An attorney who has and continues to represent some of the biggest names in the al Qaeda terror group has revealed that even they are uncomfortable with the rise of the Islamic State and are “disturbed” by the group’s behaviour.
In an interview with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, Bernard Kleinman talks at length about his time representing clients such as Ramzi Yousef, one of the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Wadih el-Hage, who helped with the 1998 East Africa bombings. Kleinman has also assisted the defence team of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
According to Kleinman, the al Qaeda operatives he has spoken with believe that ISIS has been corrupting Islam, an interesting claim given that many moderate Muslims would likely level that same charge at al Qaeda. Founded by Osama bin Laden, the terror group has carried out assassinations, bombings in Africa, and the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 that have resulted in the death of thousands of innocent people.
Here’s what Kleinman told CTC:
They have a problem with several facets of ISIS violence, including its sectarian attacks on Shi’a. The standpoint of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is starkly different to Usama bin Ladin, who wanted the age-old schism between Sunni Islam and Shi’a Islam to be resolved. As it’s been explained to me, bin Ladin did not automatically condemn individuals because they were Shi’a. It was more a matter of converting them to Sunni beliefs. In contrast, ISIS views the Shi’a as apostates who need to be killed, and that is something that has been impossible for people like my clients and other accused terrorists I have discussed this with to accept. Nor do they see the caliphate ISIS has declared as legitimate. And they don’t believe that al-Baghdadi is really a Qureshi, part of the tribe of descent of the Prophet Mohammed, which he has claimed to legitimise his leadership.
Kleinman told CTC that his client Ramzi Yousef feels so strongly that ISIS “does great harm” to his religion that he wrote a 250-page essay earlier this year that repudiates the group, using a number of theological arguments. The lawyer wants the essay made public so it could perhaps assuage would-be recruits from joining ISIS, which often lionizes figures like Yousef as martyrs and heroes.
“If the world knows the full scale of their distaste for ISIS, that might have some impact,” Kleinman said. “Especially because in the case of Yousef, this is his own writing, while whoever has been putting together Dabiq magazine has never met him.”
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