ACD Book Excerpt: The Afghanistan Beginning
By J. Millard Burr
Friday, May 31st, 2013 @ 2:40PM
This is a must read for anyone interested in the role of Afghanistan in the rise of todays’ global Islamist terrorist movement. The entire book — can be found here on ACD’s website.
The Afghanistan Beginning
The history of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion can be dated from the 1960s and the intersecting lives of three members of the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, or simply Ikhwan): Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. These three Islamist military leaders led the most active mujahideen forces that emerged following the Soviet invasion.
In the 1960s, Sayyaf and Rabbani studied at Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest religious university and the dominant institution of Sunni scholarship, headquartered in Cairo, Egypt. In contrast, Hekmatyar graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Kabul. Each of these three educated Afghans was acquainted with and had been greatly influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb. Indeed, the Egyptian Salafist had a major impact on the faculty of sharia at the University of Kabul. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan increased the drift to Islamist radicalism that was occurring in that country and throughout the Muslim world with elements of Qutb’s writing, especially those found in hisMilestones diatribe, helping to sustain the most humble of mujahideen. Qutb’s argument that the Muslim community was “buried under the debris of man-made traditions of several generations,” and oppressed by the weight of false laws and customs, was accepted by many. And it took little effort to convince the mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan that an epoch of revival and regeneration based on the Salafist ideal was at hand.
Not only were Qutb’s writings read and revered in mosques and madrassas, the epic of the Mongol invasion anathematized by Sheikh ul-Islam Taqi ad-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiya (1263-1328) was revived. Taymiya, a legal scholar, had justified the Muslim right of revolt against a government judged to be heterodox and impure. Intellectually, he opposed the influence of Hellenic philosophy on Islam, and in a noted work, al-Siyassa al-Shar’iya (Political Legitimacy), he sought the renewal of Islam and its integration into the totality of a Muslim’s daily life. In Arabia, Taymiya had a determining influence on Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1787) and on Wahhabi doctrine, which dominates present-day Saudi Arabia. And more than six hundred years after his death, Taymiya’s work served as the guidebook for such revolutionaries as Sheikh Abdallah Azzam, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as intellectuals like Hassan al-Turabi and Rachid Ghannouchi, all of whom were bent on the elimination of secular–and thus impure–Muslim societies.
The Islamist leaders who emerged from the war in Afghanistan neither accepted nor rejected the traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence. They were beyond that. Intellectuals like Turabi the Sudanese and Ghannouchi the Tunisian did not define themselves as Sunna, Sufi or Shi’a; they did not seek the end of history; instead, they hoped to blaze a new path steeped in the Salafist ideal. They were, however, not entirely its captive, and while devoted to the prospect of an Islamic revival, the leadership was also devoted to the resolution of contemporary issues. The renaissance demanded much from its followers–from outreach, or dawa, to direct and indirect combat against the enemies of Islam, or jihad. It was, however, an appealing viewpoint in a Muslim World that had soured on secular politics, and their movement attracted university students and professional men as well as the religious faithful.
Organizing the Jihad
In addition to Qutb and Taymiya, the Afghan-Arab movement was influenced by a third intellectual, Sheikh Abdallah Azzam. His 1983 essay, “Towards an International Strategy for Islamic Policy,” provided mujahideen a guidebook “to establish the Islamic state.” Azzam was an organizer of no mean ability, and he was adept at using institutions to achieve his ends. In the beginning, Muslim charities could barely keep pace with personnel and logistic demands once the mujahideen began arriving from all points of the globe. To overcome these obstacles, he organized and then led an umbrella charitable commission created in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier and already a refugee-clogged city.(1) Within two years, the organization was functioning smoothly, and when King Fahd succeeded as ruler of Saudi Arabia in 1982, he saw no reason to reduce Saudi support. If anything, funding for Azzam and Muslim charities increased, and despite the questionable use of those charities to directly support combat operations, no opprobrium was attached to Azzam’s dealings.
When Osama Bin Laden arrived in Peshawar in late December 1979, the young man was an unknown quantity. He was committed, energetic and inquisitive, but was hardly sufficiently experienced to take organizational command of the burgeoning jihad in Afghanistan. In Peshawar, Bin Laden received the tutelage of Abdullah Azzam, a noted Muslim Brother and his former professor at Saudi Arabia’s Abdul Aziz University. Thanks to Azzam and to the protection provided by the mujahideen commanders, who likewise had a long association with the international Muslim Brotherhood, Bin Laden was able to make a quick study of the situation in Afghanistan. Upon his return to Saudi Arabia he preached jihad to his social circle and at various mosques while working closely with the Saudi royal family in pursuance of its interests.
In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, the private sector also contributed substantial funding for the war effort. Among its more noteworthy leaders was Salem Bin Laden, the respected head of the Bin Laden family and its business empire, and older brother of Osama. Considered to be among King Fahd’s “two closest friends,” Salem Bin Laden’s influence on Osama was unquestioned.(2) Additionally, the Afghan-Arab leadership could count on the support of at least two major Saudi banks, the Dar al-Mal al-Islami (founded in 1981) and the Dallah al-Baraka (founded in 1982). In addition, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, an Islamic bank, was especially helpful in moving funds to mujahideen operating from Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad.
In Afghanistan, the Islamist movement created by Azzam was until 1988 united in a single purpose, the defeat of the Soviet invaders. At what moment the mujahideen leaders eased the bond that bound them to the war in Afghanistan and began to consider the feasibility of a worldwide jihad can only be guessed. Certainly, within the fighting forces led by Sayyaf, Rabbani and Hekmatyar there were ethnic minorities ready to spread jihad into the Soviet republics of Central Asia and into India’s Kashmir.
Rabbani, a Tajik born in 1940 in Faizabad, headed the Jamiat-e-Islami(Islamic Society of Afghanistan) composed in the main by Tajiks and Uzbeks. In contrast, Hekmatyar, a Kharoti Pashtun born in Kunduz in 1947, formed the Hezb-e-Islami while in exile in Pakistan in the nineteen seventies. Dominated by Pashtun from eastern Afghanistan, it was the largest of the mujahideen forces and was closely tied to the Pakistan military, the Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Block, or JI) of Pakistan, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, and to Islamist entities operating in Kashmir. Finally, Sayyaf founded the Ittehad-e-Islami (Islamic Union), which was centered in Paghman Province near Kabul. It was closely tied to and financed by the international Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia.
Despite nearly a decade of combat, there was still no unifying political movement around which the three warlords could rally. And no other entity existed, other than the Pakistani military, which seemed willing to spearhead an expansionist Islamist policy beyond Afghanistan’s borders. The international Muslim Brotherhood was too feeble, and though Iran served as home to nine disparate Afghan Shia mujahideen groups, it had little influence. It did, however, sponsor the formation of the Hezb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party) in 1990, but the movement, like the Afghan Shia themselves, was never important.
Zawahiri secretly opposed Azzam and may have actually been responsible for his assassination. Although fanatically opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, he had no interest in joining the interminable battle for Afghanistan. Rather, he was determined to eliminate the Egyptian military dictatorship and replace it with an Islamist government. After his arrival in Peshawar in 1985, he had a strong influence on Osama Bin Laden, and was said to have radicalized the latter’s thinking. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, Zawahiri was ready to leave the country and continue his jihad against the “Pharaoh” in Cairo. To that end, he was determined to employ his cohort of Egypt Islamic Jihad mujahideen fiercely loyal to him.
Hutaifa Azzam, Abdallah Azzam’s son, has claimed that Osama Bin Laden broke with his father in 1987 over the direction of the Afghan-Arab movement. By then, Bin Laden had begun to consider creating an organization to train Afghan-Arabs to take jihad into the heartland of theDar al-Islam. He started by building the Lion’s Den training camp in Jaji, Afghanistan. In contrast to Azzam who “advocated a traditional, fundamentalist interpretation” of Jihad that required the reconquest of the Dar al-Islam (in Europe and Palestine), Bin Laden had other ideas. In the place of the MAK he would create a secret organization with a decided purpose–perpetual jihad against the West and the enemies of Islam.
