Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Who Benefits from Al-Qaeda? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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From the church massacre in Iraq, to the plot to send parcel bombs from Yemen, al-Qaeda has left a clear mark with its operations that only tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims, and achieve nothing but more instability in the region. The timing was notable, for the two incidents came a few days before the U.S. Midterm elections, and thus al-Qaeda has returned to the spotlight, with operations designed to influence the outcome of elections, whether in the U.S. or in Europe. This time, the largest beneficiary will be the extreme right, which we witnessed launch an ugly attack on Islam, capitalizing on the controversy which arose over the planned mosque near ‘Ground Zero’ in New York. It was a crusade against Islam, for ‘electoral’ benefits, and it nearly culminated in setting fire to copies of the Koran. It has been noted by many that the parcel bombs were addressed to a synagogue in Chicago, Obama’s ‘stronghold’ city, and therefore al-Qaeda clearly intended to strike the U.S. elections.

Another aim of al-Qaeda is to cause confusion and renewed disruption in the Middle East, and incite the fear of Christians living amongst Muslims, nurturing the theory of the ‘Clash of Civilizations’, or a war of religions. This objective was clear in the Baghdad church massacre, which was intended to stoke the flames of sectarianism in the region. It should be noted here that al-Qaeda, in its quest to sow the seeds of sectarian strife, does not exclude anyone from its targets. It has tried hard, and is still trying, to ignite a widespread sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites, both in Iraq and abroad. It has also targeted churches with bombings, and Christian clergymen with assassination attempts, in order to force Christians to leave, and fuel fear and mistrust between the Islamic and Christian worlds. It is interesting that the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda, which goes by the name of ‘the Islamic State of Iraq’, also sought to strike a blow against Egypt, in its attack on the church in Baghdad, in a blatant attempt to fuel the fire, and incite fear and sectarian strife. In al-Qaeda’s statement after the attack on the church, the organization targeted the Copts of Egypt, giving them 48 hours to release two Muslim women allegedly being held in the prisons of Egyptian monasteries.

Likewise, in its statement al-Qaeda targeted the Catholic Synod of Christians in the Middle East, which took place last month, saying in an address to the Vatican “We say to the Vatican, as you met days ago with the Christians of the Middle East, regardless of their sect, to support them. Now pressure them to release our captive sisters, or our killings will reach all of you, and [Coptic Pope] Shenouda will bring destruction to all the Christians of the region”. This attack on Christians in the Middle East came after the Synod adopted a position of indignation towards Israel, emphasizing its support for Palestinian rights, and issuing a statement denouncing Israeli proposals for a Jewish state. The Synod stressed that Israel cannot use the Biblical term ‘promised land’ to justify injustice, Jewish immigration, and the expulsion of Palestinians.

After the Synod called for the world to put an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, it expressed concern about operations aiming to displace Christians from countries in the Arab region, either through violence, as is happening in Iraq, or through intimidation and the confiscation of land and churches, as Israel is currently doing in and around Jerusalem.

So why does al-Qaeda target the Christian Synod, and threaten all Christians in the Middle East that “the end will not stop at killing the hostages only”, but they will be targeted in “Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and other countries in the region”? Al-Qaeda is threatening to bring more of its group into the region, and ignite greater civil strife between Muslims and Christians. This is because this initiative goes hand in hand with efforts to generate a wider sectarian issue, and ignite conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not hesitated to use the ‘gift’ of al-Qaeda, releasing a statement in which he described Islamic terrorism as the “fundamental problem facing humanity today”. He has found an opportunity to look for new excuses to evade pressure on the subject of peace negotiations, saying that Israel is also a victim of “Islamic terrorism”, which threatens America, Europe “and all of humanity”.

Netanyahu is deliberately oblivious to the fact that the warning information, which led to the discovery of the parcel bomb plot, came from Saudi Arabia, an Islamic state. He also ignores the fact that al-Qaeda terrorism targets Islamic states far more than Israel. Many of those who seek to link Islam with terrorism turn a blind eye to the fact that the majority of al-Qaeda’s victims are Muslims, especially if we take into account the extent of destruction that these Islamic states have endured, as a result of al-Qaeda’s operations.

Indeed Netanyahu, who is quick to associate all of Islam with the work of al-Qaeda, forgets that Jewish extremists also burned down a church in Jerusalem. Churches are also subjected to property acquisitions by rich individuals, and Jewish groups that want to change the demographics of Jerusalem, and eradicate all non-Jewish elements. But what are these extremists to Netanyahu, when al-Qaeda provides the service free of charge by attacking the church in Baghdad, and threatening all Christians in the Middle East? In fact, what are any extremists anywhere to Netanyahu, if al-Qaeda’s operations bring nothing but ruin to the Muslims, and only benefit those who want to destabilize the region?