On July 17, al-Qaeda in Iraq issued a death threat to the Egyptian author Dr. Sayyid Mahmud al-Qimny, famous for his historical and anthropological works examining critically the origins of Islam. The text of the threatening letter, given in a report by the Arabic liberal website Shaffaf al-Sharq al-Awsat, stated how a team of five assassins had been gathered for the purpose of “ripping his head off” in order to “cleanse their own sins through his blood”. It added that he was now “one of the walking dead” and “prey to the Lions of Islam,” from “the bullet of a passing car or a nearby rooftop.” The declaration gave the author a week to “repent and repudiate his acts of disbelief which he had openly put to writing” in the Roz al-Yusuf newspaper which had published his works. This, the author has agreed to do [www.metransparent.com].
Such targeting of an influential liberal author comes at a time of increased sensitivity from al-Qaeda in Iraq to coverage from the Arab media, or what the movement perceives as lack of sufficient support for their cause. A recent message sent to the al-Qal’a forum [www.qal3ati.net] consisted of a request that readers provide details of all journalists who publish materials injurious to the cause of the mujahideen. Chief among the commentator’s bugbears were the Arabic satellite channels Al-Arabiyya (which it pejoratively labelled Al-‘Ibriyya, ‘the Hebrew’); Al-‘Iraqiyya, Al-Jazeera (terming it Al-Khinzeera, ‘the Sow’) and “the Shi’ite channel” Al-Furat — “all of them channels of corruption serving the apostates…”
“These need to be slaughtered,” the posting read, “where are the slaughterers?” It went on to proscribe the entire Egyptian press: “all of them without exception, even those journalists calling themselves Islamists”, and even included in the list women’s magazines. It then published a detailed list of individual journalists, “all of whom are secular, and former communists. We ask the mujahideen to make preparations to assassinate these agents and enemies of the Faith, since they are the mouthpieces of the Crusader and Jewish occupation.” The one exception was made for Tayseer al-Allouni, the Syrian journalist currently on trial in Spain for alleged links to al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has long been highly sensitive to media coverage and the commentaries of liberal thinkers. In the past, journalists from Arabic media channels working in Iraq have been attacked or killed for using the term ‘terrorist’ to denote the Islamic resistance. But this posting, and the threat to Sayyid al-Qimni, are the first indications of a potential strategy to widen the terror against the media outside Iraq. The targeting of authors was explicitly suggested as an option in the strategy document Idarat al-Tawahhush (The Management of Barbarism). It posited the advantages of such action: “If two apostate authors are simultaneously liquidated in two different countries,” the document explained, “it will require the security for thousands of writers in the Islamic world.” This, the treatise explains, is part of the strategy “to variegate targeting in all parts of the Islamic world and beyond it” [see Terrorism Focus, Volume II, Issue 6].