leaders of his organization opposed joining bin Laden in such a global project to fight the United States. Their opposition was not based on support for American policy, but because they saw a proposed war as futile, an action that would bring calamities upon them and upon the rule of the Taliban movement, which was hosting al-Qaeda and other Arab jihadist factions.

In previous interviews with this writer, Benotman said he was fundamentally opposed to the war that bin Laden was planning to launch against the United States. He said he conveyed this stance when they met in bin Laden's home in Kandahar during the summer of 2000. But bin Laden did not listen to Benotman or to other jihadists in Afghanistan and decided to launch his attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001.

According to Benotman, what has transpired since that date confirms the extent of bin Laden's error in launching a global jihad.

In late 2001 the Taliban government, which was sheltering jihadists, was destroyed by the US military response.

Moreover, in doing this, bin Laden, the Libyan Islamist said, went against Taliban leader Mullah Omar's instructions to refrain from attacking the United States from Afghanistan. This allegation is of utmost importance. If true, it confirms that bin Laden broke the pledge he made to Mullah Omar to "hear and obey". This is unless the latter knew of the al-Qaeda leader's plans to launch the "invasion of New York and Washington" and agreed in secret -- something only Mullah Omar and bin Laden can confirm or deny.

In this regard, Benotman wrote, "You (bin Laden) spared no effort in transgressing Mullah Omar and disregarding his instructions, and decided to ignore his orders to stop provoking the United States because of the dire consequences that might result for Afghanistan. How can we reconcile your claim that you are waging jihad to create what you call the Islamic state while at the same time defying the guardian in that state to which al-Qaeda pledged allegiance as a legitimate state (wilaya)? You are encroaching upon its most important prerogatives, the authority to declare war and peace, and [this action] led to the fall of the Taliban."

In the letter, the Libyan Islamist named al-Qaeda leaders who opposed launching operations outside Afghanistan, such as Sharia Committee head Abu Hafs al-Mauritani (killed in an air raid in Pakistan) and Security Committee official Abu Muhammad al-Zayat (believed to be in Iran at present).

But Benotman said he is not only angered that Afghanistan is forced to suffer the consequences of al-Qaeda's actions. He is also enraged that al-Qaeda and its branches around the world continue to wage futile wars that bring Muslims nothing but calamities.

Muslims worldwide are now frightened by the actions of these groups, fearing that at any moment al-Qaeda-inspired militants might blow themselves up in public places on the grounds that the targets are "apostates" or "infidels", as has occurred in many Arab countries.

Moreover, the actions of al-Qaeda branches—such as the "Mesopotamia" branch under the leadership of its late emir, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—also demonstrate, in Benotman’s view, the type of Islamic regime this organization intends to establish. If asked to choose between this Islamic regime and the "apostate" dictatorships al-Qaeda claims it wants to topple, the majority of Muslims would undoubtedly prefer to remain governed by a dictator than by violent figures such as the leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example.

In addition, Benotman believes al-Qaeda's actions have tarnished the image of Islam in the West. Muslims are now seen—especially in some right-wing circles—as a terrorist threat. Many Western governments have taken measures that Muslims interpret as targeting them. These measures likely would not have been adopted were it not for al-Qaeda's actions.

In this regard, Benotman asserts that the positions of bin Laden and his organization do not represent Muslims in the West, just as they do not represent Muslims in the Arab world. He believes that his criticisms of al-Qaeda's actions are shared by many, including the leaders of the jihadist groups. He alluded to the "revisions" made by significant numbers of jihadist leaders, who in recent years declared their opposition to the "extremism" in the interpretation of "jihadist" concepts by al-Qaeda and some of its branches.

The Libyan Islamist hopes his letter to bin Laden will bring al-Qaeda leaders to rethink their actions and realize they do not represent the views of Muslims, and that on the contrary, the majority of Muslims renounces their actions.

This is the hope of Benotman who now openly says, "Armed violence has reached its end."

But do his former "comrades-in-arms" in al-Qaeda share this view?

They may answer in the negative. But Benotman hopes they, including bin Laden, read his letter and think again about the consequences of their actions.

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  • READER COMMENTS

    الترهوني

    2011-6-22

    O ibn Othman, take it easy, because Islam started out strange and it will go back to being strange again. So, may God bless the strangers in both cases. This description applies to the heroes of Al-Qaeda, about whom the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that they do not care for those who oppose them and they would continue performing jihad forever.

  • ابو محمد

    2010-10-5

    Dear brothers, Islam faces a serious challenge because all forms of extremism target Islam in the heart, and the abnormal and extremist thoughts are absolutely foreign to the spirit of Islam and its tolerant teachings that call for love and unity. The Prophet, peace be upon him, was tolerant and generous, even with his enemies. As for the extremist speeches of al-Zarqawi in Iraq, they have nothing to do with Islam. He was calling for the sectarian strife that will destroy society so that he could build the state of Islam on its ruins, but Islam has nothing to do with this state.

