In response to a complaint by a jihadi internet forum member describing al-Qaeda’s declining popularity, entitled "Why did nobody listen to Osama?", forum participants refuted the claim while revealing the support al-Qaeda receives in financial and other forms from Muslim sympathizers responding to Osama bin Laden’s calls for jihad (al-Boraq.info, February 1).
The posting by a jihadi forum member nicknamed Abu Ibrahim reproached Arabs and Muslims for not answering al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s call for jihad during the 22-day Israeli war on Gaza. Abu Ibrahim said bin Laden urged the Islamic umma (community) to defend Gaza and send donations to al-Qaeda, but nobody volunteered to fight in Gaza nor did any money flow to al-Qaeda. "Negligence of al-Qaeda’s pleas has become the normal pattern. Dr. Zawahiri speaks at least once a week, instigating the Islamic umma to carry out attacks and inflict destruction on the enemy, but the umma no longer accepts al-Qaeda rhetoric," says Abu Ibrahim, asserting that Gazans do not want an al-Qaeda presence in Gaza in order to avoid a second war between Hamas and al-Qaeda. Abu Ibrahim ends his posting by saying, "Let the shaykh speak as he wishes. Let Doctor Zawahiri speak once, twice or ten times every week; we are still trying to understand [al-Qaeda’s] real objectives, but we will only do what is best for our people."
Abu Ibrahim is a frequent participant in jihadi forums and supports all jihadis in general, but is critical of al-Qaeda’s performance in different parts of the world. In other postings Abu Ibrahim accused al-Qaeda of losing focus and committing heinous acts: "I think we are seeing two types of al-Qaeda today – one led by al-Zawahiri that endorses massacres such as in Morocco, and another helpless type of al-Qaeda led by bin Laden." Other forum participants responded quickly to Abu Ibrahim’s skeptical view of al-Qaeda and his claim that its reputation was deteriorating among Muslims. A forum participant nicknamed Ibn Ninawa challenged this notion, saying that many people furtively support Shaykh Osama and donate money to al-Qaeda. The jihad operations incited by bin Laden take a lot of planning and do not happen overnight, says Ninawa, who further asserts that the appearances of al-Zawahiri please the Salafi-Jihadis and encourage more al-Qaeda operations in different parts of the world, such as the Arabian Peninsula and Yemen. Ninawa is confident al-Qaeda’s Salafi-Jihadi ideology is prevailing among Islamists, giving examples such as the Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen in Somalia, the Taliban in Pakistan, and other fronts that will open soon, as promised by bin Laden. Ibn Ninawa is a frequent participant in jihadi forums and a strong advocate of al-Qaeda.
Concerning al-Qaeda’s funding, other participants said there are businessmen in the Arabian Peninsula that send significant amounts of money to jihad on a regular basis: "The alms (zakat) they pay amounts to millions of dollars. Many financial contributors to jihad are former jihadis who succeeded in making good business and benefiting from some governments’ rehabilitation programs designated to neutralize extremists." Ibn Ninawa did not reveal what governments he was referring to, but affirmed that he personally knows some of those businessmen: "Our Shaykh Osama has spent billions of dollars on jihad and now, after his assets were frozen, he set up new business projects under many pseudonyms. Osama is benefitting from these businesses that work for him day and night, besides the money donated by sympathizers." Ninawa added that the smallest amount of cash a jihadi carries to a mission amounts to no less than ten thousand dollars. After the U.S. strikes against al-Qaeda, jihadis in bin Laden’s camps, under the protection of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, spread over countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Philippines. This does not include countries where clandestine al-Qaeda sleeper cells reside.
Rejecting Abu Ibrahim’s claims, another forum participant noted that the number of hits the jihadi website muslm.net received on a bin Laden speech entitled "The Way to Abort the Conspiracies" exceeded five million. The chatters argued that it is not al-Qaeda that brought U.S. forces and destruction to Iraq, but rather the alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein. Finally, some forum members said that al-Qaeda is only one branch of the holy war against the tyrants and apostates who do not rule by the Islamic Shari’a – al-Qaeda supports all jihadis, not only the adherents of its Salafi-Jihadi ideology.
The declining popularity of al-Qaeda, at least in Iraq, was evident in a statement released by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (al-Qaeda’s Amir in Iraq) calling on his followers to soften their terror methods to regain the support of Iraqi Sunni tribes in al-Anbar province (alboraq.info January 31). In the statement distributed in al-Anbar mosques, al-Muhajir presented a new strategy designed to perpetuate al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq:
Fiercely attack the enemies and intensify attacks against the occupiers. Cut and blow up their communication lines, destroy the bridges and roads they use, but don’t interfere in social issues such as women’s head cover[s], satellite dishes and other controversial social issues until further notice. Be careful not to kill Sunni civilians who didn’t support apostate tribesmen. Concentrate your efforts on killing the real enemy to avoid starting new battlefronts with Sunni Arabs and don’t close the door of repentance in the face of those who turned against us.