Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released the fourth volume of its Inspire magazine online and it features a potentially revealing commentary by al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki. In an article entitled “The Ruling on Dispossessing the Disbelievers [sic] wealth in Dar al-Harb,” Awlaki argues that jihadists should not rely exclusively on donations and that instead they have the right to loot “disbelievers” in order to finance their activities.
“Our jihad cannot depend wholly on donations made by Muslims,” Awlaki writes. Pointing to the past, Awlaki argues that Muslim forces have typically relied upon raids against disbelievers, as well as taxes paid by non-Muslim peoples to finance jihad.
“It is about time that we take serious steps towards securing a strong financial backing for our work rather than depending on donations,” Awlaki argues.
Awlaki’s article suggests that American-led efforts to disrupt AQAP’s fundraising efforts in the Gulf are working. Indeed, Awlaki openly laments such efforts:
Dear brothers: Jihad heavily relies on money. In Qur’an, the physical jihad is associated with jihad with one’s wealth in eight verses. In every verse but one, jihad with wealth preceded the physical jihad. That is because without wealth there can be no jihad.
Our enemies have realized that. Therefore they are “following the money trail” and are trying to dry up all the sources of funding “terrorism”.
This may be a thinly-veiled compliment to the US Treasury Department, which has spearheaded international efforts to disrupt al Qaeda’s financing. In October 2009, David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, explained that al Qaeda was “in its weakest financial condition in several years, and that, as a result, its influence is waning,”
Cohen went on to caution that al Qaeda still had wealthy donors “who are ready, willing and able to contribute to al Qaeda,” according to CBS News.
AQAP has made public appeals to such donors on multiple occasions. In September 2009, Said al Shihri, a former Guantanamo detainee who is AQAP’s second-in-command, asked for assistance “to help jihad to keep going.”
“The blessed Jihad performed by your brethren in Yemen against the enemies of Islam needs the core of life and the core Jihad, which is money,” al Shihri said in a video recorded on a cell phone, according to CBS News. Similarly, other al Qaeda leaders have issued pleas for cash repeatedly over the past two years.
It appears, however, that al Qaeda’s recent fundraising efforts have not been as successful as the group hoped.
Awlaki’s message is just the latest by AQAP to focus on the economics of jihad. A special issue of Inspire released in November of last year was entitled “$4,200” – the amount that AQAP claims it cost to build and ship cargo plane bombs. [See LWJ report, AQAP releases a ‘special issue’ of Inspire magazine.]
The deadly packages were intercepted before they could be detonated, but AQAP claimed the operation was a success anyway. AQAP’s reasoning was straightforward. While it cost the terror group only several thousand dollars to launch the foiled attack, deemed “Operation Hemorrhage,” the West would be forced to spend “billions of dollars” to defend against future attempts.
This simple cost-benefit argument was clearly intended to justify additional donations to AQAP. But Awlaki argues that jihadists cannot wait for gifts from their fellow Muslims because “jihad around the world is in dire need of financial support.”
“Rather than the Muslims financing their jihad from their own pockets, they should finance it from the pockets of their enemies,” Awlaki writes. Of course, al Qaeda affiliates ranging from western Iraq to North Africa and into Europe have already done just that. Al Qaeda-affiliated parties typically resort to kidnappings, theft, drug sales, and other petty crimes to finance their jihad.
Therefore, Awlaki’s strategy is not a new one. But it could represent a new urgency for AQAP as it seeks ways to fund not only its own terrorist campaign, but also willing recruits in the West. Indeed, Awlaki argues that jihadists living in the West are not bound by their nations’ laws and that they should feel free to loot the disbelievers’ coffers.
Drawing on jihadist literature that marks a distinction between dar al-harb (the land of war, which is not governed by Islamic law and in which there is no truce between Muslims and non-Muslims) and dar al-‘ahd (the land of covenant, where Muslims and non-Muslims have entered into a pact of non-aggression), Awlaki writes:
Muslims are not bound by the covenants of citizenship and visa that exist between them and nations of dar al-harb. It is the consensus of our scholars that the property of the disbelievers in dar al-harb is halal [permissible] for the Muslims and is a legitimate target for the mujahidin.
Awlaki cautions Muslims to “avoid targeting citizens of countries where the public opinion is supportive of some of the Muslim causes.” In such unnamed countries, Awlaki says, it is best to target “Government owned property,” “Banks,” “Global corporations,” and “Wealth belonging to disbelievers with known animosity towards Muslims.”
With respect to America, however, Awlaki has no reservations about stealing from any parties in his former homeland. “In the case of the United States,” Awlaki writes, “both the government and private citizens should be targeted.” The al Qaeda cleric surmises:
The American people who vote for war mongering governments are intent on no good. Anyone who inflicts harm on them in any form is doing a favor to the ummah.