Raymond Ibrahim: The Al Qaeda Reader


The Al Qaeda Reader exposes al-Qaeda's ultimate motives by showings the striking differences between statements published in English for Westerners and those in Arabic for Muslims. Al-Qaeda's publications for the Muslim world are completely different in tone and content. In addition to laying bare al-Qaeda's ultimate motives, The Al Qaeda Reader includes the organization's propagandist speeches, which are directed primarily at Americans, Europeans, and Iraqis. This book makes clear that al-Qaeda is not an organization committed to a war that is finite, defensive, and based on specific complaints. Al-Qaeda stresses Islam's compulsory demand for "offensive jihad," that is, not because Islam is "under attack," as they claim in messages to the West, but simply to offer the world the three sacred choices: accept Islam, live in total submission to Islamic overlords as marginal citizens of an Islamic state, or die.
Oct, 2007, Raymond Ibrahim
The Two Faces of Al Qaeda:
When the September 11 attacks occurred, I was in Fresno, Calif., researching my M.A. thesis on the Battle of Yarmuk, one of the first yet little-known battles between Christendom and Islam, waged in 636 A.D. That battle, in which the Arab invaders were outmatched and yet still triumphed, would have immense historical repercussions. A mere four years later, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and all the land between, would become Islamic. A century later, all the land between southern France and India would be added to the House of Islam.

The next time I came across any reference to this pivotal battle was four years later, as I was translating the words of Osama bin Laden. Surprisingly, an event that seemed so distant, almost irrelevant, to the West was to bin Laden a source not only of pride but of instruction. For him it was not mere history but an inspiring example of outnumbered and under-equipped mujahedin who, through faith-inspired courage, managed to defeat the Western empire of Byzantium. When the Arab and Afghan mujahedin, including bin Laden's nascent Al Qaeda — outnumbered and under-equipped — defeated the Soviet invaders, history was repeating itself ...

Soon after relocating to Washington in order to attend Georgetown, I landed an internship, which later evolved into a full-time position, at the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, where thousands of new books, serials, and microfilms arrive yearly from the Arab world.

Numerous Arabic books dealing with Al Qaeda passed through my hands in this privileged position. A good number contained not only excerpts or quotes by Al Qaeda but entire treatises written by its members. Surprisingly, I came to discover that most of these had never been translated into English. Most significantly, however, the documents struck me as markedly different from the messages directed to the West, in both tone and (especially) content.

It soon became clear why these particular documents had not been directed to the West. They were theological treatises, revolving around what Islam commands Muslims to do vis-à-vis non-Muslims. The documents rarely made mention of all those things — Zionism, Bush's "Crusade," malnourished Iraqi children — that formed the core of Al Qaeda's messages to the West. Instead, they were filled with countless Koranic verses, hadiths (traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), and the consensus and verdicts of Islam's most authoritative voices. The temporal and emotive language directed at the West was exchanged for the eternal language of Islam when directed at Muslims. Or, put another way, the language of "reciprocity" was exchanged for that of intolerant religious fanaticism. There was, in fact, scant mention of the words "West," "U.S.," or "Israel." All of those were encompassed by that one Arabic-Islamic word, "kufr" — "infidelity" — the regrettable state of being non-Muslim that must always be fought through "tongue and teeth."

Consider the following excerpt — one of many — which renders Al Qaeda's reciprocal-treatment argument moot. Soon after 9/11, an influential group of Saudis wrote an open letter to the United States saying, "The heart of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is justice, kindness, and charity." Bin Laden wrote in response:
As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High's Word: "We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us — till you believe in Allah alone." So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility — that is, battle — ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed, or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Allah Almighty's Word to his Prophet recounts in summation the true relationship: "O Prophet! Wage war against the infidels and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell — an evil fate!" Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred — directed from the Muslim to the infidel — is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them.
Bin Laden goes so far as to say that the West's purported hostility toward Islam is wholly predicated on Islam's innate hostility toward the rest of the world, contradicting his own propaganda: "The West is hostile to us on account of ... offensive jihad." ...

