[ by Charles Cameron — a highest-intensity insult in the jihad among jihadists ]
A significant article is announced:
New from me on al-Qaeda chief Aymen al-Zawarihi's last message and its intended Syrian audience. (Hint: Not Nusrah.) https://t.co/vWy7s5okzN
— Sam Heller (@AbuJamajem) May 20, 2016
Both Will McCants and Cole Bunzel have recommended this article, so you may already have seen it.
Okay, I understand that there are various viewpoints, and hence various different people will make different choices as to which is the key paragraph here. For many, it will be Zawahiri‘s focus on al-Sham.
Indeed, Zawahiri’s new geographic focus happens to align itself with what Abu Musab al-Suri proposed in his Global Islamic Resistance Call — published, perhaps a tad presciently, more than a decade ago in 2004/5 — that (in J-P Filiu‘s phrase, Apocalypse in Islam, p. 189):
It is self-evident to him that the “country of Sham” — Greater Syria, including Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan — looms as the apocalyptic theater par excellence, and that al-Qaida’s strategic conception of global jihad must be reoriented to take into account this final clash.
From my own POV, as someone whose interest is in movements in religious thought, this is the key paragraph:
Zawahri did deliver at least one message aimed at the jihadist base, affirming that the IS’s members are “Khawarij,” a historical Muslim sect of hyper-extremist deviants. Labeling the Islamic State group as such has been controversial within Salafi-jihadism — theorist Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi has resisted it — in part because it requires jihadists to act on the Prophet Muhammad’s prescription for dealing with the Khawarij: “qatl Ad,” or total extermination. Zawahri has now come down firmly on one side of this intra-jihadist debate.
On which topic, see also my November 2015 post here on Zenpundit: Is the Islamic State Islamic? The Yes and No of the matter, and this, from JM Berger in 2014:
Dear ISIS, if it takes 63 pages to explain why you are not Khawarij, you just might be Khawarij. pic.twitter.com/xfwSNt8peJ
— J.M. Berger (@intelwire) December 28, 2014