More Clerics, in Another Firing Line

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 1 Issue: 9

In the last edition of Terrorism Focus we featured how clerics were in the firing line from Muslims liberals. Now they have come in for some stick from the jihadist leaders.

On November 17 a letter of ‘advice and pity for my brothers who are holding back from jihad’, penned by Shaikh Sultan bin Bajad al-Utaybi ‘Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Athari’ (one of the 26 names remaining on the ‘most wanted’ list in Saudi Arabia), was posted on al-Qaeda’s Sawt al-Jihad website, (the tape was subsequently relayed on the jihadist forums, including Al-Ma’sada, which provided seven URL links to the audio). In it, he condemned those Muslims, both youth and among the Arab leaders, who have done nothing to support the Jihad.

A few days later Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, believed to have escaped from his headquarters in Fallujah before the U.S. assault, took up the theme. On a audiotape posted on the al-Ma’sada forum ( on November 24, he laments how the Sunni mosque outside Iraq has “let us down in the darkest circumstances and handed us over to the enemy … You have quit supporting the mujahideen. Hundreds of thousands of the nation’s sons are being slaughtered at the hands of the infidels because of your silence.” By preventing the youth “from heading to the battlefields in order to defend the religion,” al-Zarqawi continues, “you made peace with the tyranny and handed over the countries and the people to the Jews and Crusaders!”

Like Al-Utaybi, one commentator on the same jihadi forum laments the “spectator mujahidin” watching “the tiny sparrow fight the enormous eagle, like cheerleaders on the sidelines of a football match, losing heart at the apparent defeat” ( But the deafening silence from the official Sunni mosque outside Iraq does appear to be taking its toll on ideological morale, and points to a fear that the momentum is fading from the resistance in Iraq. ‘Victory may be being delayed”, says another contributor on the Al-Saqifa forum (, “due to God’s wisdom, since the structure of the Believing Nation is not yet mature nor complete, its energies not harnessed, its cells not readied or collected together to form the greatest accumulation of force and preparedness.”

While Iraq is still seen as the best arena for jihad, the negative developments for the mujahideen in Fallujah have started to refocus minds. This has already happened in Afghanistan where al-Qaeda is reported to have sent out a call for recruits to come to Afghanistan in order to reverse that country’s momentum toward democracy, given that the Taliban campaign to prevent elections failed. Fears that the elections in Iraq will go ahead as planned, and make the case of the mujahideen to represent the legitimate will of Iraqis more difficult to sustain, may be causing a similar rethink.

(The full translated text of Al-Utaybi’s declaration can be found at