Author(s): GILLES KEPEL
By the end of 2001, an e-book by Dr Ayman al- Zawahiri, the famous Egyptian MD and the paramount ideologue of Al Qaeda, entitled Knights under the Prophet’s Banner , was circulated online. It explained the rationale for 9/11: a substitute for the radical Islamists’ failure to mobilise the masses in the guerrilla Jihads in Egypt, in Algeria, in Bosnia, in Cashmere, and in Chechnya in the 1990s, where they had tried to duplicate the Afghan Jihad of the 1980s. That failure induced Al Qaeda to change strategy, to focus on the ‘faraway enemy’ and not the near enemy. The latter was impersonated by the so-called Apostate rulers, the lackeys of the West, the ‘Pharaohs’, the Mubaraks of this world. It had proved difficult to mobilise the masses against them, since their “apostasy” was not obvious – on the surface they still looked like Muslims, bore Muslim names, and had scores of religious scholars to legitimise them. Mobilising against the impious Americans looked far clearer from an ideological point of view, particularly if they were likened to the Israelis with whom they were allied: striking at the United States was a means to fight a “legitimate” and crystal-clear Jihad, and to expose America as a giant with clay feet. Hitting New York and Washington was also a means of reviving by proxy Islamist confidence in their struggle against their apostate rulers at home.