Hamza bin Laden, the son and heir of al Qaeda’s founder, stresses the importance of the war in Syria for the jihadists’ cause in a newly released message titled, “The Cause of al-Shām is the Cause of Islam.” Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, posted the message online earlier today.
Hamza seeks to boost the morale of the Sunni jihadists fighting multiple enemies inside Syria, praising their “patience” and “endurance.” The mujahideen in Syria are “writing a golden chapter in the contemporary history of the Muslim Ummah (worldwide community of Muslims),” Hamza says.
The junior bin Laden portrays the war as part of a global conflict against “Islam itself.” Addressing Sunni jihadists in Syria, he says the “International System and the states of the West and the East that are fighting against you do so because you seek to establish a true Islamic government.”
“We want al-Shām to emerge victorious over the tyrants” and “to be ruled by the noble Shariah,” Hamza says. “We wish to see the armies of Mujahideen setting out from Shām to liberate al-Quds (with the permission of Allah)…instead of Shām itself turning into another Palestine, God Forbid.” (Hamza has said in the past that Syria is the key to “liberate Palestine.”)
“The enemy does not want to see Islam be established in any form,” Hamza claims, alleging that the West and Iran are jointly opposed to Sunni Muslims throughout the region. “The Crusader enemy along with its Rafidhi [Shiite] allies are occupying our Islamic lands bit by bit,” Hamza claims. He points to Iraq and Yemen to support his argument, as Iranian-backed forces have advanced in both countries. This same claim has been made by other al Qaeda figures in the past. Hamza alleges that the enemies’ “eyes” are “firmly set on the occupation of the Land of the Two Sanctuaries” in Saudi Arabia.
There is more than a hint of worry in Hamza’s words, as the jihadists face multiple enemies, all of whom threaten the Taliban-style state that is slowly being built in the northwestern province of Idlib. Hamza surely knows this.
“To enable the Muslims of Shām to stop this International Crusader-Rafidhi aggression, Muslims – all Muslims – must stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and offer all kinds of help, support and encouragement,” Hamza tells listeners.
“The body of the Muslim Ummah – specifically its Syrian wound – has severely deteriorated, and is in need of urgent treatment,” he warns. “If we are able to treat this wound, we should be able to treat the other wounds as well. And if we ignore this wound, the injury will only spread and we will be left unable to treat the whole body.”
Hamza calls for “[e]xtreme vigilance and urgent, organized, serious action…to support the people of Shām before it’s too late,” as the “cause of al-Shām must be the cause of the entire Ummah.”
Hamza addresses his “Mujahid brothers in our beloved Shām” multiple times, but he does not name any specific groups or individuals. In Aug. 2015, Hamza lauded Abu Muhammad al Julani, the emir of Al Nusrah Front, as the “bold commander” and he praised Julani’s organization. Al Nusrah was a public branch of al Qaeda until July 2016, when it was rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham. The group then merged with other organizations to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) in January 2016. HTS has suffered from internal rivalries and heated ideological disagreements since its founding, with a few of Julani’s detractors claiming that he had overstepped his bounds and left al Qaeda’s ranks without permission. Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has not leveled that grave charge against Julani, at least not publicly. Hamza neither criticizes, nor praises Julani in his new message. And while HTS has its share of problems, including some high-profile recent defections, the group is still the largest in northwestern Syria.
Hamza does not address any of the specific problems the jihadists have encountered. Instead, he offers general advice, some of which may refer to the debates that have taken place within the jihadists’ ranks and the problems they have faced.
For instance, Hamza encourages the jihadists to stay united, because their enemies are “exceptionally cunning,” scheming to “divide your ranks, disperse your strength and sow discord and disputes amongst you to completely uproot you.” Hamza warns that the “enemy picks on each one of you separately.” This “demands from you extreme vigilance, deliberation, holding tightly together to the rope of Allah, to His Book and the Sunnah, and sidestepping the ‘initiatives’ launched by the enemy, for these are nothing but conspiracies.”
Some jihadists have been especially concerned about being designated as terrorists by the US and other nations. Hamza says this shouldn’t be a concern.
“Let us be proud of the West’s profiling of us as ‘terrorists’, for this is no allegation; it is a badge of honor,” Hamza says. “We must be proud of our enmity of America and Russia, for they are the Pharaohs of this age,” Hamza claims. “Anyone who stands up to them has a right to be proud; anyone who tries to appease them must be ashamed of himself. So let us be proud of the anger of the West and its hatred for us.”
Osama’s heir also advises the jihadists to “[s]tick to the guidance of scholars and the Shuyukh of Jihad who want the best for you.” The comment is interesting, given that a few senior ideologues have recently resigned from HTS.
Hamza ends his message with a call to arms for the Muslim youth. “Your participation in the Jihad of al-Shām will be a source of blessing for you. Everything in Jihad in al-Shām assumes a heavenly dimension.”
“A young Muslim,” Hamza claims, “even if he is among those who have transgressed…becomes a Mujahid, Muhajir [immigrant] and a hero merely by reaching the land of Shām…perhaps to be chosen by Allah as a martyr eventually.”
Hamza adds that “every word spoken in support of the cause of Shām is not an ordinary word,” but instead “a source of reward in the Hereafter.” Even a “truthful tweet” could lead one down this divine path, according to Osama’s son.
Hamza has been given a prominent role in al Qaeda’s propaganda since Aug. 2015. His messages are usually distributed in Arabic with an English translation, thereby guaranteeing a wider audience. His latest statement was no exception, as both Arabic and English transcripts were posted online.