Some have argued that by 1987, Bin Laden and Azzam had split over the aims and ambitions of the Islamist movement in a post-Afghanistan war. However, it is clear that near the end of the war Bin Laden was inspired to create his own charitable institution distinct from the MAK. In late 1987, Adel Batterjee (Batargy), a personal associate of Bin Laden, laid the foundation and was named president of the Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiya (Islamic Benevolence Committee), a charity personally controlled by Bin Laden. Located in Peshawar, Abu Rida al-Suri and Abu Hajer al-Iraqi, key figures in Bin Laden’s organization, would serve as officials. The charity then opened branches in Saudi Arabia and began a collection campaign. Its raison d’etre was simple: to support jihadists and help move them to and from Pakistan. To that end, it often provided citizenship papers and passports. The charity was already active in August 1988 when Bin Laden and his associates formed the al-Qaedaorganization. Al-Qaeda’s own financial committee then created an income stream abetted by like-minded banks, businesses, charities and mosques. In short order, al-Qaeda was reported to have infiltrated at least a fifth of all Islamic governmental organizations, and they provided yet another source of funding.
In Afghanistan, Bin Laden was ever more influenced by his friend Ayman al-Zawahiri. In 1986, he arrived in Peshawar, making no effort to hide his determination to continue the jihad into Egypt. Within months, the two were surrounded by friends equally determined to extend the jihad to Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and anywhere governed by secular forces.(3) At what moment Bin Laden chose the path of perpetual jihad is not known, but he must have been influenced by Azzam who sponsored theal-Khilafah (Caliphate, or Islamic State), the first movement that united jihadists from many Arab nations in one command in 1983 in Peshawar. Active in the so-called “tribal” regions of the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands, it was also said to have been the first organization to have internationalized the Arab Salafist tendency. Nothing concrete came out of it, but it likely served to influence both Osama Bin Laden and Hassan al-Turabi.
Bin Laden’s first move to unite the Afghan-Arab mujahideen in a single movement was reportedly initiated in Afghanistan in February 1988. There Bin Laden, Zawahiri of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Rahman Khalil of Ansar Pakistan, the Islamist Bangladeshi Abdul Salem Muhammad, and Abu Yassir Ahmed Taha, representing Arab North Africa (the Maghreb), agreed to coordinate their efforts to continue their jihad through an “Islamic Struggle Front.”(4)
That gathering was followed on 20 August 1988 by a meeting of Islamist Afghan-Arabs held at Bin Laden’s compound in the Faruq training camp, located near Khost, Afghanistan. The gathering lasted three days, and when it concluded, at least fifteen “brothers” pledged their devotion to Allah and took the bay’a, an oath of allegiance as old as Islam itself, to follow in the ways of Islam and defend Osama Bin Laden. The initiates, all devoted to a worldwide jihad, formed their own shura (ruling council), created a religious council to guide its activity, and issued a fatwa(religious edict) declaring war on the West. The organization, nameless in the beginning, would eventually become known to the world as al-Qaeda.
In a document dated 10 September 1988 the following oath taken byal-Qaeda members appears:
“The pledge of God and His covenant is upon me, to listen and obey the superiors, who are doing this work, in energy, early-rising, difficulty, and easiness, and for His superiority upon us, so that the word of God will be the highest, and His religion victorious.”(5)
Doubtless Bin Laden was familiar with the hadith (oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the prophet Mohammed) that ordered: “If anyone comes to you while you are united under one man (leader) and he desires to break your unity or divide your group, then kill him.”(6)
Without question, the superior was Osama Bin Laden, and his “Svengali” was Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Almost certainly, the ruthless Zawahiri was willing to kill if required. Still, there was no doubt that Bin Laden was the organization’s leader. First, he was wealthy. Standing on its own, only a very wealthy man with very wealthy allies would be capable of funding a worldwide organization. While official Saudi funding was drying up, there were still funds that could be obtained from the many foreign charities that had worked with the MAK. As for arms and transport, only the Pakistan ISI was in a position to ensure the military supply line the organization needed to survive. Yet only Turabi seemed able to offer Bin Laden the home he needed to organize. Second, he played a crucial role in the activity of the advisory council and the financial committee that were created. And while Bin Laden prepared his move to the Sudan, his organization’s council and financial committee continued to operate from the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands when he returned home to Saudi Arabia.
The Conference Ideal
Saudi Arabia “took pride and credit” in being first to call for a conference of Muslim leaders to condemn the Soviet invasion. In fact, the royal family had already made its decision to fund the jihad prior to the opening of an emergency session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) held in Islamabad, Pakistan in January 1980. Despite Saudi Arabia’s high expectations, the initial response was surprisingly tepid. Syria and South Yemen refused to attend, and Libya and the PLO refused to censure the Soviet Union. Still, the OIC did condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and thirty-five Muslim nations took part in what was a notable moment in the history of that feckless Muslim assembly. Most importantly, Saudi Arabia began its financial support of mujahideen with up to $100 million a year, and Pakistan offered the military leadership that was absolutely essential to the Afghan jihad.(7)
When the Soviets departed nearly a decade later, Saudi sources were said to have provided $2 billion in total funding. What percentage of that total came from the Saudi royal family and what percentage from other donors is unknown, but certainly Bin Laden, like other wealthy Saudis, had not been hesitant to pledge his own resources to the movement.
The OIC session was the first of three meetings held in 1980 that together accelerated the Muslim reaction to the Soviet invasion. A second gathering, and one that received far less publicity, was held at Lahore, Pakistan later that year. It involved, in secret session, a conference of radical Islamists about which very little was revealed. Only much later was it learned that its “stated goal and central resolution” was the creation of a “Great Islamic Republic” that would unite the Middle East by the year 2000.(8) The elimination of Jews and Christians from the region was central to that goal. Given the character of the war in Afghanistan, it is likely the meeting was hosted by the powerful Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Block; often referred to as Jamaat or JI), an Islamist organization that traced its roots to British India. Founded in Pakistan by Maulana Abdul Ala Maududi (1905-1979), it was an organization allied with the international Muslim Brotherhood. The Jamaat was already committed to the jihad and sponsored the travel of mujahideen to the induction centers found along the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier.
It is quite possible that the Lahore gathering was attended by Peshawar resident Sheikh Abdallah Azzam and his young protege Osama Bin Laden. Azzam was then in the process of uniting the various Afghan resistance forces, an effort that led to the creation of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan (Ittihad-e-Islami Barai Azadi Afghanestan), a “coalition of three Islamic and three moderate organizations” led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.(9) Azzam himself had long been tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and was known to have been invited by the like-minded Jamaat to teach in Pakistan. Bin Laden also had ties to the Ikhwan, having joined the organization while still a student in Saudi Arabia, but he had yet to build a relationship either with theJamaat or the Pakistan military, something that would be done over time.
A third conference, having little direct impact other than to provide publicity for European Muslim support for the jihad in Afghanistan, was held in London in April. Dominated by what had been a moribund Muslim Brotherhood, it did much to spark an Ikhwan revival throughout Europe.
In the 20th century, there have been innumerable Islamic conferences, most of which have resulted in prolongedkaffeeklatsch involving likeminded individuals more concerned with words than deeds. Those that have made a serious impact on the Muslim world–whether political, economic or social–are minimal. The modern history of European conferences involving Muslim intellectuals dates to 1913, when the first Arab Nationalist Congress was held in Paris. Thereafter, both in Europe and the Middle East, subsequent congresses “revolved around political rather than doctrinal matters.”(10) Among the earliest and longest lived Muslim organizations is the World Muslim Congress founded in Makka in 1926. Its first meeting was chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz ibn Saud who was then seeking to legitimize his rule and to gain acceptance for his custody of Islam’s holiest sites.(11) A subject of particular concern was Mandatory Palestine, a region split by the British in 1922 into an Arab and a Jewish Mandate using the Jordan River as a boundary. The Arabs were granted East Palestine or Transjordan, and opposed the setting aside of Palestine west of the Jordan as the site of a Jewish national homeland.
Following the “Wailing Wall” riots of 1929, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Amin al-Husayni called for a meeting of Muslim leaders, and the General Islamic Conference was convened in Jerusalem in December 1931 with 130 delegates from 22 countries attending. The Muslim Brotherhood, then an emerging Islamic movement founded in Egypt and having international pretensions, would later claim there were at least 400 delegates, including representatives of the Brotherhood. Specifically designed to focus attention on the Palestine problem, the Conference was noteworthy insofar as attendees focused on Jewish immigration and that topic supplanted the former preoccupation with strictly “colonial” and nationalist issues. The Jerusalem conference, like the meeting in Makka, had little lasting impact. In just a few months, “the standing committees of the Congress had dissolved” and a major effort to fund a Muslim University at Jerusalem was discarded. Still, the “Jewish Question” was perdurable and would consume future generations of Arab leaders.
The Islamic Conference of Europe, convened in Geneva in September 1935, was notable for the presence of Beirut-educated Shakib Arslan (1869-1946). A pupil of the noted scholar Muhammad Abduh, Arslan first visited Europe in 1892. Six years later, he was in Damascus and stood alongside Kaiser Wilhelm II when the German leader declared that “Germany was the protector of 300 million Muslims.” Arslan adopted the Ottoman cause and served as its envoy to Germany from 1917-1918. In the 1930s, he served as the dominant intellectual in the budding Arab nationalist movement active from Iraq to Morocco. He then emerged “as a staunch advocate of Muslim fundamentalism,” securing a lasting tie with the Muslim Brotherhood
The next important meeting, the World Muslim Congress (WMC), was held in 1937 in Bludan, Syria, and attended by 400 delegates who feverishly debated the Peel Commission report issued in the United Kingdom, which recommended the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish spheres. The WMC itself was dominated by the fast-emerging Muslim Brotherhood movement. Following World War II, the WMC declared that in a changing world, and given a new forum at the United Nations, it would “actively shape the agenda of the Muslim world.” The third WMC general meeting was held in Karachi in February 1951 with the Grand Mufti presiding and personally declaring war on India over the disputed status of Kashmir. Until his death in 1974, the Grand Mufti led the WMC and remained the self-proclaimed spiritual leader of the Arab people.
The accession of Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt in 1954 was perhaps the greatest stimulus to what could be called the conference movement. The diffusion of Nasser’s Pan-Arab ideology, and the number of enemies that ideology and the Egyptian ra’is himself made, were responsible for the creation of numerous worldwide and regional organizations and, pari passu, numerous conferences that served as a sounding board for both nationalists and Islamists. For Nasser’s enemies, there existed The Arab League (League of Arab States) founded in Cairo in March 1945. But its influence became so attenuated that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was created in Jeddah in 1969 to breathe new life into the Muslim community. The OIC was founded as a pan-Islamic movement devoted to the promotion of Muslim solidarity, economic development and cultural awareness.
Prior to the first PAIC assembly in April 1991, there were, of course, myriad Arab and Muslim meetings, and the status of Palestine and the state of the Islamic world in general were portentous topics. In November 1988, a large gathering of Islamists took place in the United States at the Oklahoma Convention Center. Sponsored by the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) for Palestine, the featured speaker was Sheikh Abdallah Azzam, the noted Afghan-Arab who made his home in Peshawar. Azzam was working to finish the task of creating an Islamist Afghanistan, and after that he would turn to the struggle occurring in Palestine, his homeland. MAYA served as a front for HAMAS. Devoted to the extirpation of Israel, HAMAS had only very recently been organized in Gaza.
The PIC and the Baghdad Venue
In the 1980s, there was no shortage of Muslim gatherings, yet even though talks were plentiful, results were minimal. Still, if the Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (al-Mutamar al-Arabi al-Shabi al-Islami, or PAIC) founded in the Sudan was to follow a genealogical line, its progenitor in all likelihood was not the various meetings held on Afghanistan or Palestine, but the symposium called by the Baghdad-based Popular Islamic Conference sponsored by Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Its assemblies were held infrequently during the mid- and late-1980s.
In Iraq, the secular Ba’ath Party head Saddam Hussein was trapped in a quagmire of his own making. The embattled leader badly needed moral support in the war that he had instigated with Shiite Iran in the late summer of 1980. The excuses given for his attack on Iran are many, but there existed a decided antipathy between the secularist and putative Sunni and the charismatic Shiite master, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Iranian would not forget that after an exile of fifteen years spent in Najaf, Iraq, Saddam had expelled him in 1977 from that Shiite holy site and from his safe haven among his Iraqi followers. If Saddam wanted war, Khomeini would give him war.
For Saddam, the war was soon an unmitigated economic, military and political disaster. The invasion of Iran, which had seemed so propitious at the time, led to stalemate. Tehran had overcome its political divisions and military weakness, and the bloodletting seemed endless. For some, it was viewed as: (1) The extension of an historic confrontation between Arabs and Persians; (2) The continuation of an interminable border dispute; (3) A battle for regional supremacy involving Iraq’s Sunni leadership and the emerging Shia theocracy in Iran; (4) An attempt by Saddam Hussein to achieve a status equal to or greater than any Arab leader; (5) And any combination of the above. In Iran, a confident Khomeini created in November 1982 the Supreme Assembly/Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI or SCIRI), an organization that united a number of Iraqi Shiite parties that sought to eliminate Saddam and his Ba’athist Party.
Regardless of the reasons that had motivated Saddam, he had miscalculated. By 1993, he needed a cause to gain sympathy for what had become both an unpopular and costly war, and to broadcast anti-Khomeini sentiments throughout the Muslim world. The result was the creation of the Popular Islamic Conference (PIC), the first general assembly of which was held in Baghdad from 14-17 April 1983. Unfortunately for Saddam, Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid was devoting most of his energy to the jihad in Afghanistan. As a result, Iraq suffered a loss of both financial and moral support. Nonetheless, PIC’s existence was guaranteed after it received financial support from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two donors that had reason to fear the rise of a revolutionary Shiite Iran. The two nations helped calm the rattled Saddam; and despite the fact that Iraq was in a state at war, and Baghdad under threat of attack, the Iraqi capital was chosen as the venue for an organization whose aim was principally to save face.
The first PIC conference in April 1993 was attended “by 280 clerics and pious laymen from 50 countries.”(13) Participants included dignitaries from Guinea to Thailand, and individuals sympathetic to Hussein arrived from Europe and the Western Hemisphere (a half-dozen from the U.K., three from Finland and three more from Canada). From Asia, Malaysia sent a delegation of seven members. All answered Saddam’s call, as his war with Iran was progressing badly.(14) Incredibly, in the scant reporting on the meeting, the assertion that Saddam had at the last moment invited Khomeini, his Iranian bete noire, to the PIC meeting was published. The Iranian leadership responded curtly, stating it would consider an appearance only if Iraq identified “the murderers” of the Ayatollah Baqer Sadr, a pro-Iranian dissident who along with his sister had died in an Iraqi prison in 1980. Faced with that demand, a remorseless Hussein would not repeat the invitation.(15)
Participants at the first PIC meeting received little publicity. However, with the exception of the family of the Ayatollah Hakim, all the Iraqiulama (body of learned scholars) invited to the PIC conference by Ba’ath Party authorities were in attendance. Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, son of the famed Ayatollah Mohammed Said al-Hakim (who had banned Shia membership in both the Communist and Ba’ath parties) fled to Iran. In reprisal, members of the Hakim family were tortured and at least sixty killed. One simply did not cross Saddam and expect to survive as the Hakim family learned.(16)
Whether a representative from the Sudan was present was not disclosed. However, despite his fondness for conferences, it is unlikely that the peripatetic Hassan al-Turabi, the Sudanese Islamist and advisor to Sudan President Jaafar al-Numayri, was in attendance. A political crisis was brewing in the Sudan and Numayri’s military government, of which Turabi was an integral member, was about to embark on a turning point in the nation’s history. The government was about to impose thesharia code on a society with a large non-Muslim minority. The action would propel the Sudan toward Turabi’s own long-held goal, the creation of an Islamic Republic of the Sudan.
In the end, the first PIC conference did little more than serve as a venue for Saddam’s propaganda and perpetuate its existence. It would take a future war, in 1991, before the secular PIC conference would be used by Saddam to urge jihad and demand that his religious leaders issue a fatwa to attack his enemies. A fatwa, issued by a respected Muslim intellectual steeped in the study of Islam (i.e., a Khalifa, mufti or qadi), is a formal religious ruling on a point of Islamic law. Because in Sunni Islam there is no hierarchy of religious authority, different scholars can disagree on conclusions reached regarding the subject under consideration.
Paradoxically, the fatwa, though often thought to be incumbent on the Sunni Muslim, is not necessarily binding. For example, the evidence that governs a fatwa issued by a Salafist religious leader in the Sudan may not be accepted by a Wahhabi scholar in Saudi Arabia. A fatwa issued by Saddam might not be recognized by Turabi. As will be seen in coming chapters, the fatwa was a tool especially favored by the Islamists (and by autocrats like Saddam, the Saudi royal family, and Egyptian military rulers) and employed as a means to unite followers in pursuit of a common goal.
