News / Middle East

Lebanese Author Redefines al-Qaida

Hazem al-Amin signs copies of his new book,
Hazem al-Amin signs copies of his new book, "The Lonely Salafist" in Beirut. The book aims to prove that the loss of national identity among the Palestinian diaspora has been an important factor in shaping al-Qaida.
Heather Murdock

A new book by Lebanese journalist Hazem al-Amin argues that a small number of fundamentalist Palestinian leaders shaped much of what is now known as al-Qaida.  The book, titled The Lonely Salafist, says Palestinians are not the largest group among al-Qaida members, but they have often been the most influential. 

Author and journalist Hazem al-Amin calls them "the orphans of Palestine."  He's talking about the second, third and fourth generation Palestinians scattered throughout the Middle East after their families were forced to flee their homes in the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars.  Over the years, he says, many no longer truly self-identify as Palestinians.

Fewer in numbers amongst the "orphans" are Muslim fundamentalists, who have exchanged their national identity for a broader Islamic identity. The result: Palestinian militants among the diaspora are not focused on attacking Israel, but what they perceive to be regional and global enemies.  The author says behind al-Qaida's most famous leaders, you often find Palestinian mentors quietly pulling the strings.

Al-Amin says Osama bin Laden, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, are among the well known "stars" of al-Qaida.  But, he says, their Palestinian mentors were the keys to shaping al-Qaida's modern ideology and goals.

“The Lonely Salafist,” was released early this month. Al-Qaida's strength, according to author Hazem al-Amin, is as a set of ideas, not as an organization
“The Lonely Salafist,” was released early this month. Al-Qaida's strength, according to author Hazem al-Amin, is as a set of ideas, not as an organization
The Lonely Salafist, currently only available in Arabic, profiles several Palestinian al-Qaeda leaders, including the late Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a sheik known as "the Godfather of Jihad," who taught Osama bin Laden.  "Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences, no dialogues," was his often-quoted motto.

Al-Amin says Palestinian influence in al-Qaida does not mean the organization has a Palestinian agenda because fundamentalist leaders do not identify with their homeland.

American University in Beirut political science professor and author Hilal Khashan adds that al-Qaida may claim to want to take back what is now Israel for the Palestinian people, but its actions prove otherwise. "I think Palestine is peripheral to al-Qaida," Khashan says, "How many attacks have they launched against Israel?"

Al-Amin describes modern-day al-Qaida as more of a way of thinking than an organization.  Like computer software, any militant group can take on the al-Qaeda agenda and ideology with or without any connection to established leaders.  The author argues that what is known as the central al-Qaida organization, based in the tribal regions around the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, is weak and fragmented.  Al-Qaida as a way of thinking, he says, is a powerful threat to the Western world and to Arab governments.

Khashan argues that the strength of al-Qaida is exaggerated by Western politicians.  He says the organization has a goal- to topple Arab governments and establish an Islamic state.  But, he says, that goal is "nostalgic," not realistic."

"These are hate movements, they are anti-Western, anti-government, anti-Israeli, anti-everybody," Kashan says, "So this is their primary concern.  But I don't think their activities help their objectives, which may be unachievable."

Al-Amin says The Lonely Salafist may draw criticism from people that do not believe it is possible for someone to lose their national identity.  But he says while traveling Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq he noticed the small, but surprisingly powerful number of Palestinian leaders in al-Qaida.  The research for the book began when he wondered why al-QaIda was not focusing on Palestine.  

You May Like

Somalia: No Popular Elections in 2016

In interview Wednesday with VOA, President Mohamud says 'one person, one vote' elections will not be possible due to continuing insecurity More

Scientists Predict Climate Change Will Increase Child Malnutrition

Public health expert in Germany says that by 2050, 25 million more children's lives will be put at risk because of lack of nutrients tied to climate change More

Erdogan in China Amid Tensions on Uighurs, Missile System

Turkey's president has criticized China's heavy-handed policies toward Uighurs in violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where China says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs