A video posted on Egyptian websites this week shows Ayman al Zawahiri calling on the hardline Salafi leader Hazem Salah Abu Ismail to relaunch the Egyptian revolution. While Zawahiri’s call has generated a new buzz in the Egyptian press, it is actually a clip from an official al Qaeda production released on Oct. 24.
“You must meet the request of the Egyptian people for Sharia rule in order to attain dignity and pride,” Zawahiri advised Abu Ismail, Egypt Independent reported. “The corrupt powers in Egypt must be forced to bow to the demands of the people through popular revolution, preaching and inciting action.”
“The battle isn’t over, but it has started,” Zawahiri says, according to a translation previously prepared by the SITE Intelligence Group. Al Qaeda’s emir continues:
“Sheikh Hazem and his supporters and every sincere person in Egypt should wage a popular campaign to incite and preach in order to complete the revolution, which was aborted and its gains were played with; to achieve for the Muslim jihadi and stationed people of Egypt what they want of shariah-based governance, honor, justice, freedom, and dignity; to force the corrupt forces in Egypt to submit to the demands of the people through popular revolutionary, preaching and inciting work….”
Zawahiri has repeatedly called on Muslims to implement sharia law. Zawahiri’s rhetoric in this regard is markedly different from his invocations to wage violent jihad in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere around the globe.
Ayman al Zawahiri and his younger brother Mohammed have long had friendly relations with Abu Ismail.
Mohammed al Zawahiri, who was freed from an Egyptian prison after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, admittedly helped stage the Sept. 11, 2012 protest outside of the US Embassy in Cairo. And the younger Zawahiri relied, in part, on Abu Ismail’s supporters to fill the rally’s anti-American, pro-al Qaeda ranks.
“We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions including the Islamic Jihad (and the) Hazem Abu Ismail movement,” Mohammed al Zawahiri explained, according to CNN. Islamic Jihad is the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a core part of al Qaeda’s international jihadist coalition.
For his part, Abu Ismail has praised al Qaeda’s leaders and sent warm greetings to the Zawahiri brothers.
Abu Ismail has honored Osama bin Laden as a martyr, lauding the slain al Qaeda master’s decision to forgo the comforts of wealth for a life of jihad. He has prayed for bin Laden to be avenged.
Abu Ismail has made many controversial statements on his popular television program. At the end of one episode on Al-Nas TV on Dec. 28, 2009, he offered his condolences to the Zawahiri brothers on the passing of their mother.
Abu Ismail expressed his “sincere condolences to brother Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri and to Mohammed Al Zawahiri on the passing of their mother,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “We all feel that these condolences must be expressed,” Ismail continued. “May Allah grant her absolution, and may her family be filled with patience, tranquility, and comfort.”
During the Egyptian presidential contest, Abu Ismail became a leading contender before being disqualified because his deceased mother had held a US citizenship.
While maintaining his rejection of electoral politics, Ayman al Zawahiri lambasted Abu Ismail’s disqualification.
“Removing Hazem Salah Abu Ismail is a lesson for every Muslim who thinks that the shariah will rule in Egypt through the secular constitutions, which give supremacy to the people, while in Islam it is to Allah alone,” Zawahiri said during his Oct. 24 video. Zawahiri added that Abu Ismail was really banned because he vowed to implement sharia law immediately and “the international arrogant forces refuse to let the shariah rule in Egypt.”
Al Qaeda and allied ideologues often argue that the current conflict is one between those seeking to implement sharia law in the Muslim world and foreign forces trying to prevent it.