Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 36


Dr. Najih Ibrahim, the principal theorist of Egypt’s al-Gama’a al-Islamiya (GI – Islamic Group), has outlined a new future for the GI, Egypt’s most notorious terrorist group in the 1990s and the domestic movement of many Egyptian extremists who went on to form the core leadership of al-Qaeda.

A founding member of the movement, Najih Ibrahim, was released from prison in 2006 in a mass release of 1200 GI members from Egyptian jails. His release followed a 2003 decision by the movement to renounce political violence and the initiation of the “Revisions project”, led by imprisoned GI leader Sayed Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif (a.k.a. Dr. Fadl), once a close associate of al-Qaeda’s Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Revisions project has now spread to other parts of the Arab world, as imprisoned Islamists reexamine their advocacy of political violence and terrorism. Najih Ibrahim discussed the implications of the recent death of Egyptian state security officer, Major General Ahmad Ra’fat al-Tayyib, the sponsor of the Revisions project. The GI ideologue insists that this event will have little impact on the Revisions, as General al-Tayyib’s individual approach to the project has now become state policy. The Revisions initiative is now “a deep-rooted ideology.”

Najih Ibrahim pointed to the recent release of the eldest son of former GI leader, Shaykh Omar Abd al-Rahman (imprisoned in the United States since 1996), as proof of the success of ongoing reconciliation efforts. Shaykh Omar’s son, Muhammad, spent seven years in prison after his arrest in Afghanistan as part of the exiled group of GI hardliners that dominated al-Qaeda’s leadership (al-Masry al-Youm [Cairo], September 5). Muhammad is married to the daughter of the late Shaykh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, another Egyptian Islamist who acted as al-Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan until his death by U.S. missile strike earlier this year (al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 2).

Referring to the aborted Koran burning in Florida and American perceptions of Islam in general, Najih Ibrahim maintains that Americans should learn about Islam “from its sources, and not from the Zionist media or from the behavior of al-Qaeda… The fact is that Bin Laden is not Islam; Islam is greater than Bin Laden, greater than all the Islamist movements, and greater than the behavior of all Muslims.”

Instead of the direct pursuit of power, Najih Ibrahim advocates a policy of “participation, not replacement”:

"The Islamist movement started with the concept of replacement, namely that the Islamists replace the regime. No, let us abandon this concept, and support the concept of participation and cooperation in what is good. Let us leave for the state the sovereignty issues, and we handle Islamic call, education, and the development of society, its progress, educating its ethics and preserving its identity… Whoever the ruler might be, we will not clash with him. We will cooperate with him in what is good. What we can change in a kind way, and by good word, we will change, and what we cannot will be beyond our ability."

Najih Ibrahim says the GI believes Islamists should abandon the idea of seizing power, as the goal is unrealistic. “If they achieve power, they will be forced to relinquish it by the regional and international powers,” Ibrahim said. He warns Islamists that they will be put under siege and subjected to negative portrayals in the media and economic blockades that will make payment of government salaries or alleviation of poverty impossible. Najih Ibrahim even considers participation in the People’s Assembly elections undesirable, saying the funds used for election campaigns could be better used to support the 4,000 orphaned children of deceased GI members and the 12 GI members still under sentence of death in Egyptian prisons. He holds little hope for change at the executive level, saying presidential elections will be “only a formality” that will lead to the re-election of President Hosni Mubarak or his son, Jamal Mubarak. “It will not be anyone other than one of these two,” Ibrahim believes. Najih Ibrahim warns of the danger posed to the Islamist movement by secularists who are eager to push the Islamists into confrontation with the ruling power. After doing so, the secularists then turn “into the followers and entourage of the ruler; they climb over our skulls and wounds, they take control of media, culture and everything and leave us to go to prisons and detention camps as usual.”


Engineer Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Afghanistan’s Hizb-i-Islami and a former prime minister of the country, recently outlined his views on the future of the Afghan conflict, the jihad in Pakistan, the role of al-Qaeda, the legitimacy of suicide attacks and other issues (Geo News TV, September 15). [1]

The fate of Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Masood at the hands of Algerian “journalists” in 2001 is never far from the minds of Afghan political leaders, so to protect Hekmatyar’s security the interview with Pakistan’s Geo News TV was carried out by sending Hekmatyar a videotape containing questions and receiving a videotape carrying replies in return.

Hekmatyar sees most parties to the current conflict in Afghanistan coming out weaker as a result of the war. Iran and Pakistan have become embroiled in their own difficulties, while even al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban are not in a position to aid the Afghan mujahideen as they did in the past. Afghanistan’s own Northern Alliance has “disintegrated,” while other proxy groups used by Russia and the United States have become “diluted”. “The United States and its allies will have to face a similar fate after the evacuation from Afghanistan as the Soviet Union did. They will neither be able to do what they did after the 9/11 incident, nor what they did after Soviet Union’s withdrawal [when] they created the Northern Alliance in collaboration with Russia, which blocked the establishment of an Islamic government by the mujahideen.” Iran, however, is accused by Hekmatyar of cooperating with the United States while pretending to be its opponent. As a result, “Iran never had the level of influence in Afghanistan’s internal affairs as it has now.”

Surprisingly, Hekmatyar appealed to the Taliban of Pakistan to abandon their fight against the government of Asif Ali Zardari and devote their energies to driving out the foreign troops based in Afghanistan. Should the current situation change in Pakistan, the direction of its mujahideen could be refocused. “If the occupying forces attack Pakistan or any other Muslim country, it will become obligatory on all Muslims to support the Pakistani mujahideen. No doubt, the supporters of infidels [i.e. the Islamabad government] are also violating the teachings of Islam, but we need to differentiate between the bigger and smaller enemies and adopt different approaches in dealing with them.” Hekmatyar claims Afghan president Hamid Karzai does not have the authority to negotiate a withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces from Afghanistan. Instead, he offers a plan prepared by his party entitled Milli Meesaq (the National Charter), which he claims is supported by a majority of Afghan politicians.

The veteran Islamist warlord claims there is little chance of al-Qaeda re-establishing itself in Afghanistan, though he says their presence has been exaggerated to justify the aggression of the Western nations. “There are no al-Qaeda centers or warriors in Afghanistan anymore. The Western countries themselves have accepted that the number of al-Qaeda warriors in Afghanistan is less than 100. Is it possible that 150,000 troops equipped with modern weapons have been fighting for nine years to kill 100 warriors?”

Nevertheless, Hekmatyar advocates tactics closely associated with al-Qaeda, including attacking religious scholars who oppose suicide attacks as “pro-government opportunists.” Other than those who carry out strikes against mosques, those who give their lives in suicide attacks will be “well rewarded by God.” When asked if responsibility for 9/11 lay with al-Qaeda, the Jews or the Americans, Hekmatyar said he believed al-Qaeda was responsible, “because the Jews cannot prepare such committed people who can sacrifice their lives in suicide attacks.”


1. Engineer is used as a professional title in Central Asia along the same lines as “Doctor.”