Online Exchange between Mustafa Hamid and Saif Al-'Adl Represents New Wave of Internal Jihadi Criticism

Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 707,  July 14, 2011

By: R. Green*

Over recent months, jihadi discourse has witnessed an intriguing phenomenon in the form of an online exchange between prominent jihad writer Mustafa Hamid, also known as Abu Al-Walid Al-Masri, a longtime critic of Al-Qaeda, and one of the organization's most senior operatives, Saif Al-'Adl. The debate between the two provided Hamid with a new opportunity to criticize Al-Qaeda's overall strategy of open war with the U.S., as well as its specific tactics, most notably the 9/11 attacks. Saif Al-'Adl responded to this criticism by defending Al-Qaeda in articles that appeared on Hamid's website. Like Hamid, Saif Al-'Adl has also criticized some of the decisions made by Al-Qaeda's leadership, including its management of jihad in Afghanistan and its decision to directly confront the U.S. by carrying out attacks on its own soil. He also voiced criticism of Osama bin Laden's leadership of the organization. It should be noted that Hamid represents a rather unique position within the jihadi community, one focused less on ideology and religious matters than strategic concerns; he does not subscribe to a Salafi creed like most in the jihadi community. With that in mind, his views as presented in the following document should not be taken to reflect a wider tendency in the global jihad movement. The exchange between the two was, in fact, largely ignored in the online jihadi community, where Hamid is considered a persona non grata. The Ansar Al-Mujahideen Arabic forum suspended Hamid's membership after he published an article calling for Al-Qaeda to be disbanded. The forum's administrators wrote to him: "You have been suspended from the website for the following reason: there is no room for the tails [i.e., lackeys] of Rafidite Zoroastrians [derogatory terms for Shi'ite Iranians] on an Islamic jihadi website."

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