x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Extremists can't speak for the world's Muslims

Al Qaeda speaks only for itself and has done nothing but harm to the interests of Muslims worldwide.

The younger brother of Al Qaeda's leader has an idea. After protests in some Muslim countries against an Islamophobic film made in the US, Mohammed Al Zawahiri, brother and colleague of Al Qaeda chief Ayman, proposes to negotiate a treaty between the West and the Islamic world.

In return for the United States and its allies ending wars and withdrawing from Muslim countries, Mr Al Zawahiri suggests, Islamic groups would no longer attack Western targets.

What nonsense. The fact that Mr Al Zawahiri doesn't even speak for Al Qaeda, let alone the many other amorphous militant groups in Muslim countries, is a place to start.

What makes his proposition even less sensible is that it presumes, absurdly, that those devoted to violence somehow speak for the 1.5 billion Muslims who live in dozens of nations, each with its own leaders, legislators and diplomats.

In fact some of these governments have more legitimacy now than they have had in many decades. Governments and their leaders, not extremists, speak for the peoples of the Muslim world today.

Mr Al Zawahiri forgets that the Arab Spring represents, ultimately, the vanquishing and repudiation of militancy in all its forms.

In any case, with whom would he negotiate? The nebulous "West" is no more monolithic than the Muslim world and has no organisation that could speak on its behalf. The nearest thing is Nato, which includes Turkey. The Middle East's largest democracy would be surprised to find itself on the "non-Muslim" side of any negotiations.

Beyond all this, it is also worth noting that his avowed goal, the full-scale withdrawal of the western presence from the Muslim world, is directly opposite to the global integration that has raised living standards in the Arabian Peninsula and other parts of the world.

Nor is there merit in his notion that the US military presence in this region is altogether nefarious. US warships are today conducting exercises in the Gulf, working with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others.

Ultimately Al Qaeda, and its acolytes, speak only for themselves and have done nothing but harm to the interests of Muslims worldwide. They are in no position to speak for the Muslim world, and their ideology is in the dustbin of history.