Hossam Abdul Raouf, editor of al Qaeda’s “Vanguards of Khorasan” magazine. Image courtesy of SITE.
A new video released by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, on jihadist forums on June 28 features Hossam Abdul Raouf, the editor of the terrorist organization’s “Vanguards of Khorasan” electronic magazine.
According to the SITE Intelligence Group, the new release is Raouf’s “first appearance in a video” from As Sahab. Raouf has been a prolific contributor to al Qaeda’s publications. In 2008, for example, Raouf threatened terrorist attacks against Canada if the country did not remove its troops from Afghanistan. To date, however, Raouf has not achieved the celebrity of other jihadist ideologues who have been regularly featured in al Qaeda’s videos.
Al Qaeda offers a brief biography of Raouf at the beginning of the new video, according to SITE. Raouf, an Egyptian, was born in 1958 and received a degree in agriculture. In early 1986, he “deployed to jihad against the Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan,” and stayed there for nine months before returning to Egypt to work for the Agriculture Minister.
The biography states that Raouf could have taken computer classes in America in 1998 but refused to do so because of his hatred for the US and dedication to jihad.
In 1989, Raouf relocated to Pakistan, where he joined the Maktab al Khidamat (MAK), a precursor to al Qaeda that was established by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam. That same year, Azzam was killed and bin Laden assumed full control of the MAK.
Raouf worked for the group until the 1990s, serving as a treasurer, “financial and administrative director,” and then as a “member in the editorial board of al Jihad Magazine.” Al Qaeda says that Raouf moved to Kabul in 1995, where he ran charitable projects and an orphanage until the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It is not clear what he did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
In 2005, Raouf “became the editor of Vanguards of Khorasan Magazine since its first issue.” Al Qaeda adds that this was after the “blessed invasion of London in July 2005,” a reference to the 7/7 bombings.
Focus on Arab Spring
In the latest video, Raouf focuses on the revolutions that have swept through Arab nations since late 2010, arguing that their potential remains unfulfilled because the old regimes have not been completely replaced by governments adhering to al Qaeda-style sharia law. Raouf’s lament is a common one in al Qaeda’s messaging.
In a November 2012 statement, for instance, Ayman al Zawahiri argued that Muslims must be made aware “of the necessity of being ruled by sharia and adhering to the judgments of Islam” and must “continue in their revolution until they uproot the remains of the corrupt regimes, and purify their lands of external humiliation and internal corruption.” [See LWJ report, Zawahiri calls on Muslims to implement sharia.]
Raouf has long pushed al Qaeda’s political agenda in his writings. The following brief summary is based on translations prepared by the SITE Intelligence Group.
After Pakistan held elections in 2002, Raouf published a short book titled “The Muslims Between the Pestle of Democracy and the Mortar of Dictatorship,” which was published online by Nokhba Jihadi Media.
“There was a lot of talk about the necessity of instituting the democratic system in the Middle East and spreading the values of freedom and democracy in its societies, according to the claim of the American president and his administration,” Raouf wrote in the introduction to the book’s first edition. “Then, the parrots and the mercenaries in the Islamic world followed them to demand the condemnation of jihadi propensities to change the dominant reality of Muslims, and to instead call for the necessity of resorting to peaceful means, by instituting democracy, entering into parliamentary councils, and establishing official parties to fulfill this goal, with the use of legitimate ways to express their refusal to go out in peaceful demonstrations, etc.”
Raouf went on to state that the book is intended to refute the thinking of Islamic scholars and students who believe that democratically-held elections are consistent with sharia law.
Nokhba Jihadi Media released a second edition of the book on jihadist forums on Oct. 9, 2011. Raouf re-wrote the introduction to address the so-called Arab Spring, arguing against the supposed “falsehood” of democracy, and claiming that his work is built upon the words of others, including Ayman al Zawahiri.
“We return to confirm that there is a vicious media campaign to convince Muslims of the behavior of false democracy as a lifestyle,” Raouf wrote in the introduction to the second edition of his book. “The media outlets and press agencies repeat that the revolutions have achieved their goals and that there is no need to continue the demonstrations and the protests amongst the youth, men and the general public, and this is an attempt to kill the great revolutions, end the zeal and the chivalry in the hearts, and explode domestic conflicts amongst the supporters and the opponents of such popular movements.”
Raouf also argued that the political turmoil in the Arab world had changed nothing, because sharia law had not been fully implemented. The “reality shows that no actual changes took place on the economic, social, security and political levels,” Raouf wrote.
On June 21, 2011, Nokhba Jihadi Media released another article by Raouf, titled “The Connections between Jihad and the Contemporary Arab Popular Revolutions.” Raouf argued that Libyans would not have needed to rely on intervention by the “Crusader” NATO if they were truly committed to jihad. Raouf again argued that sharia law must be implemented by the Libyan people.
New video, old message
Al Qaeda is clearly sensitive to the argument that its ideology has been overshadowed by the Arab Spring. The group has capitalized on the upheaval in various ways, including the establishment of a new arm in Syria. But al Qaeda did not start the revolutions, and Raouf finds it necessary to once again address the new political reality in his video debut.
Raouf claims, implausibly, that al Qaeda sparked the Arab Spring. Al Qaeda “broke the barrier of fear for the Arab peoples, so they revolted and ousted the agents of the Americans one after the other, and the Americans couldn’t help them,” Raouf says. It is a “falsehood” to say that al Qaeda does not approve of the revolutions, he adds.
Yet, in al Qaeda’s view, the Arab Spring has still failed to deliver real change. “The current results of the revolutions that succeeded in ousting the rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen aren’t on the level that we had hoped for, and the most exalted goals weren’t achieved that were announced at the beginning of the revolutions,” Raouf says.
Raouf speaks at length about the many problems Egypt has encountered in the post-Mubarak era. The longtime jihadist says that Egypt’s struggles “distract” Muslims “from facing the real enemy from among the Crusaders, the Jews and their agents inside, and completing the goals of the revolution and on top of them, implementing sharia-based governance and carrying out their role in building and fixing what was done by the sinful hands that ruled Egypt for the past 60 years.”
Repeating a message he has consistently delivered since at least 2002, Raouf maintains that democracy is unacceptable, and claims that only the implementation of sharia law will complete the revolutions.
“We also warn [Muslims against] accepting the alternative that they want to impose on us, making us like someone who sought shelter in fire from smoke, which is the establishment of a democratic, pluralistic, secular government, and that there is no problem if the head of state is Christian or Muslim or female, like someone said whom Allah blinded his insight,” Raouf says.