Beyond the elementary reasons in considering the value of challenging al-Qaeda’s asymmetric system of ideological warfare certain counter offences need to be set. Working off of al-Qaeda’s own critical commentary and evaluation of jihad, which first surfaced after the September 11th attacks on the U.S., a window of opportunity has opened in understanding where Salafi vulnerability lies.
The jihadi intellectual cost-benefit scenario, framed for our purposes as, “does terrorism help or harm interests,” offers the counter-terrorist community a chance to form policy based on al-Qaeda’s own criticism against certain elements of jihad. It should be underlined here that the Salafi dialogue over jihad is meant to refine and improve the action; the question they pose is not if but rather how.
Recently Dr. Fadl, one of the chief architects of al-Qaeda’s global jihad manifesto, began questioning the killing of non-commandants and Muslim by-standers. The basis for this introspection is a concern that Salafists may loose support from the Muslim street in the wake of an unprecedented wave of suicide attacks in the Middle East against “women and innocent civilians.”
Dr. Fadl’s remarks were first made public in the Al Masri Al Youm and Al Jarida newspapers (November, 2007). The foremost concern here is that support once enjoyed by al-Qaeda from greater Muslim communities will decline leaving in its place a natural, home grown rejection of the Salafi objectives. In his writings Dr. Fadl stipulates conditions under which jihad may be declared. His statements not only negate the requirements used by al-Qaeda but also the reasoning the group employees in targeting the West. (The Rebellion Within: An Al Qaeda Mastermind Questions Terrorism, Lawrence Wright. The New Yorker)
Prior to Dr. Fadl’s diatribe against certain al-Qaeda actions, Abu Musa`b al-Suri, another leading Salafi intellect published a robust study on international jihad titled, Da`wat al-muqawama al-Islamiyya al-`alamiyya (The Call for Global Islamic Resistance). The book’s main objective was also written to cultivate and inspire future jihadi fighters.
In doing so Suri highlighted certain errors which had been made by jihadists. It is within this jihadi intellectual fold that the anti-terror policy community has been given a unique opportunity to advance itself in the “war of ideas”. Through an intimate understanding of the jihadi debate, policy can be established to off set the support needed by al-Qaeda. (Al-Qaeda Faces an Ideological Crisis, Amr Hamzawy. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)