Jul 15, 2007

Strategic PSYOP in Egypt

An absolute textbook example of Strategic PSYOP:

The guerrilla leader who crafted what became al-Qaeda's guide to jihad is preparing to renounce its extremes, including the killing of innocent civilians, according to his onetime colleagues and his own writings.

Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, an emir, or top leader, of the armed Egyptian movement Islamic Jihad and a longtime associate of al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, is writing his dissent behind prison walls on Egypt's Nile River.

Such jailhouse "revisions," as they are known here, have helped to widen rifts between al-Qaeda and some of its former admirers and have led to the release of thousands of erstwhile Islamic extremists from Egypt's prisons.

"It will be a challenge to al-Qaeda, from someone from inside, who speaks the same language," said Kamal Habib, a former Islamic Jihad leader imprisoned for 10 years after Islamic extremists assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. ...

Fawaz A. Gerges, a Middle East scholar at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, said the revisions "pour fuel on a raging struggle within the jihadist community and . . . challenge the narrative offered by Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden." ...

The main body of Sherif's revision is a tract of no more than 100 pages that Egypt's state security forces and state-allied religious scholars are vetting. Publication is expected to lead to Egypt's release of up to 5,000 former Islamic Jihad members and other activists. ...

Sherif's 1980s book, "Basic Principles in Making Preparations for Jihad," became the theological guide to combat for al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups. In it, he labeled as apostates judges, lawyers, soldiers, police and much of the rest of Egyptian society, casting them as legitimate targets for killing.

The concept of jihad itself is much debated among Muslims. Meaning "struggle," jihad is regarded as a duty that most see as a personal and peaceful commitment to carry out the word of God. For Sherif and others, the struggle remains an armed one. ...

As Egypt's security forces jailed thousands of members of Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Group and other organizations, Egyptian state security officials struggled to discredit their religious rationale for armed attacks, said Allam, the former Egyptian state security director.

In the late 1990s, imprisoned leaders of the Islamic Group issued written revisions that Gerges said amounted to unconditional surrender.

(Retired Gen. Fouad Allam, a former Egyptian state security director) and others promoted the revisions by jailed Islamic leaders, arranging theological debates carried in television programs and newspapers and held in public squares and sports arenas. ...

In a letter faxed from Toura to the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper this year, Sherif pointed to what he called the prohibitions in Islamic law against excesses in jihad and offered what analysts saw as a preview of his revision.

He cited Koranic verse: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress the limits, for God loveth not transgressors."

His letter said Islam forbids killing people solely on the grounds of their nationality, skin color or sect, and it forbids killing innocents.

Persuading influential Muslim clerics to condemn the actions of Osama Bin Laden has been an important part of the U.S. covert war on Islamist terrorism since 9/11.

The effort here to have one of the most radical exemplars of the Islamist movement redefine jihad is an accomplishment that has been years in the making.

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