Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Egyptian jihadist Mohamed al-Zawahiri announced his support for the call issued by his brother , Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, for Muslims to work to establish an Islamic Caliphate, rejecting nation states. Mohamed al-Zawahiri, who currently resides in Cairo and is a well-known Egyptian Islamist, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we want to guide Egypt to the Islamic association because this is stronger than the national association.” However he stressed that the Al Qaeda leader’s message does not mean the end of his offer to mediate a peace between Al Qaeda and the West.
In a statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri entitled “Supporting Islam” posted by Al Qaeda’s publishing arm on an Islamist website, the Al Qaeda chief called on Muslims to work to re-establish an Islamic Caliphate that “does not recognize nation state, national links or the border imposed by the occupiers, but establishes a rightly guided caliphate following in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad.”
The statement added “these are the objectives of the Document of Supporting Islam, and we call on all those who believe in them to call for them, support them and try to spread them in every way possible among the people of the nation.”
The Al Qaeda chief also called on Muslims to work together to liberate Muslim lands from occupiers, rejecting any deal that gives “infidels” the right to control Muslim lands.
He added that this included what he referred to as the British Mandate Palestine – present day Israel and the Palestinian territories – as well as Russia’s Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus region, Indian-controlled Kashmir, the Spanish-ruled North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla which are claimed by Morocco and East Turkestan in China’s north-western Xinjiang region.
As for whether he supports his brother’s call in this regard, Mohamed al-Zawahiri told Asharq Al-Awsat “of course…I support anything connected with Islamic Sharia law. I support him not because he is my brother, but because his call is in line with the principles of Islamic Sharia law.” He added “this has all been confirmed by Islamic Sharia law…and if he [Ayman al-Zawahiri] were to violate this, we would retreat from him in this case.”
Mohamed al-Zawahiri stressed that he continues to believe in the jihadist Salafist ideology, adding that he remains committed to his offer to mediate a peace between the West and Islamists. He stressed that Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s most recent call to establish an Islamic Caliphate did not constitute an escalation, adding this is a call that “represents an expression of Islamic hope, and some of this can be achieved now and others later.” He stressed that “these are all objectives in line with Islamic Sharia law.”
Mohamed al-Zawahiri previously sent a six-page peace proposal to CNN, in which he put forward a peace plan between the West and Islamists. In an exclusive interview with CNN, the “other” al-Zawahiri had offered to serve as an intermediary between the Islamists and the United States and the West, stressing that if anybody can talk his brother – Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri – out of violence, it’s him. This peace plan contains a number of pre-conditions, including America ceasing to intervene in Muslim lands and education and Washington ending its “war on Islam” and releasing all Islamist prisoners. The peace plan also called on Islamists to cease attacking western and US interests, stop provoking the US and the West, and even protect legitimate western and US interests in Muslim lands.
Commenting on the Al Qaeda chief’s call, Mohamed al-Zawahiri also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this is not incompatible with the peace plan that we put forward to the west, for if it stops interfering in our affairs, we will stop interfering in its affairs.”
Responding to a question regarding the influence that Ayman al-Zawahiri’s call could have on the stability of Egypt, particularly in light of the clashes between Islamist jihadists and security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, Mohamed al-Zawahiri asserted that “this will have no influence whatsoever in this regard, however the call was to put in place the fundamental principles so that the principal rights of the Islamic ummah are not lost.”
As for whether this call represented a threat to a nation-state like Egypt, he said “today, the Egyptian constitution and approach is being drafted, and at this stage we want to confirm that the Islamic religion, faith and association is stronger than the national association, although this does not mean by any means the abolition of the national association…however there is a wider association that has been ignored over the past decades, and this is the religion association.”
Mohamed al-Zawahiri was a senior member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group in the late 1970s. He was arrested against the backdrop of the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, spending a total of 14 years in prison. After his release, he left the country, living abroad in numerous countries across the Arab world including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. He was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in 1998 in the “Returnees from Albania” case. Al-Zawahiri returned to Egypt following the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime on 11 February 2011. He was arrested on his return, but acquitted of all charges against him by military tribunal last March.