Al Qaeda Airs Sour Grapes About Islamic State

Al Qaeda (its forces pictured) seems to have been elbowed aside by the Islamic State. (Photo:

Al Qaeda (its forces pictured) seems to have been elbowed aside by the Islamic State. (Photo:

In a Guardian article on June 10, the team of Qaida Shiv Malik, Ali Younes, Spencer Ackerman, Mustafa Khalili chronicle how How Isis crippled al-Qaida. They focus on al Qaeda ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and his friend Abu Qatada, another radical cleric, both of whom are ardent critics of the Islamic State. Due to their affiliation with al Qaeda, it’s obviously a little difficult to feel sorry for them.

The list of Isis’s crimes that have offended Maqdisi and Abu Qatada is long. They include creating division within the wider jihadi movement, publicly snubbing Zawahiri and establishing a caliphate to which Isis demands every other jihadi swear fealty or face death. For more than a year both say they have worked behind the scenes, negotiating with Isis – including with Baghdadi himself – to bring the group back into the al-Qaida fold, to no avail. “Isis don’t respect anyone. They are ruining the wider jihadi movement and are against the whole ummah [Muslim nation],” Abu Qatada said.

… Both men are particularly appalled, they said, by the way Isis has used their scholarship to cloak its savagery in ideological legitimacy, to gain recruits and justify its battle with al-Qaida and its affiliates. “Isis took all our religious works,” Maqdisi said. “They took it from us – it’s all our writings, they are all our books, our thoughts.” Now, Abu Qatada said, “they don’t respect anyone”.

Note that they’re not objecting to the savagery so much as how the Islamic State has used al Qaeda’s ideology to its own ends. Not difficult to do, since on a scale of violence, Al Qaeda is 10. Of course, the Islamic State approaches triple digits. (I’d give it 100, but, bereft of war planes and nuclear weapons, it’s not capable of the large-scale destruction of superpowers, such as the United States.)

Maqdisi and Abu Qatada do seem to concede that 9/11 may have been a tad too vicious.

In recent years, Maqdisi has even come to believe that al-Qaida’s conception of jihad – one licensed in part by his own scholarship – may have been incorrect, a jihad of “spite” rather than “empowering believers”. Even the attacks of 9/11, Maqdisi said, were part of a misguided strategy. “The actions in New York and Washington, no matter how great they appeared to be – the bottom line is they were spiteful.”

Read the rest of this remarkable article to learn how the Islamic State shoved al Qaeda to the sidelines.