The most important fatwa issued in modern times was that agreed to by the small knot of Afghan-Arabs–the founders of the notorious al-Qaeda, the vanguard of the Islamist movement–who gathered in Afghanistan in August 1988 to declare jihad on the West. That fatwa prefigured the globalization of radical Islam.
In 1985, Saddam convened the second PIC conference in Baghdad. Again, only delegates who sided with Saddam in his conflict with Iran were invited. And, similarly, the second conference was characterized by Iran-bashing. By 1985, however, the image of a contrite Saddam, who had ostensibly returned to the Islamic mainstream, was emerging in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. The secular and socialist Ba’ath Party leader had already begun to adopt many trappings of Islam that he had formerly eschewed. In the end, the conference served little purpose.
With an infusion of arms from the USSR and Europe, Saddam’s military fortunes changed for the better, but the Iran-Iraq war was still in stalemate. The Iraqi leader seemed to have found the PIC of little propaganda value and thus the next PIC conference was not held until 18 June 1990, just prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Leading that conference, Saddam seemed content to focus on the problem of Israel and the Palestinians. He informed participants that, “We will strike at [the Israelis] with all the armies in our possession if they attack Iraq or the Arabs.”
On 2 August 1990, some 100,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait. And with that invasion, the relationship between the Sudan and most of the Western and Arab worlds underwent a striking metamorphosis that would place Sudanese President Bashir and his colleagues on a collision course with much of the Arab world, the United States and European Community members, from which there was no turning back. U.S. President George H. W. Bush declared the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait both unwarranted and unacceptable, and his administration turned up the heat. The U.S. State Department eschewed quiet diplomacy and became bluntly critical of Iraq and nations that supported Saddam. The Iraqi Anschluss, threatened by Saddam for years, was immediately taken up at the 19th meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference which was meeting in Cairo from 31 July-5 August. The foreign ministers condemned the Iraqi invasion and demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces.
A “Special Declaration” issued during meeting expressed support for the “legitimate regime in Kuwait under the leadership of his Highness the Emir,” Sheikh al-Sabah
The Egyptian government had then claimed that the government dominated by Turabi and former members of his National Islamic Front party had invited a number of senior members of Egypt’s radical and Islamist organizations for a secret meeting in Khartoum. Egypt argued that Egyptian Islamists were receiving secret training in camps under the Sudan government’s control. The foreign ministers had planned an in-depth review of the Egypt-Sudan problem at a second OIC summit to be held in Cairo in November 1990. As a frustrated Mubarak saw it, “the invasion of Kuwait came and turned things upside down. And the Arab world became more divided.”(19)
In the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the PIC organization was ineluctably divided, and the invasion “turned Iraq and Saudi Arabia from allies into enemies.” As a result, the former associates convened simultaneously a PIC meeting in Baghdad, while Saudi Arabia opened its own conference in Makka, and “each passed resolutions condemning the other.”(20) The Makka conference on 13 September 1990 denounced “thefilha (dissension) in the Gulf,” and called for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Threatened by the Iraqi assault, Saudi Arabia claimed it had the right to seek assistance from any power it chose in order to ensure its political and territorial integrity.
The Mecca meeting attracted the presence of most of the Arab world’s leading Muslim clerics, including Egypt’s Jadd al-Haq, the paramount sheikh of Cairo’s Al-Azhar. He and other prominent ulema criticized the PIC meeting held in Baghdad, and argued that the Kuwait invasion “violated the very principles of Islam.”(21) According to a publication produced by Sudanese in exile, Hassan al-Turabi, considered the brains behind the revolutionary Islamist government in Sudan, had led a delegation to Makka but, “was denied the honor of meeting with any Saudi Arabian or Kuwaiti official.”(22)
Although the demand to leave Kuwait was supported by 45 OIC members, the Sudan abstained. Iraq had been the Sudan’s principal source of arms since the 30 June 1989 Revolution, and the Sudanese military had reason to be grateful. It did not immediately line up behind Saddam, however, and President Bashir even made initial remarks opposing the invasion, but in a short, sharp power struggle he quickly fell in line behind Hassan al-Turabi. Turabi then employed a sort of benevolent neutrality designed not to antagonize anyone, but which angered nearly everyone except Saddam.
For the Sudan to have taken the position it did was to place its government in direct opposition to the Saudi royal family, which had previously given Khartoum its qualified support, both financially and otherwise. The Sudanese vote also placed it in opposition to Egypt and Libya, both of which opposed the Iraqi occupation. In gratitude for its abstention in the OIC vote, Iraq sent ten planeloads of arms to the Sudan. Bashir then made a secret trip to Baghdad, apparently to thank Saddam for his help. In the weeks that followed, Middle East media reported that the Sudan was serving as a warehouse to store Iraqi missiles and other expensive hardware. In September, some fifty Iraqi jet pilots and planes arrived at Sudanese airbases; but when reports asserted that the Sudan RCC was assisting the Iraq military, they were denied by its spokesmen. Nevertheless, its support for Saddam virtually ended any hope the RCC had of reviving cordial relations with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Coast states and Britain, all of which “washed their hands of Sudan”.(23)
To express its displeasure, Egypt suspended its mediation efforts to end the Sudanese civil war. The Egyptian government closed its airspace to the two Sudan Airways flights between Khartoum and Jordan which ostensibly were used to ferry Sudanese who had left Iraq or Kuwait to return to the Sudan.(24) It later ceased for a period of time all flights between Khartoum and Cairo.
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was not without self-styled conciliators. A delegation of Pakistani Islamists of the powerful Jama’at-i Islami held a meeting in Amman, Jordan in September, and on their return home had immediately begun to agitate for the return of 11,000 Pakistani troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.(25) That gathering was almost immediately shaded by a pivotal event that would have dramatic historical importance when a delegation that included six of Islam’s most powerful names (Turabi, Ghannouchi, Zindani, Erbakan, Ahmad, Khalifa) set off on a round of visits designed to take the pressure off the Iraqi dictator.(26) Most of its members had long ties to the international Muslim Brotherhood movement; and given the number of conferences held in the Muslim world, they were familiar with the major Islamist players and had been acquaintances, if not friends, for many years. Their leader was Hassan al-Turabi, the renowned Sudanese political and intellectual figure who had finally emerged from the shadows in Khartoum, and who, along with his political allies, had begun to oppose aspects of the military dictatorship of President Bashir.
In leading a delegation of some forty noted Islamists, Turabi appeared to be placing a bet that Iraq would somehow escape the deep hole Saddam had dug. Turabi and his friends had more ambitious plans in mind as they sought to rescue Saddam from the widespread condemnation that had followed the invasion of Kuwait. And if Turabi could pull that off, there would be no question of who was the paramount leader among the Islamist intellectuals, and who was first among equals in the Sudan.
During the first six months following the 30 June 1989 Revolution, Hassan al-Turabi, as with many other Sudanese politicians, cooled his heels in preventive detention. Although rarely mentioned by the government-controlled Khartoum media, from his prison cell had his private secretary still meeting daily with senior RCC officials. Tangentially, Turabi played an important role in a particular interest, the creation of the International Organization of Muslim Women founded in November 1989 and the first conference of which held in Khartoum welcomed attendees from 13 countries.
When Turabi was freed from detention in late 1989, he joined a government that had outlawed political parties, including the National Islamic Front party he had created in 1986. Within weeks, Turabi was leading a government delegation to Muslim states, and as the months progressed it was hard to tell who was really in charge of the government. Turabi, a politician and educator who for over forty years had built a worldwide following, found it no great trick to outshine President Bashir.
Among the most celebrated members of the Turabi group was Rachid Ghannouchi. Leader of the outlawed al-Nahda (Revival) party of Tunisia, Ghannouchi had joined the Muslim Brotherhood when he was young. Given a history of Islamist radicalism in Tunisia, he was jailed for life in forced labor in 1987. He was then released in an amnesty and chose exile in 1989.
Abd al-Majid al-Zindani was a Yemeni Afghan-Arab, Salafist, al-Islah(Reform) Party leader, and chief of the Hashid tribal confederation of North Yemen. Zindani had been a crucial element in the Afghan-Arab jihad. During the period between 1984-1990, he had been responsible for the movement of 5,000-7,000 Yemenis to camps in Afghanistan for training and religious indoctrination.(29) In the war in Afghanistan, he became well known to the Saudi royal family, and he was feared by most of them. He considered Turabi, a man of his own generation, to be both a leader and mentor.