  • عبدظاهر الطرشاني

    2010-10-5

    I have no comment now, because I have just entered the site by chance. However, I want to stress some points: 1- Are bloodshed and revengeful mutilation allowable in Islam- bin Laden’s Islam? 2- Is rape allowable, as bin Laden says? 3- Does Islam order the killing of others who differ in some religious practices? 4- Does Islam differentiate between people based on color? There are many questions to be asked amidst this strife that was caused by this emir, who claimed this massive number of victims.

  • صبيح المياحي

    2010-9-30

    I believe that terrorism is synonymous with bloodshed, the destruction of everything on earth and the violation of all sanctuaries. The terrorists have killed innocent civilians, including women and children, and they have raped women and tarnished the image of religion. They have also killed the clergy and tribal leaders, as well as the security men. They harmed all people in all the countries in which they are active and spread their takfiri thought. Terrorism is a takfiri and backward methodology that does not acknowledge the other or impose the principle of the power and the differentiation between people. All these evils are caused by terrorism.

  • عراقي

    2010-9-28

    Terrorism and al-Qaeda are killing the innocent, helpless citizens. They also bomb places which are frequently visited by tourists. In addition, they kidnap foreign tourists who visit tourist sites in Yemen and kill journalists. As far as I am concerned, the terrorist al-Qaeda wants to undermine Yemenis and Yemen’s dignity. It also aims at destroying the country and citizens, as well as the economy. Therefore, Yemeni security and armed forces must combat terrorist al-Qaeda members and terrorism. In fact, the Yemeni security forces are brave, since they always carry out their duty, which consists in hunting down terrorist members, and they track them down at daytime and in the evening. I support the Yemeni security and armed forces because they devote themselves to defending their country from the evil of terrorists. Thus, they are really brave and want to protect the Yemenis. Indeed, we owe them greetings and support, thanks to the stances they have taken. May God curse the terrorist al-Qaeda and its criminal members, who are bloodthirsty for Arabs and Muslims. In fact, they are killing Muslims everywhere in Iraq and here in Yemen. So, may God curse them till Judgment Day.

  • مهيمن

    2010-9-28

    I think that Al Qaeda, after having carried out a lot of terrorist operations against Iraq and the Iraqi people, has reached a dead end. The Iraqi security forces have worked very hard recently and have limited their activities and have almost completely brought them to an end. We hope that they will completely eradicate them in order to relieve the Iraqi people of their crimes against innocent citizens. The number of people infiltrating the Iraqi borders has decreased a lot, thanks to the Iraqi government, the Ministry of Defense and the Iraqi security forces, who have put together a well-formulated plan and closed the borders once and for all. Moreover, most of the youth, who used to believe in the ideas of Al-Qaeda, have discovered the reality of this organization and what they did against civilians and innocent Iraqis and against the Islamic religion. They have helped people understand that Islam is a religion of terrorism that does not want peace, and that it is based on wars and bombings. All those who infiltrated into Iraq across the Iraqi borders believed that Al Qaeda was following the Islamic teachings. But after discovering the truth, they gave up on this takfiri sectarian terrorist ideology. They now denounce Al-Qaeda, and they have left them face their inevitable fate, which is the dustbin of history.

  • صابر

    2010-9-24

    People who abandon terrorism and repent, renouncing all the ideas and trends of terrorism, will be living proof that terrorism is not a religious ideology and that terrorists are not religious people as they claim, but rather killers and mercenaries. It is important for the government to publish the confessions and news of those citizens who were deceived by the slogans of the terrorists and their writings, and were lured by this criminal trend. They know very well how terrorists think and plan. Hence, there are a lot of benefits in such a method, as it will prevent a lot of people who are deceived by the same slogans and religious thoughts, and it will raise their awareness and guide them. Also, it will be a living proof and a real experience, posed for the discussion of the ideas and trends of takfiris and their actions. In the past, the Iraqi television introduced a lot of confessions recorded from the terrorists who were arrested, and who confessed all their crimes and what they were doing, and this revealed to the Iraqi street the extent of criminality and degradation of the takfiris and Jihadi groups, which called themselves Islamic Jihad, although Islam is innocent of them and their thoughts and actions. Most of them were gays who practice homosexuality, which is forbidden by God, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and they were practicing such sinful deeds in the holiest and purest places, namely the mosques. These television programs showed us how these criminals were going astray and how their ideas were absurd and frivolous. It is important to publish all the confessions of the terrorists who have been arrested, and also the confessions of those who repent and return to their senses and to the path of the truth.

  • احمد البطل1996

    2010-9-20

    Hello. How are you?