Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, made a speech on 26 January 2018, entitled, “After Seven Years Where Is the Deliverance?” The speech built the case that the “Arab spring” uprisings failed because they tried to make changes within the framework of the nation-state, to be incremental, and to make accommodations with the fallen regimes, rather than radical “purification” by launching coordinated jihadist revolutions that respected no frontier, violently uprooted the old order, and implemented the shari’a. An English transcript of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media station and is reproduced below.
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In the name of Allah, and praise be to Allah, and prayer and peace be upon the prophet of Allah and upon his family and his companions and who follow him.
Oh Muslim brothers everywhere, peace and Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you.
As for what follows:
Seven years have passed by us—in these days—since the Arab peoples’ revolutions against its rulers, which began in Tunisia then Egypt and Yemen and Libya and Syria.
All of these revolutions were suppressed except Syria, which entered the spiral of international solutions, and the tyrannical ruling regimes returned in Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen and Libya, even more fierce and corrupt [than before].
What can we learn from this bitter experience, which led to the loss of the popular anger against corruption and criminality and injustice? And the manipulation of the desires of the Muslim people wishing for the rule of the shari’a to eradicate corruption and liberate the lands of the Muslims?
We must reflect thoroughly on these bitter experiences, let us learn from where the enemy was able to rally against these mighty revolutions, which shook the entire world, and forced America and the West and the East to retreat before them and then get wrapped up in them, after they realised their inability to face the flood. They were misguided about [the revolutions’] path toward freedom and dignity and shari’a rule, and they were dragged into a quagmire of bargains and conspiracies and contractual and behavioural and political concessions, then the inevitable result? The loss of the religion and the world.
One of the most important shortcomings which shamed these revolutions was, and which the primarily responsibility is placed upon the leadership, which rode its wave, is the absence of the demand of the Muslim masses to implement the shari’a from the slogans of the revolutions from the beginning, although the masses stuck to it, but some movements exploited it win the elections—which followed the revolutions—in arousing emotions of the masses. There are Islamic movements which claim they seek to implement shari’a, then when the stage came to write the constitutions, most of these movements evaded their promises, and vague text sufficed. But some of them—such as the Resistance Movement [i.e. HAMAS]—renounced shari’a rulings, finally revealing its secular face.
Some of the other movements—which did not throw a stone during the revolutions, and just stood by—turned around in a theatrical move on their previous position on democracy, and exploited their status as a Salafi (movement) that demands the shari’a to support the criminals of the security [agencies] and aide the military tyrants, even as it announced that it would not oppose the peace agreements with Israel, and it is not opposed to being an ambassador to Israel.
These leaders can’t lead a Muslim or infidel revolution, because the revolution—as a means of social change—must, it order to succeed, uproot the corrupt regime from its roots, and establish a new system.
This is what these leaders got involved with, living in harmony like twins with the corrupt criminals. The radical, revolutionary approach is not known to these leaders, which boast that the criminals and the hangmen of the security [forces] have not witnessed much violence [against them from the post-Arab Spring governments] …
The [post-revolutionary] leaders have sat back on their heels, and turned upon their principles, and announced their regret for the jihad, and their submission to the ruling tyrants, on the basis that they are legitimate rulers and it is forbidden to depart from them. These leaders imposed their collapsed psychology and their behaviour upon their followers, and diverted the course of the flood of popular anger into the swamp of bargaining and concessions.
Therefore, these leaders were keen on avoiding continued confrontation with the security apparatus and the elements of the [fallen] regime and its supporters, collapsing the popular uprising, and wasting the sacrifices of thousands of victims from the resistance fighters, as in the history of all revolutions.
These leaders prevented violent confrontation with the regime forces, and we heard their deceptive phrases: “The army and the people are one hand,” although this Americanized army did not come to the streets except to kill the rebelling masses, but the greatest of the criminals in Washington did not issue orders to them, and managed the crisis with deception and deceit.
We also heard their misguided phrase: “our peace is stronger than the bullets,” ignoring the words of the Almighty, glorified and exalted is He: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into [the hearts of] the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom you may not know, but whom Allah does know” [Anfal (8): 60]. And Allah the Exalted says: “And fight them until there is not more fitna and the religion, all of it, is for Allah alone” [Anfal (8): 39].
What was the result of the slogan “our peace is stronger than the bullets”? Its result was that the bullets of the corrupt agents of the criminal apostate regimes killed thousands of peaceful Muslims without resistance and defiance, then that regime gained power upon the ruins of the pacifist regime.
These psychologically defeated leaders were keen on announcing that their slogan is to concede, as [Rashid] al-Ghannouchi repeated. And what was the result of these concessions? The result was a return to the previous criminals—stronger, and stricter, than before.
And because these [opposition] leaders were too weak to face the falsehood of the tyrants, they were keen to expedite the fulfillment of the calls for negotiations and understanding with the criminals on the inside and outside, and were satisfied with the survival of the symbols of the criminal, corrupt, and apostate regimes in their positions, and continuation of the reins in their hands.