Necmettin Erbakan was an energetic Turkish politician who had fought a tough campaign in the run-up to the November 1987 elections. He carried with him a growing Islamist movement of intellectuals and politicians opposed to Turkish secular nationalism and its perpetual drive for Western modernization. He led an openly Islamist revival, vowing a return to the Caliphate, the Salafist beau ideal. Erbakan sought what was called a “Turkish-Islamic” synthesis, a thesis that received the wholehearted support of Hassan al-Turabi, a friend of many years. While the government of Turkey opposed Saddam, Erbakan and his Rafah Party supported him.
Qazi Hussein Ahmad was the eloquent leader of Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), that nation’s oldest Islamist movement and one fraternally tied to the international Muslim Brotherhood headquartered in Cairo. Ahmad began his political career in 1970 as president of the Jamaatbranch in Peshawar. As such, during the 1979-1988 war in Afghanistan he was in constant contact with the various mujahideen forces and played “a pivotal role” in attracting support for the Afghan jihad in both Pakistan and throughout the world at large. As secretary general of the organization, he served as conciliator in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. In 1987, he was elected Amir of the JI movement.
Abd al-Rahman Khalifa, a known jihadist and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, presided over its political arm, the Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami (Islamic Action Front, or IAF). Throughout its existence, which could be traced to the 1930s, the Ikhwan had generally been able to live in peace with the Jordanian royal family. That lasted until 1989, when in what was called an unexpectedly impartial election the IAF won 32 of 80 seats in the Jordanian House of Representatives. Ironically, the IAF’s accommodating political strategy was not to the liking of Palestinian Muslim Brothers Shaykh Abdullah Azzam and Abu Zaydan.
In Afghanistan they had conspired to create the Jaish Mohammed, (Mohammed’s Army), the first of a number of Islamist groupings given that designator. More revolutionary by far than the IAF, the short-lived movement surfaced in Jordan in 1988 and was tied to Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, an Afghan-Arab allied with the Abu Sayyaf group and brother-in-law of Osama Bin Laden. The Jaish Mohammed was but one of the many Islamist offshoots to grow from the Muslim Brotherhood. In effect, Khalifa would serve as a bridge between the evolutionary and revolutionary branches of the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood.(30)
Among other individuals present in the group of forty delegates was a representative of Osama Bin Laden, the notorious Afghan-Arab who had returned to Saudi Arabia from the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderland. Little was known of his future plans but it was rumored that in August, just prior to the Turabi-led delegation visits, Bin Laden had begun to recreate the so-called International Islamic Front which he had founded in Afghanistan and which Saudi intelligence defined as a loose coalition of jihadist elements.
Arriving in Amman, Jordan, on 1 October, Turabi and friends were met by King Hussein, already an ally. The King was convinced that the war against Saddam was “a war against all Arabs and all Muslims and not against Iraq alone.”(31) It was an interesting revelation, especially for a leader who had strong relations with the West. Still, in the King’s and the Islamist’s mind’s eye, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had initiated a chain reaction. It served to recreate the epoch of the Mongol invasion whose invaders and their Muslim supporters were anathematized by the Salafist Sheikh Ibn Taymiya.
At Amman, Turabi chaired a meeting during which he asserted that Saddam Hussein would soon begin releasing jailed Muslim clerics and would support the institution of the sharia in Iraq. And, at a press conference, Turabi warned against the stationing of foreign troops in the Arabian Peninsula. He predicted: “There is going to be all forms of jihad all over the world because it is an issue of foreign troops on sacred soil.”(32) Publicly, Turabi transposed the issue of Kuwait from one of the Iraqi occupation to Western military presence in the holy Arabian Peninsula. Privately, he openly urged the Muslim world to initiate jihad against Islam’s enemies. Turabi had no doubt which enemies he meant, or the meaning of jihad in its most belligerent sense.
Just as the Soviets were despised kufr to be met by jihad, following the Gulf War in Iraq the Salafists declared war on America and on Islam’s secular regimes that supported American policy. What the jihadists promised was a war against the West in general and its ideals and cultural ideology in particular. In men like Osama Bin Laden, the spirit of Ibn Taymiya was alive and well.
Following Jordan, the delegates continued on to Saudi Arabia and to a meeting with King Fahd and the exiled Emir of Kuwait. In Saudi Arabia, the royal opposition to Saddam was an entirely different matter.
Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister, attended the meeting of scholars which, as far as Nayef was concerned, was in reality a congeries of Muslim Brothers. Still, Prince Nayef considered Hassan al-Turabi “a friend.” After all, those Islamists with long memories would recall the Arab League meeting held in Khartoum in September 1967, during which Turabi had supported without qualification the creation of a “Rejectionist Front” of Arab nations that refused to recognize, enter negotiations or accept peace with Israel. Eventually, internal contradictions sapped the strength of that Rejectionist Front.
A resurrection of sorts followed the signing of the Camp David Accords, and the Anwar Sadat-inspired end to the state of belligerency between Egypt and Israel. The agreement revived the Muslim world’s rejectionists. A second rejectionist front was created in 1978 to combat the Egypt-Israel-United States entente, and once again Turabi was in the forefront of that movement. Iraq, Libya and Syria joined Shiite Iran and its emerging Shiite partners in Lebanon to foster terrorist movements that attacked Israel.
Bloody terrorism marked the 1980s and scarred the Middle East, but slowly, gradually and painfully, most of the Arab world accepted the right of Israel to exist and entered into negotiations with it–all but the Islamists like Turabi and his cohort. While certain nations were willing to recognize–de facto or de jure–Israel’s existence, there were states — Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria–that would refuse. And Turabi, still considered the leader of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, assumed the role of the Sudanese Rejectionist nonpareil.
Turabi had made many friends in Saudi Arabia, but in an interview given in the Kuwaiti daily al-Siyasa years later, Prince Nayef would proclaim that while the Saudi Kingdom had given refuge to Ikhwan members under attack in their own countries, “They later turned against the kingdom.” He singled out the Sudanese wing of the Brotherhood and accused Turabi, who had lived and studied in the Kingdom, of “turning his back on his Saudi benefactors.” The embittered Prince would later explain that when the group had met with the Saudi king and crown prince they were asked whether they accepted the attack on Kuwait. They responded that they had only come to “collect” opinions and not to give them
If Prince Nayef was using the interview to his advantage, so did Turabi; four years later he claimed in the Lebanese magazine al-Shiraa: “You know that we were against Iraq’s invasion of the state of Kuwait. All Islamic movements were also against it. We were of the opinion that an Arab settlement be devised.”(34)
Following the meeting in Saudi Arabia, Turabi and his friends moved on to Baghdad. Once there, the Islamist delegation met with Saddam and reportedly urged him to withdraw his troops from Kuwait so as “to deprive the United States of an excuse to establish a permanent control over the Arab oil resources.”(35) Saddam, leader of then the world’s fourth largest army, was not interested and promised to destroy Kuwait’s oilfields if his forces in Kuwait were attacked.
Turabi did, according to one account, succeed in persuading Saddam “to add to the Iraqi flag the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ as a concession to Muslim radicals.” Quite unexpectedly, Saddam linked the Gulf crisis with the Palestinian issue. And later, “When Saddam attacked Israel during the Gulf War,” he moved opportunistically to link his personal jihad against the West, “to the fate of Palestinians.” That action, it was argued, gave him “instant credibility among many Islamists.”(36)
In the end, the diplomatic venture failed. Nevertheless, Turabi demonstrated through his actions that the Sudan was quite willing to initiate a rupture with the Saudi royal family. For the Sudan leadership it was a bold, or quite possibly a foolish, move as Saudi Arabia pledged as much as $500 million a year in financial support. This, in addition to the fact it employed as many as 750,000 Sudanese expatriates whose remittances put some flesh on an otherwise skeletal Sudanese budget.