... Whatever one's position in regard to the "war on terror," understanding the ideas of our enemy is both a practical necessity in wartime and a fundamental liberal value. It is my hope that both sides in this bitter debate will profit from a deeper acquaintance with these works. In any case, it simply will not do to dismiss Al Qaeda as an irrational movement without ideas.
Hugh Fitzgerald, 2007:
Ibrahim, who is a researcher in the Near East Division of the Library of Congress, has had the intelligence to publish the writings of Al Qaeda members. He had noticed that these assorted manifestos and appeals, when addressed to Infidel audiences, always contained some rhetoric about such obvious "grievances" as Iraq, "Palestine," Kashmir, Kosovo, and so on. This litany, however, was completely absent from the writings and speeches directed at fellow Muslims. For them, Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and others had no need to deceive ("war is deception") but could stick to Islam -- plain Islam.

And so they do: they offer the texts of Islam, passages from the Qur'an and stories from the Hadith, unchanged by a jot or tittle, the very same passages and stories that are part of Islam, and have been read, and are known, by Muslims all over the world. There is no "European Islam" or "American Islam," as some fondly believe, or somehow, illogically, think magically comes into being once Muslims are physically present on the soil of Europe or America.

Having realized that the Arabic versions of what Bin Laden and others say remained largely untranslated, and therefore unknown to Western policy-makers and the Western public, Ibrahim took on the task of translation, and mass divulgation, himself. Before Raymond Ibrahim (an Arabic-speaking non-Muslim) came along, apparently, none of our "loyal" and "moderate Muslim" Arabic-speaking scholars in colleges, or universities, or employed by the government, saw fit to discuss, much less translate, those texts. Apparently none, before Raymond Ibrahim performed his indispensable service, felt a responsibility to undertake the task themselves, and thereby to better inform Infidels (the very Infidels whom some of them have, as their professions, a duty to advise on the nature of Muslim terrorism and its sources) of what it is that menaces them now, and indeed, menaces them permanently, for Muslims are taught to think of themselves in a permanent state of war -- though not always active warfare -- with Infidels, until such time as Islam everywhere dominates and Muslims rule, everywhere.

The communiques and tapes made for Western audiences are, Ibrahim noticed, not at all like the tapes made by terrorists for fellow Muslims as recruiting tools. Those tapes, those writings, are full of standard Islamic doctrines, well-known passages from the Qur'an, "authentic" Hadith from the collections of Bukhari and Muslim. They are intended to motivate those who, out of laziness or self-interest, have become "bad" Muslims and are not sufficiently inspired to participate directly in violent Jihad, or are not "bad" Muslims but merely those who fully support the efforts of the "good" (i.e., violent) Muslims through donations of money ...

Raymond Ibrahim's book of translated documents by Bin Laden and other terrorists, The Al-Qaeda Reader, has been published in paperback. Every government official, every FBI agent, every DHS bureaucrat should have a copy.
Jihad Watch, June 2008:
I am very pleased to announce that Raymond Ibrahim will now be contributing to Jihad Watch. Raymond is a historian and writer on the Middle East and Islam, and is the author of the superb and essential Al-Qaeda Reader.

Fluent in Arabic, Raymond has studied with Victor Davis Hanson, has an MA in History from California State University, Fresno, and has done graduate work in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies of Georgetown University. He is currently working on a PhD in Medieval Islamic history at Catholic University. His op-eds, essays, translations, and al-Qaeda related analyses have appeared in publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Syndicate, United Press International, The Washington Times, Financial Times, National Review Online, The Washington Post, The American Thinker, FrontPage Magazine, and The Jewish Press, as well as in international publications. He has lectured at colleges and universities, as well as at governmental agencies, such as the U.S. State Department.

Raymond works at the Near East section of the African and Middle Eastern division of the Library of Congress, where he discovered many of the never-before-translated Arabic texts that make up the bulk of The Al-Qaeda Reader.
See also:
- videos of Raymond Ibrahim.
- In Their Own Words

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