Center for Strategic Communication

Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, and two other jihadist ideologues have released a statement criticizing the Democratic Jihad Party in Egypt. Ahmed Ashush and Jalal Abu Fotouh, both of whom are leading figures in Ansar al Sharia Egypt, are Zawahiri’s co-signatories on the statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“Jihad and Democracy are opposites and don’t mix,” the three jihadists argue in the opening lines of their statement. They add that democracy is “one of the greatest deceptions used by the enemies of” Islam and pushes people away from their obligation to perform jihad.

“So, we heard about America’s agents founding the Democratic Jihad Party,” SITE’s translation reads. “Their Satan made it look good for them, to combine between light and darkness, and between tawhid [monotheism] and idolatry, but they failed and their goal was lost.”

The Democratic Jihad Party was formed by former members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a terrorist organization that was headed by Ayman al Zawahiri before its merger with Osama bin Laden’s operation, and other former jihadists. Mohammed al Zawahiri headed the EIJ’s military committee during the 1990s and was responsible for overseeing the organization’s terrorist operations. Ashush was also a member of the EIJ, and admittedly consorted with leading EIJ figures in Afghanistan in the early 1990s.

Mohammed al Zawahiri and his two allies bristle at the notion that al Qaeda’s emir would approve of the political party.

Some of the party’s leaders “aren’t known to have had any affiliation with jihad all their lives, and all of a sudden they have a title in the media such as the ‘jihadi leader’,” the three authors say. These same leaders “move every night from one satellite channel to another and attribute themselves to Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, may Allah preserve him, and say: Our Emir al Zawahiri said such-and-such.”

The authors of the statement argue that while the party is supposed to be the political arm of jihadist groups, the groups’ military operations are nonexistent, meaning the party’s leaders have abandoned jihad. Sarcastically, they write: “We don’t know in which crypts the military wings of these political arms disappeared!”

Al Bayan Media Foundation and Ansar al Sharia Egypt

The statement by Mohammed al Zawahiri, Ashush, and Fotouh was published by the Al Bayan Media Foundation on the group’s Facebook page and jihadist forums. Al Bayan’s Facebook page is updated infrequently, but posts on the page are decidedly pro-al Qaeda.

Ayman al Zawahiri Ghannouchi.jpg

On June 6, the Al Bayan Media Establishment republished Ahmed Ashush’s statement blasting Tunisian Islamist Rached Ghannouchi. One year earlier, Ghannouchi had criticized al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, whom Ashush openly praises.

On June 6, for instance, the group republished a statement by Ashush defending Ayman al Zawahiri against criticisms levied by Rached Ghannouchi of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party. One year ago, Ghannouchi lambasted Zawahiri as a “disaster for Islam and for Muslims,” adding that “al Qaeda’s project is one of destruction and civil war.”

Ashush responded at the time, claiming that Ghannouchi is a hypocrite who compromised his principles in the name of democracy. In contrast, Ashush argued, Ayman al Zawahiri should be praised for his “truthfulness and dedication” and for fully realizing the dawa (or call) of Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual godfather of al Qaeda and like-minded groups.

Ashush glorified Zawahiri, saying that he deferred to bin Laden’s leadership because he “was not a man of the world, seeking a position or leadership, but rather a jihadist, who does his part wherever he is.” Ashush even credited Zawahiri for the Arab Spring, arguing that Zawahiri was the one who “planted the seed of rebellion against tyranny” and supported the “Arab revolutions.”

While denouncing Ghannouchi, Ashush praised Abu Iyad al Tunisi and his Ansar al Sharia group in Tunisia, as well as “all those who work for Islam in Tunisia.” Ashush concluded by asking Allah to “protect our sheikh, Dr Ayman al Zawahiri, and all the mujahidin.”

Ashush, like Mohammed al Zawahiri, is clear about his allegiance to al Qaeda. During an interview in late October 2012, for instance, Ashush said he was “honored to be an extension of al Qaeda.”

In April, the Al Bayan Media Foundation’s Facebook page advertised a then recent message from Ayman al Zawahiri that was disseminated by al Qaeda’s As Sahab propaganda arm. Al Bayan also posted a link to the video.

In March, Ashush’s eulogy of slain al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi was re-posted by Al Bayan.

In February, Al Bayan published a message by Fotouh calling on Muslims to support the jihad in Mali.

Mohammed al Zawahiri, who is featured at Ansar al Sharia Egypt’s events, has also attempted to rally public support against France’s role in Mali. In January, the younger Zawahiri hosted a protest outside of France’s Embassy in Cairo and threatened the West with retaliation. Banners featuring Zawahiri’s older brother and Osama bin Laden were featured at the event. One of Mohammed al Zawahiri’s followers was also killed while fighting in Mali in May.

In September 2012, just days after the pro-al Qaeda rally in front of the American Embassy in Cairo, Al Bayan published a message from Ashush calling for the makers of the film “Innocence of Muslims” to be killed.

Ansar al Sharia in Egypt, like Ansar al Sharia groups elsewhere, is staunchly opposed to democracy, which it sees as inconsistent with its strict version of Islamic law. In their founding statement, Ansar al Sharia Egypt’s leaders called for the implementation of sharia law. They also said they will work toward “the liberation of the Muslim lands from foreign invasion” and resist “modern colonialism, especially the Zionist-Crusader colonialism that is led by America and the West.”

The latest statement by Mohammed al Zawahiri and his allies is cut from the same cloth as their previous missives.