Enter Osama Bin Laden
There were others who sought a more practical response to the Iraqi invasion–a move seen by some Saudis as a threat to Saudi Arabia itself. Their numbers included the Saudi jihadist Osama Bin Laden. The son of a fabulously wealthy Saudi construction magnate, Bin Laden had spent nearly a decade battling the Soviet forces that invaded Afghanistan in late 1979. He was personally acquainted with Turabi and his group (with the possible exception of Abd al-Rahman Khalifa. the Jordanian). At least one study indicated that “Sudanese Islamists associated with al-Turabi” had made contact with Osama in Saudi Arabia as early as the 1970s, and had introduced the two men “at that time.”(37)
Following the Soviet withdrawal, in summer 1989, Bin Laden was considering new worlds to conquer. On returning to Jidda, ostensibly to become involved in the family construction business, he was widely known and praised, and was often asked to speak in mosques and private homes. His speeches on cassette were widely distributed. He still had friends abroad, and in a cable sent to CIA headquarters, the Islamabad station claimed there were about 4,000 Afghan-Arabs present in Afghanistan, “heavily supported by Saudi intelligence and Gulf charities.” The CIA’s Afghan agents reported that many of the Afghan-Arabs operating in Paktia province, and further south into Pakistan, were loyal to Osama Bin Laden, who was by then considered “a rising force and a rising problem.”(38) Eventually, this group would serve as raw material for many other jihads.
Once at home, Bin Laden met with Prince Turki ibn Faisal ibn Abdelaziz, the director of the puissant General Intelligence Department (Istakhbarat), Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service. Turki’s father, King Faisal, was a pious Muslim and Saudi Arabia’s ruler at the time of the Soviet invasion, and he, more than anyone else, was responsible for funding the jihad. In doing so, he provided the impetus for the growth of the Islamist movement.
Turki himself was an ambitious man. Named chief of intelligence in 1976 (and relieved of that duty ten days before 9/11), he had played an important role in the Afghanistan war and his youth was no longer seen as a roadblock to his ambition. Turki later claimed he had viewed with “amazement” Bin Laden’s suggestion that he use his mujahideen fighters “to overthrow the Marxist regime in neighboring Yemen,” the birthplace of Osama’s father.(39) When that operation was frustrated by the vigilance of both the Saudi and Yemeni governments, he was amazed when Bin Laden offered his Afghan-Arabs to attack the Iraqi invaders in Kuwait. By then, Turki realized that Bin Laden was no longer the shy former student he had met in the early years of the jihad in Afghanistan. Turki observed, “he changed from a calm, peaceful, and gentle man interested in helping Muslims into a person who believed that he would be able to amass and command an army to liberate Kuwait. It revealed,” Turki added, “his arrogance and his haughtiness.”(40)
In October, Bin Laden was in Riyadh, where he and a number of “Afghan veterans” met with Prince Abdullah, regent of Saudi Arabia. The heavily bearded Bin Laden, who was well known to the royal family, seemed even more peculiar than usual; and his offer to use mujahideen and construction brigades to halt any Iraqi advance into Saudi Arabia seemed strange. Bin Laden announced that he was acting on behalf of what he called the International Islamic Front. Labeled “the earliest version of an Islamist terrorist coalition,” the Front was reported to have been founded in Saudi Arabia only weeks previously in August 1990
From the inception at Khost through the incipient International Islamic Front planned in 1990 in Saudi Arabia, emerged the al-Qaeda (The Base) organization that would rapidly extend its tentacles and within a decade to consolidate in its ranks more than twenty jihadist organizations from western Africa to Southeast Asia.
According to one participant, by the meeting’s close, Bin Laden was “seething.” During a meeting with Prince Sultan, the Second Deputy Prime Minister, he had offered to recruit an army of 30,000 Arab-Afghans to ensure the security of Saudi Arabia. The same offer was made to Prince Turki, Chief of Saudi Intelligence. Both turned him down flat. Undaunted, Bin Laden went about the business of raising an army anyway. Whether it was for use in Yemen or against Iraq seemed immaterial, and the Saudi police “raided his home and put him under house arrest.”
By the end of the Gulf War, the emerging core of Islamist dissidents, most of whom despised the royal family, the Arab secularists, the West, and the United States in particular, began to move their message from the mosque to the streets. The modern Islamist movement based in large part on the works of Afghani, Banna, Qutb and Khomeini had never really captured much of a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula; however, that was about to change. Tapes of lectures and perorations by such notable Islamists as Shaykh Omar Abd Al-Rahman and Hassan al-Turabi, and Afghan-Arab firebrands like Saudi native Osama Bin Laden were circulated in Riyadh and Jidda.
In late 1990, a few weeks after being placed under house arrest, “an escape route appeared” shortly after Bin Laden “received an offer of refuge from Hassan al-Turabi.” As one analyst put it, Bin Laden was already aware that Turabi was convinced that an Iraq defeat was imminent, and “the discrediting” of a secular Arab regime in Iraq “would lead to an opportunity to set up a ‘pure’ Islamic government across the Muslim world.” It was “a seductive message,” and when Bin Laden appeared in Khartoum in April 1991, Saudi leaders, “were thankful for an opportunity to get rid of him.”(41)
By then, the Gulf War had been called the first civilizational war (“guerre civilisationnelle”) by a Moroccan Muslim intellectual. His opinion was contested by historian Samuel Huntington who labeled it the “the second” such war, with the war in Afghanistan being the first. Huntington, who wrote that future wars were quite likely to be civilizational in substance, pointed out that, “Both wars began as straightforward invasions of one country by another but were transformed into and in large part redefined as civilization wars.” Using his terminology, “They were, in effect, transition wars to an era dominated by ethnic conflict and fault line wars between groups from different civilizations.” And in each case, a large body of Muslim intellectuals visualized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as two events in an emerging war between civilizations “in which the inviolability of Islam was at stake.”(42) Counted among those who saw the wars in this way were the Islamists, the myriad friends of Hassan al-Turabi who found Sudan much to their liking.
Chicago, December 1990
It has been said of Hassan al-Turabi that if someone or some entity invited him to a conference, sent a ticket, and paid the expenses, invariably he would appear. As though to prove that point, the active, almost inexhaustible Turabi next appeared at the third annual Conference of the Islamic Committee for Palestine, held at the McCormick Center Hotel in Chicago from 28-31 December 1990. The gathering of Palestine Islamists was an ideal site to spread the Turabi message that the Muslim world was at the time captive of
The late 1980s had seen the slow diminution of Arab mouthpiece and gadfly Muammar Qadaffi of Libya. Indeed, only three years earlier, in July 1987, the same site at Chicago had been host to the World Islamic People’s Leadership Conference whose president was Qaddafi and Vice President was the “Honorable Minister” Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. In what was an innocuous gathering, Farrakhan had served as host to attendees from twenty-two countries.
The Chicago conference of 1990 was an entirely different matter and directed by very determined men. Although the conference itself received very little publicity, it was funded by the American-based Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), an organization that was perfectly aware that money was not only the “mother’s milk” of politics, as Americans liked to admit, but likewise of the jihadist movement itself. The ICP was a self-described charitable organization. Much later would it be “identified by experts as part of a U.S. support network for terrorist groups.”(43)
The Chicago meeting can be seen as a single swatch of a quilt whose pattern originated in the “Secret Strategy,” a working paper prepared in 1982 by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership. In that time, the Ikhwan al-Muslimun was gradually emerging after years of persecution in Egypt. In Europe, where its powerful ideologues and their funding sources had survived, there emerged the sense that the international organization demanded a new focus. Thus the “Secret Strategy” was prepared.(44) In the Paper’s “Point of Departure 10” Muslims were urged to “Adopt the Palestinian issue on the International Islamic level on both the political and jihad levels because it is the key to the Islamic world’s renaissance in the current time.” Under Point 4, Muslims were urged to “Create jihad cells in Palestine and support them so that they will cover all of occupied Palestine.” And Point 5 added “Create a link between the mujahideen in Palestine and those elsewhere in Islam.” To that end, the Paper’s “procedural requirements” demanded that Muslim leaders “Ensure that the necessary funds are continuously collected.” Point 11 entreated Muslims to “Incorporate the Palestinian cause into a worldwide Islamic plan.” Finally, Muslims were urged to “Plant the seed of jihad in Palestine,” and to “Obtain sufficient funds for perpetual jihad.”