These leaders were keen on appeasing the greatest of criminals, and the chief among them: America. Seeking to polish their image before America, we saw [Muslim Brotherhood president] Muhammad Morsi [in Egypt] confirm his commitment to the agreements of surrender with Israel and the treaties of military and security cooperation with America.
We heard al-Ghannouchi saying that his party was preoccupied with their concerns about resisting the normalization with Israel. And one of the most dangerous shortcomings in these revolutions was the keenness of many of these leaders on not distinguishing the enemy from the friend, to mislead the popular anger and lose its course.
We saw the Americanized army fighting Islam in Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, describing what it was doing as protecting the revolutions, while acquiescing to [the old] rulers and its authorities, and getting closer to them and ingratiating themselves.
We saw Muhammad Morsi go to the criminals of the Ministry of the Interior in their nest, and assure them that they would not be harmed, and we saw the turbans of the hypocritical authority, the investigative men, who were defying the sanctity of the show, glorifying and offering and shuddering.
We saw the scandal of the secularists, who have long been ruling over these corrupt regimes and transgressing against the Muslims, being brought closer to them [the Islamist oppositionists] and courting them, and being described as revolutionaries and partners in the revolution.
We saw the prosecution of shari’a, which was sacrificed in order to satisfy these misfortunes, and the leadership of the Renaissance Party [Ennahdha] in Tunisia explain that they would not demand that Islamic shari’a be a source of legislation, so they could arrive at a consensus constitution.
We saw one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood say that they will be limited to stipulating in the Constitution that the principles of shari’a are the main source of legislation because they were keen on the national consensus, and what did he do to ensure their consensus?
One of the biggest shortcomings was that many leaders were keen on giving priority to the slogans and values of the nation-state over the brotherhood of faith and unity in the lands of Muslims, to please the secularists and the greatest of the Western criminals—and they were [still] not pleased.
One of the greatest shortcomings—which dispersed the flood of popular anger—was the keenness of so many of the [opposition] leaders to use the struggle for gain and profit. We saw in Egypt the currents affiliated with Islamic work, after they issued fatwas—which have nothing to do with the reality and the constraints of shari’a—give permission to enter the elections under the pretext of necessity. We saw them after that not united by that necessity, but differing and wrestling, and allied with the secularists and remnants of the former regime against each other.
We saw in Yemen how Gulf money played the heads of the political parties, and how the Huthis became brothers to them, and how the deputy [president] was appointed to replace the deposed ruler, keen on gains of the despicable world.
We see today in Syria the absurdity of dissent and disagreement and fighting and the spilling of forbidden blood is merely a mirage of eroded empowerment, and we saw how the nations outside of Syria manage the conflict with funding and intimidation [using threats] of being put on the terrorism lists.
All this and other things were reasons for the defeat of the Arab revolutions.
So, in a few words, what is the path of deliverance and victory?
The path of deliverance and victory is consciousness, and it is the greatest battle which we must overcome to raise awareness of the umma [Muslim community] regarding what is imposed upon it, and what is its duty. And what is the difference between truth and falsehood? And who is its enemy and who is its friend?
To raise awareness that understandings with the corrupt regimes in our countries and with the greatest criminals—chief among them, America—only leads to the loss of the religion and the world.
The Almighty, glorified and exalted is He, has ordered us to fight the corrupt ones with the tongue and with speech and the Sunna. He said: “And what is wrong with you that you fight not for the sake of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated, and oppressed among the men and women and children, whose cry is, ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors! Oh, raise for us one from thy presence who will protect! Appoint for us one who will help!’” [Nisa (4): 75].
If we unite together around the word of tawhid [monotheism], we will fight the jihad of the umma from Kashgar [in Xinjiang, western China] to the coasts of the Atlantic, and from the summits of the Caucasus to Somalia and Central Africa. We must gather as one nation fighting one battle on multiple fronts; we must not fight our battles as narrow and national organisations that are afraid of being classified as terrorists.
It is the battle of the entire umma, with its sincere scholars and its mujahideen and people of opinion and the merchants and the leaders and the wise.
We must know that our battle is long, and it is a battle of faith and awareness before it is a battle of arms and fighting. The battle of behaviour and education and asceticism in the world comes before the bombing and assassination and the collection of spoils.
Let us unite and draw close to each other and correct the imbalances and the flaws and fill the gaps. Let us believe with our Lord to keep his victory over us. The Almighty, glorified and exalted is he, said: “They ask you about ghanima (war spoils). Say ‘The bounties are for Allah and the prophet,’ so keep your duty to Allah and straighten relations between yourselves” [Anfal (8): 1], and the Almighty said: “Oh you believe! If you support [the cause of] Allah, He will support you and make your foothold firm” [Muhammad (47): 7].
Our last prayer is: praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and prayer and peace be upon our master, Muhammad, and his family and companions. Allah’s peace and mercy and blessings be upon you.
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 This is clearly directed at Hizb al-Nur, the Salafi party in Egypt, which participated in elections and then backed the military coup in 2013.