The original writeup
23 July '06: Please see footnote concerning reliability of sources.
Yussuf Al-Ayyeri, aka Abu Muhammad, was one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates, and ''a prolific al Qaeda propagandist''2 up until his death in a gun battle in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last June. Before his death, he wrote a book, ''The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad''. I can't find an ISBN.
The book is published by The Centre for Islamic Research and Studies, a company set up by bin Laden in 1995 with branches in New York and London (now closed.) Over the past eight years the company has published more than 40 books written by Al Qaeda ''thinkers and researchers'' including militants such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ben Laden’s number-two, and some Western converts to the organisation’s radical version of Islam.
All-Ayyeri first made his name in the mid-1990s as a commander of the Farouq camp in eastern Afghanistan where thousands of ''volunteers for martyrdom'' were trained by Al Qaeda and the Taleban.1
The book starts by cataloging the various threats to what Al-Ayyeri sees as the true Islam: starting with modernism, which he blames for the fall of the Caliphate empire, and taking in nationalism, communism, and Ba'athism along the way.
Then he comes to democracy.
What Al Ayyeri sees now is a ''clean battlefield'' in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief.
This, he labels: ''secularist democracy.''
Al Ayyeri asserts that this new threat is ''far more dangerous to Islam'' than all its predecessors combined.1
This is mixed in with what many would call conspiracy theories:
According to al-Ayyiri, the United States and Israel are the leaders of a global anti-Islamic movement -- "Zio-Crusaderism" -- that seeks the destruction of true Islam and dominion over the Middle East. Zio-Crusaderism's most effective weapon is democracy, because popular sovereignty separates religion from the state and thereby disembowels Islam, a holistic religion that has a strong political dimension.2
He then elaborates:
The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy’s ''seductive capacities.'' This form of ''unbelief'' persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the ''unalterable laws'' promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic Shariah (jurisprudence) until the end of time.
The goal of democracy, according to Al Ayyeri, is to ''make Muslims love this world, forget the next world, and abandon Jihad.'' If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity which, in turn, would make Muslims ''reluctant to die in martyrdom'' in defence of their faith.1
Now: please don't think I agree with the title of this node. In any case, I think it was meant to be sarcastic. Nor have I ever agreed with the pathetic ravings of Ann Coulter, and coming from a country with no constitution, I can't help but worry about what John Ashcroft is doing to the American one. And I'm quite aware the U.S. foreign policy has been somewhat less than pure of heart at times.
However, what you have in that book is confirmation, direct from a senior associate of Bin Laden, that secular democracy is in actual fact the primary enemy of al-Qaeda and its various satellite organisations.
So, when George Bush 2.0 says something like this:
... They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed.* They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
He's actually telling the truth. Ask al-Qaeda if you don't believe me.
23 July '06: Sadly, it would appear that Amir Taheri is a 'useful idiot' and well-known fabricator: see http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060703/cohleresses. So I have no idea if anything quoted from his stuff is accurate. I'm leaving this here for the record. Also for the record, AQ's opposition to democratic elections in Palestine and Iraq is nevertheless an established fact, so the main point, I belive, remains.
* TenMinJoe correctly points out that some consider their leaders to be appointed by God, which makes for quite a difference of opinion.
1: Amir Taheri, September 2003, Al Qaeda Leader Fears American Democracy, Not Its War Machine
2: Michael Scott Doran, January/February 2004, Foreign Affairs, The Saudi Paradox
Corrections, notes, counter-points, and constructive remarks gratefully accepted!
Additional thoughts: July 27, 2013
This node has a very bad title. First, 'they' is huge. Secondly, 'us' is also huge. And finally, 'we' are not wonderful.
In the original context, 'we' is the USA or maybe the West; in either case, in recent history we have enough blood on our hands to justify ample hatred; in the Middle East alone the British & Americans enabled the situation in Palestine, and arguably caused the theocracy in Iran. The British are responsible for the Partition of India that continues to cripple relations between nuclear-armed India & Pakistan, and western influence supports continuing injustice in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel & the Palestinian territories, among other places. We are not wonderful, and unfortunately we deserve hatred in many contexts.
'They' as al-Qaeda is described above. But this simplifies & ignores follow-up questions, and it is naive to examine AQ in isolation. How can AQ exist, where does their support come from? For the answer, see the first paragraph of this addendum. Local proximate causes can be extrapolated, linked, and all too easily, the blame laid at the feet of the most powerful nations on earth.
In her book "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill", Jessica Stern ascribes religious militancy to the direct experience of humiliation, poverty, and alienation. It's difficult to conceive of what it's like to live under the eye of a drone in Yemen or Pakistan, or under threat of ethnic cleansing in a shell-shocked nation such as Iraq. The closest I have ever come is the the feelings I remember in the time immediately following September 11, 2001, and that was one single day. How many of us wouldn't burn with hatred, or desire for revenge, if our children, relatives and countrymen were continuously being killed by bombings, day after day after year after year?
Before I finish, I should state the obvious: to understand is not to condone. I don't condone terrorism. But the title under which this writeup lives, bad as it is, is poorly served by my original entry – it takes a desiccated, narrow view in order to rebut something which hardly anyone asserts. Hatred needs to be understood lest we respond in fear or thoughtless retaliation, otherwise a vicious circle quickly appears and reinforces itself. Much of what's wrong with the world today can be boiled down to this. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and, unfortunately, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are testament to that.