Saturday, January 17, 2009




There have been two audio messages disseminated by Al Qaeda calling for an armed jihad against Israel in support of the people of Gaza intheir fight against the Israelis. The call is for support to the people of Gaza and not to the Hamas with which Al Qaeda does not feelcomfortable.

2. The first message by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden, was issued on January 6,2009, and the second by bin Ladenhimself on January 14,2009. The first by Zawahiri is direct with virulent attacks not only on Israel, but also on Muslim rulers considered asapostate by Al Qaeda such as those of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen etc. In the past messages of Zawahiri, the name of Gen. (retd) PervezMusharraf of Pakistan used to figure among the alleged apostates, but the latest message of Zawahiri contains no reference to the presentrulers of Pakistan after the exit of Musharraf.

3.The message of bin Laden is less aggressive than that of Zawahiri and avoids references to individual leaders of the Islamic world. Whilethe message of Zawahiri criticises President-elect Barack Obama by name for his silence on the Israeli military strikes in Gaza, bin Laden'smessage does not criticise him by name. Its criticism is directed more at the outgoing Bush Administration than at the incoming ObamaAdministration.

4. bin Laden's message tries to project the Israeli military strikes in Gaza as intended to achieve the Israeli objectives before Bush laysdown office. Reading between the lines, one could see that bin Laden is saying that Israeli fears that the next Administration may not beable to back Israel in the same way as the Bush Administration did because of its expected preoccupation with the worsening economiccrisis in the US should account for the Israeli desire to achieve its aims in Gaza before Bush leaves office.

5. Both Zawahiri and bin Laden have told the Muslims of the world that holding anti-Israeli demonstrations alone would not be sufficient.They want the Muslims to wage a determined armed jihad against Israel in retaliation against its military strikes in Gaza. bin Laden talks ofthe need for jihad by individual Muslims as well as for collective jihad by the community as a whole.

6. Interestingly, bin Laden's message avoids any references to the ground situation in Iraq or Afghanistan. He refers to the defeat of theSoviet troops in Afghanistan by the jihadis in the 1980s and projects the current economic crisis in the US and the rest of the Western worldas the outcome of the determined jihad waged by the Muslims against them. In proof of his claim that the jihad has started having an impacton the West, he does not cite the results achieved by the jihadis in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he refers to the severity of the economicmelt-down and cites remarks of Joseph Biden, the US Vice-President-elect, Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve, andother Western leaders.

7. The fact that he is constrained to quote from Western leaders to convince the Muslims that the jihadis are winning shows that there isapparent skepticism in sections of the Ummah whether the jihad is really benefiting the Muslims.He quotes from Western statements in anattempt to remove this skepticism.

8. The message of bin Laden does not speak of a man with the same elan as bin Laden, the author of the past messages. His unusual appealto rich Muslims for contributions to help the peope of Gaza speaks of a possible decline in the flow of funds for the global jihad.

9. The two messages do not contain references----direct or indirect--- to the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 26 to 29,2008. bin Laden'smessage has a reference in passing to the allegedly oppressed people of Kashmir. Apart from that it has no reference to India or itsMuslims. Zawahiri's message contains an appeal to the Muslims of a number of countries, including Pakistan, to wage a jihad against Israel,but his appeal is not addressed to the Muslims of India.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )