RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – A bitter, year-long feud that has shaken Al Qaeda’s ideological pillars grew even sharper last month. A former associate of Ayman al-Zawahiri accused him of working for Sudanese intelligence, wearing “women’s garments” to flee Afghanistan, and spreading an incorrect Islamic theory of jihad.
Mr. Zawahiri “is only good at fleeing, inciting, collecting donations, and talking to the media,” wrote Sayyed Imam al-Sharif in his latest attack on Al Qaeda’s No. 2.
Sayyed Imam, serving a life sentence in Egypt, is an esteemed theoretician of jihad whose ideas helped shape Al Qaeda’s ideology. But now he’s decrying its stock in trade – mass murder – in a clash that is an example of how some once-fierce zealots of violent jihad are having second thoughts.
“It is really an argument about … what means are militarily effective and Islamically legitimate,” says William McCants, a Washington area-based analyst of militant Islamism. Imam, he adds, is saying that only “a guerrilla war conducted against enemy soldiers” is permitted.