Fatawā of Osama bin Laden

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Osama bin Laden authored two fatāwā in the late 1990s. The first was published in August 1996 and the second in February 1998.[1][2] At the time, bin Laden was not a wanted man in any country except his native Saudi Arabia, and was not yet known as the leader of the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda. Therefore, these fatāwā received relatively little attention until after the August 1998 United States embassy bombings, for which bin Laden was indicted.[3] The indictment mentions the first fatwā, and claims that Khalid al-Fawwaz, of bin Laden's Advice and Reformation Committee in London, participated in its communication to the press.

1996 fatwā[edit]

Bin Laden's 1996 fatwā is entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places". This document is sometimes called the Ladenese epistle, a term derived from bin Laden's surname. It is a long piece, and complains of American activities in numerous countries. It was faxed to supporters across the world.[4] It first appeared in the London-based Arabic paper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.[1]

1998 fatwā[edit]

The 1998 fatwā[2] reached Al Quds Al Arabi by fax,[5] and was signed by five people, four of whom represented specific Islamist groups:

  • Osama bin Laden[6]
  • Ayman al-Zawahiri,[6] "emir of the Jihad Group in Egypt", probably meaning Islamic Jihad
  • Ahmed Refai Taha, alias Abu Yasser, of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (in Egypt).[6] This endorsement was retracted because of the enormous unpopularity of terrorism in Egypt following the Luxor massacre of tourists and Egyptians by al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. Taha explained his signature to fellow members of the Islamic Group saying he had only been asked over the telephone to join in a statement of support for the Iraqi people.[7]
  • Mir Hamzah"[6]
  • Fazul Rahman, "emir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh",[6] probably Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh or HUJI-B; HUJI itself is in Pakistan.[citation needed]

The signatories as a group were identified as the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders". This fatwā complains of American military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, and American support for Israel. It purports to provide religious authorization for indiscriminate killing of Americans and Jews everywhere. It appeared in February 1998 and the embassy bombings followed in August.

World Islamic Front[edit]

The World Islamic Front is the organization that issued the World Islamic Front Statement of 23 February 1998, "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders",[6][8][9] listing the actions of Americans that they claim conflict with "God's order", and stating that the Front's "ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." Terrorism experts consider the "World Islamic Front" synonymous with al-Qaeda.[citation needed]

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) uses the text of the 23 February 1998 fatwa as evidence that links Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Qaeda to the 11 September 2001 attacks in Arlington County, Virginia and New York City.

Effects of the World Islamic Front Statement[edit]

The 23 February 1998 fatwa is the first known official order of the World Islamic Front. The fatwa calls upon each individual member of the existing Ummah to, "in accordance with the words of Almighty God, 'fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,' and 'fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God.'" The fatwa is widely regarded by terrorism experts as the founding document of the World Islamic Front.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Text of the 1996 fatwa, translation by PBS
  2. ^ a b Text of the 1998 fatwa translation by PBS
  3. ^ Copy of indictment USA v. Usama bin Laden et al., Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies
  4. ^ Bergen, Peter, "Holy War, Inc.", 2001
  5. ^ Lewis, Bernard (November 1998). "License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin's Declaration of Jihad". Foreign Affairs. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Text of the 1998 fatwa, translation by Federation of American Scientists
  7. ^ al-Zayyat, Montasser, The Road to al-Qaeda, The Story of Bin Laden's Right-Hand Man , University of Michigan Press. p.89
  8. ^ "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders"[dead link], World Islamic Front Statement, The Washington Post, 23 February 1998.
  9. ^ Original Arabic text of the fatwa.