One did not have to be a Muslim Brother to appreciate the “Secret Strategy,” and though it would take five years, two events occurring in December 1987 helped open a new chapter in the history of Palestine and the Arab World. In Palestine itself, the “Arab street” initiated an insurrection–the intifada–on the evening of 8 December 1987 following an Israeli truck-Gaza commuter car crash that left four Palestinians dead. The Jebaliya refugee camp–already roiling with anger against the presence of Israeli occupation forces and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank–simply exploded. Demonstrations were common in Gaza, but this was something new. Through the streets coursed a mob without leaders. And instead of subsiding, the situation only worsened, and the intifada soon spread the length of Gaza and then into the West Bank.(45)
In the same month, and while the intifada continued without halt, the charismatic paraplegic Muslim Brother and leader of the Islamic Assembly in Gaza, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (1936-2004) began the creation of HAMAS (acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya: the Islamic Resistance Movement), an indigenous Palestinian civilian and military organization. It did not take flesh until February 1988, at which time Yassin understood that his Islamic Assembly would have to join the intifada or it would surely lose out to a more militant Palestinian movement. His HAMAS charter offered no compromise with Israel. Its goal was simple–the elimination of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine. And the Charter itself publicly declared that HAMAS proudly served as the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In what was the first of many Arab summit conferences on the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a meeting held in June 1988 and sponsored by the Arab League was another defining moment in the history of Palestine. The emergency summit conference achieved agreement and issued resolutions promising the Arab world’s complete support for the creation of an independent state of Palestine. However, the Islamists found the devil in the details, and, much to their disgust, the so-called self-determination called for the creation of an independent state under secular PLO leadership of Yasir Arafat. The conference confirmed the role of the PLO as the “sole legitimate” representative of the Palestinians, something the Islamists rejected outright. More to the Islamists’ liking was the condemnation of U.S. Middle East policy. In the end, the Chicago conference ended with the participants pledging their support for the Intifada.
Eventually, Palestinians were forced to choose between the “secular” PLO leader Yasir Arafat and Shaykh Ahmed Yassin. Arafat and Turabi were “old friends” whose fellowship dated from the mid-1950s
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States provided the HAMAS financial underpinning, and by the time of the 1990 Chicago meeting, its activity received substantial support from satellite Islamic charities created in Europe and the United States. The relationship between Yassin and Turabi, two of Islam’s most important figures in the decade of the 1990s, was ambiguous. Still, the two Muslim Brothers, one active, one lapsed, remained brothers in the sense that as Islamists they served the same objective.(46)
Although it opened only four months after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the theme of the Chicago conclave, “Islam: The Road to Victory,” allowed Turabi to turn his thoughts from the Iraq-Kuwait imbroglio to another equally vibrant subject. Present at the McCormick Center Hotel in Chicago were HAMAS representatives plus a “who’s who” of renowned Muslim Brothers and Salafists. Turabi and Rachid Ghannouchi were fresh from their trip to Baghdad, and for Ghannouchi it was his second appearance at the ICP forum. He had appeared in December 1989 with, among others, Sheikh Abdel Aziz Odeh, spiritual leader of Palestine Islamic Jihad.
Attending the third conference was Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman, the spiritual advisor of the Egyptian terrorist organizationJama’a al-Islamiyya. Sheikh Omar was known to all Afghan-Arabs. He had been imprisoned for three years after Anwar Sadat’s assassination. In 1985, he was accompanied by Afghan Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as he made his first appearance in Afghanistan, and in Peshawar he had a close friend in Sheikh Abdallah Azzam. And for the next few years he travelled the globe urging support for jihad in Afghanistan.(47)
In 1989, he was again a wanted man in Egypt. He escaped from there and emerged in the Sudan from which he travelled to the United States. The blind cleric, sought by Egyptian security, was able to enter the United States on a tourist visa, even though the Fayoum native was the spiritual guide to the original Egyptian Al-Jihad and to its various terrorist offshoots, including Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the new jihad group Talai’ al-Fath (the Vanguards of Victory). The American Embassy in Khartoum had mistakenly issued the visa, and then after arriving in the United States, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service compounded the error in April 1991 when it granted him permanent resident status as a religious leader.
After leaving Khartoum, and prior to his arrival in New York in July 1990, Sheikh Omar had spent a short time in Pakistan at an Afghan-Arab training camp that survived the Soviet-Afghan War. There he issued a notorious fatwa permitting Afghan-Arab mujahideen to assassinate “Muslim opponents in their respective countries who had violated theShariat, or Islamic law.”(48) And it was almost certain that in Peshawar he began the struggle to wrest control of the Al Kifah mujahideen organization operating in the United States from followers of its deceased founder Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.
Others present at Chicago included Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Odeh (Awda) the thirty-year-old leader of the revolutionary Palestine Islamic Jihad who operated from Damascus. Shaykh Said Sha’ban, a radicalized Muslim Brother and founder of the Harakat al-Tawhid (Islamic Unity Movement) of Lebanon was also present, as was Layth Shbilat, a noted Jordan parliamentarian and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Among other unnamed participants were Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, a founder of Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ).(49) Also reported in attendance was Sheikh Jamer Ammar, a PIJ leader and head of its own Islamic Jihad Squad (Tanzim al-Jihad al-Islami). Ammar, from the Gaza Strip, had been sentenced to life in prison by the Israelis, but was released in 1983. He then moved to Egypt from which he was expelled, and in the late 1980s operated from the Sudan.
Others attending the meeting were Muslim Brothers from Egypt and the United States, and exiled Syrian Ikhwan. From Florida in the United States, Khalil al-Shiqaqi and Sami Al-Arian were present. Shiqaqi, a Muslim Brother, had been expelled from the movement after founding the revolutionary Palestine Islamic Jihad while al-Arian had helped found the Islamic Association of Palestine in the United States in 1981.
Privately and publicly, the visitors to Chicago all supported the continuation of the Palestinian intifada and the liberation of Palestine itself. The conference was built around the theme that urged no compromise on land, no peace with Israel, and support for the intifada.(50) What was concurred in private was undoubtedly much more interesting, and undoubtedly helped Turabi plan for the future. The meeting was particularly important insofar as the political scene within Palestine was no longer dominated by Yasir Arafat. With the Palestinian intifada nearly three years along, the PLO had been forced to share billing with emerging Islamist organizations like HAMAS and Palestine Islamic Jihad.
As for the Chicago meeting itself, an investigator later located a copy of “The ICP Speeches of the Third Annual Conference: Islam – The Way to Victory,” produced by the Florida-based World and Islam Studies Enterprise of Sami al-Arian.(51) Among excerpts from the book the author would note were: “The Conference was convened in one of the most critical times that the Islamic and the Arab worlds are witnessing.” It noted that “despite the terror inflicted on them,” the “blessed people of the intifada” had not been crushed. “The participants assert that Jihad is the only way to get back the whole Palestinian holy land, which is property of the whole ummah.” The ummah itself was urged to pool its resources and provide financial support to the intifada. The meeting also called on all Muslims to support the on-going jihad in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Kashmir, Lebanon and Sudan. The book then added that the liberation of Kuwait by “invading” U.S. forces now present in Saudi Arabia was actually aimed “at destroying the Iraqi military power which threatens the security of Israel, and to occupy the Arab and Islamic oil sources, extend the American hegemony, leadership, and influence over the world.”
During his trip to Chicago, it was stated (but never verified) that Turabi met with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, who had been expelled from Pakistan in late 1979 for instigating violence in Kashmir before the Pakistan military was ready to allow such a venture.(52) Gilani was the leader of Jamaat al-Fuqra, the most violent of the “Muslim fundamentalist” movements then operating in the United States. If they did not meet then, they would meet later in 1993 at a conference in Khartoum.
Whether Gilani was present or not, opposition to the United States was uniform, palpable and undisguised. The participants offered a set of slogans supporting the intifada in Palestine and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and condemning the influence of the United States in the Muslim world. The same themes would be reiterated time and again at Islamist gatherings held in the United States over the next decade.
The Chicago gathering has often been labeled a meeting of an incipient “Terrorist Internationale.” While that title gave the Chicago meeting a reputation it did not really deserve, nonetheless to many it was a forerunner to a gathering of Islamists that Turabi would open at Khartoum less than four months later.
Endnotes: Chapter 1
(1) “Towards an International Strategy for Islamic Policy, 1/12/1983,” Ikwhan document in the authors’ possession.
In late 2008, the Saudi Ministry of Education ordered books by Qutb removed from school libraries for propagating “extremist ideas.” See “KSA schools ban Muslim Brothers’ books: report,” Al Arabiya News Channel, 26 November 2008.
(2) “Frontline: hunting bin laden: who is bin laden?: about the bin laden family.” Copyright 2001, http.www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/binladen/who/family.html.
