x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Protests prove hypocrisy of al Qa'eda's rhetoric

As Egyptians rose up against president Hosni Mubarak earlier this month, messages of support came from around the globe. Most called for the emergence of a true, grassroots democracy. But one organisation saw Egypt's tumult as a very different kind of opportunity.

As Egyptians rose up against president Hosni Mubarak earlier this month, messages of support came from around the globe. Most called for the emergence of a true, grassroots democracy. But one organisation saw Egypt's tumult as a very different kind of opportunity.

"The doors of martyrdom have opened," read a statement from the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qa'eda's front group in that country. "Your jihad [is] for every Muslim who was touched by the oppression of the tyrant of Egypt, and his masters in Washington and Tel Aviv."

If there was ever any doubt about al Qa'eda's diminished relevance in this era of people power, their statement in support of violence in Egypt settles it.

Al Qa'eda, like other radical Islamist groups, has always argued that injustices in the Muslim world are the result of western interference and oppression. Violence, they've claimed, is the only means to achieve their preferred goal of an Islamic caliphate.

Yet as Egyptians and Tunisians have proven, flags and placards - not suicide vests and roadside bombs - are the best way to elicit reforms. If events of recent weeks have proven anything, it's that al Qa'eda's violent ideology is bankrupt.

"Arabs and Muslims can indeed remove corrupt Arab regimes without violence", says al Qa'eda expert Brian Fishman, "and the United States is not implacably opposed to their removal".

Stung by the speed of revolution, terrorists have struggled for a new message. Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qa'eda's No. 2 and himself an Egyptian, has called on his countrymen to push back against peaceful reforms, warning that democracy can only be nonreligious.

"The reality of Egypt is the reality of deviation from Islam," al Zawahiri said, adding that whatever replaces Mr Mubarak's regime will be worse than before.

We've listened to al Qa'eda and its kin blather for too long. A decade ago, al-Zawahiri's Gama'a al Islamiyya spoke of revolt by killing Egyptians and foreigners. This month should have done more to seal their demise than any war could.

There is still a risk that their vitriol may again find an audience. But for now, voices of reason have triumphed over bombast.