To asses the impact of Sayyid Imam’s revision we should start with a critical question: How could Imam’s new vision or revision be a base for a new Islamic vision? Meaning, how does these revisions alter the perception of those thinking about violent Jihad? Answering those questions depends firstly on understanding two points: 1-how did this vision of Jihad that Al Qaeda and other forms of organization present makes sense for some people or the reasons behind it. 2- What does it take to change these ideas?
Let’s be clear on something, there’s no one single reason behind the violent approach that dominates the perception of Al Qaeda. The reason behind turning to violence is a set of factors, political, economic and social problems that accumulated over time. The thing that made these problems difficult to be addressed especially as in that period we had totalitarian regimes, the levels of education weren’t high enough to develop a critical thinking able to address these problems and pose different alternatives to deal with it, and in the same time there is a religious discourse that calls for fixing the self and to get yourself and the society to become upright. The aggravation of these problems was a consequence to the developments that took place on the international level which weakened the role of these states and increased their interdependence and in some moments subjection. Thus their internal problems took regional and international dimensions and other players came to be directly involved in it. To unravel this dilemma groups like Al Qaeda considered that the problem wasn’t inherent in the society, rather it was always exported, being embedded from the other, and that “other” could be anyone, it was the state, individuals, could be MNCs, but the point is they rendered the biggest reason behind the aggravated problematic situations their societies face was always the other, and its critical to mention here that they believe that the issue of reform starts with confrontation. The point here is; the problems became so big and so ingrained in the social, economic and political structures that what’s needed is emancipating the society from them the relationships the begot these situations in the first place. It was always notable that they exploit the weaknesses in the other, the enemy, and magnifies the contradictions so to prove the impossibility of convergence or rapprochement with that “Other” and to push these points of contradiction and weaknesses to max limit to prove the inevitability of antagonism between the two. The problem in this context, is that this vision has a social acceptability for two reasons; the oppressive nature of the state and the absence of the religious discourse that could compete, analyze and refute these ideas. Its well known that in the Arab world religious institutions are to a great extent part of the state’s bureaucracy and so the lack credibility among the people.
So, when we talk about changing these ideas, we cannot talk about an individual level by any means. This doesn’t mean that I’m belittling the importance of these revisions, rather to understand that its not enough to abandon the use of violence, because the reasons that gave birth to it still exist, and still functioning on many levels. Imam was an important figure for these groups, but was he the only one? If anyone tried to survey average Egyptians for instance about these revision, I believe that the majority would think that he did it under pressure, or because he was tortured or something, this signifies that the people unintentionally knows that the reasons for the use of violence still exists, and its more likely that u change your beliefs because of the torment you face rather than being a real change. Wasn’t that the case for IG (Islamic group) or the Jihad or takfeer and hegra (excommunication and hegra) in Egypt? They abandoned the use of violence after the government has crushed their movement not prior to that.
What did Imam present nowadays actually involves personal insults and accusations that noone can verify whether they are true or not. Here’s a piece that addressed the issue with sorrow:
The more important point is that both Zawahiri and Imam agree on the use of violence in facing the ruler, the difference was that Imam put the juridical rules for that use, and that was point the caused the deviation, and this point a friend of mine repeats a lot; that Imam thinks that the use of violence against a strong state is wrong, which implies that theres a situation when using violence would be acceptable and obligatory too.
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