(3) The comparison is made that Azzam, like Stalin, sought to secure rule in one nation; first Afghanistan, and when that was completed, the movement could then concentrate on Palestine, his homeland. Zawahiri, like Trotsky, sought the Salafist world revolution and so influenced Bin Laden. Zawahiri was utterly ruthless and is believed to have plotted Azzam’s assassination.
(4) “Jinnah redux and the age of Osama,” The Tribune of India, 5 January 2003; http://www.tribuneindica.com/2003/20030105
(5) Rebecca M. De Sousa, “Varieties of Fundamentalism,” Georgia State University, 2006, p. 77. Evidence obtained from those present at Khost indicate that there were thirty “brothers” who took the oath; see United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. United States v. Enaam M. Arnaout, No. 02 CR 892, p. 37, 57.
(6) Sa’eed ibn ‘Ali ibn Wahf al-Qahtaani, The Levels of Jihad, Invitation to Islam, London, 1997, p.27.
(7) William B. Quandt, Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, The Brookings Institution, 1981, p. 37-40. Founded in 1969, OIC members held a summit conference every three years. On early payments see Bradsher, Henry S., Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, Duke University Press, Durham, 1985, p. 276.
(8) Mordechai Nisan, “The Minority Plight,” Middle East Quarterly, September 1996. The Lahore meeting was likely sponsored by theJama’at-i Islami, an Islamist organization, whose leader Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi published at Lahore in the same year the small but important work, The Process of the Islamic Revolution.
(9) According to the WMC’s own history pan-Muslim causes have inspired it since its founding; thus the WMC has, “championed Muslim causes such as Palestine, Kashmir, the Filipino Muslims’ struggle, freedom for Muslim people from European colonial rule, and the economic emancipation of the Muslim world.” See the World Muslim Congress website, http://www.motamaralalamalislami.org
(10) Martin Kramer, “A crowded calendar of congresses binds the world of Islam,” at http://www.martinkramer.org On Islamic conferences see the work of Martin Kramer, especially Islam Assembled: The Advent of the Muslim Congresses, Columbia University Press, Irvington, New York, 1986.
(11) Adam Robinson, Bin Laden, Behind The Mask of The Terrorist, Arcade Publishing, New York, 2001, p. 89.
(12) William L. Cleveland, Islam Against The West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1985, pages. xix, 61.
(13) Dilip Hiro, “The West Will Have to Reap the Whirlwind Sown by Bush and Blair,” The Independent, U.K., 6 April 2003.
(14) “Around the World: Iranians Might Attend War Talks in Baghdad,” AP news, 18 April 1983.
(15) Operation Iraqi Freedom Documents CMPC-2003-001297, Foreign Military Studies Office Joint Reserve Intelligence Center, 2006.
(16) Many Hakim who were jailed were released in 1992 when Hussein was trying to show a new Islamist face to the world. Jon Lee Anderson, “Dreaming of Baghdad,” The New Yorker, 10 February 2003.
(17) Baghdad Radio Domestic Service, 18 June 1990.
(18) “The Gulf War,” Mitchell Bard, Jewish Virtual Library, American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, ( http://jewishvirtuallibrary.org ) retrieved 22 October 2006.
(19) Translation from the Arabic, “Egypt’s Mubarak on Current Issues, Al Hayat, London, 5 October 1998.
(20) Martin Kramer, “Muslim Congresses,” The Oxford Encylopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Oxford University Press, 1995, Vol 1, pp. 308-311.
(21) Elie Podeh, “In the Service of Power: The Ideological Struggle in the Arab World During the Gulf Crisis,” Conflict Quarterly, Fall 1994.
(22) “Panic Trips to the Gulf and Policy Reversal by Khartoum, Sudan Democratic Gazette, October 1990, p. 7.
(23) Middle East International, “Sudan: Unprecedented Isolation”, 28 September 1990, p. 17.
(24) Sudan Update, 7 September 1990, p. 2; Middle East, “Shock Treatment for the Economy”, January 1991, p. 36; Agence France PressRadio in French, 1114 GMT, 23 October 1990.
(25) Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama’at-i Islami of Pakistan, University of California Press, 1994.
(26) There were unsubstantiated reports that the former Afghan-Arab Ayman al-Zawahiri also was a member of the cohort.
(27) “Tunisia’s Islamists are different from those in Algeria.” Interview with Rached Ghannouchi, Al-Shira, Leganon, October 1994. (28) Ghannouchi settled in London in 1991, but was often seen in Khartoum in the presence of Hassan al-Turabi. Martin Kramer, “A U.S. Visa for Rached Ghannouchi?”, Policywatch, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, No. 121, 29 June 1994, footnote 2.
(29) “In Too Deep,” Evan Kohlmann, National Review Online, 17 January 2003. Following 9/11, Executive Order 13224 designated Zindani a supporter of terrorism.
(30) Khalifa was reported killed in Madagasgar in February 2007.
(31) Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Touchstone Books, New York, 1996, p. 249.
(32) Thomas Jocelyn, “The Pope of Terrorism,” Part I, The Weekly Standard, 25 July 2005.
(33) “Naif says Muslim Brotherhood cause of most Arab problems.” Arab News, http://www.arabnews.com., Riyadh, 28 November 2002. (34) TheAsh-Shiraa interview with Turabi, the Secretary General of the Popular Arab Islamic Conference, was held in Khartoum during an International Religious Conference, October 8-10, 1994.
(35) Mumtaz Ahmad, “The Politics of War: Islamic Fundamentalism in Pakistan,” Islamic Fundamentalisms and the Gulf Crisis, James Piscatori, ed., American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Chicago, 1991, note 10, p. 183.
(36) Thomas Jocelyn, “The Pope of Terrorism,” Part I, The Weekly Standard, 25 July 2005. On the flag see, Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Unknown,” The New Yorker, 10 February 2003. A CIA report titled “Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship,” was prepared on 21 June 2001 and later released to Congress. Most of the report has been redacted and is of little value.
(37) Max Taylor and M.E. Elbushra, “Research Note: Hassan al-Turabi, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda in Sudan,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Volume 8, 2006, p. 460.
(38) Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, The Penguin Press, New York, New York, 2004, p. 201.
(39) Ibid., p. 221.
(40) “I met Osama Bin Laden,” BBC News, BBC Two, 28 March ?, http:news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3570751.stm Also see,
“International Linkages of Islamist Terrorist Outfits,” South Asia Terrorism Portal, Institute for Conflict Management, http://www.
satp.org/satporgtp./usa/international_links.htm 2001. There is substantial confusion regarding the use of al-Qaeda. Perhaps the claimant should be Sheikh Abdallah Azzam who wrote an article with that title in MAK magazine Al-Jihad in April 1988.
(41) The Observer, London, Jason Burke, “The making of the world’s most wanted man: Part 2,” 28 October 2001.
(42) Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, `Touchstone Books, New York, 1996, p. 246-254.
(43) “The Connection”, The Tampa Tribune, 28-29 May 1995.
(44) The proposal was likely written by Yusuf Nada, Muslim Brother and Italian resident. See J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, Alms for Jihad, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
(45) Zeev Schiff and Ehud Ya’ari, Intifada, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1989.
(46) Yassin’s last known visit to the Sudan occurred in 1998 after a visit to Egypt for health reasons. For an example of a young Palestinian educated in the Sudan, influenced by Turabi, and an early member of HAMAS, see, “Islamisme et violence: le cas de la Palestine (Partie 1),”Cultures & Conflits, No. 28, 1998.
(47) On the various ICP conferences see, “Khalil Shikaki and his Role in the Formation of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Network in the United States,” Investigative Project, http://www.investigativeproject.org/khalil_shikaki.html 2 February 2006. Mary Anne Weaver, “Blowback,” The Atlantic Monthly, May 1996.
(48) “After Bombing, New Scrutiny for Holes in Immigration,” New York Times, 12 March 1993; “U.S. Fears Sudan Becoming Terrorists’ ‘New Lebanon'”, The Washington Post, 31 January 1992, p. 13.
(49) The United States would list Odeh a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) in 1995. Shallah was also named an SDT in 1995. He assumed the leadership of PIJ shortly afterward.
(50) “Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine,” by Yehudit Barsky, American Jewish Committee, Division on Middle East and International Terrorism, July 2002.
(51) The information was turned over to the FBI, see Rita Katz, the “Anonymous” author of Terrorist Hunter, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2003, pages 96-97.
(52) If the two did not meet at Chicago they would meet later at a conference held in Khartoum in early December 1993.