The Corner

Annals of the Arab Spring: Egyptians Demand Blind Sheikh’s Release

The Islamic Group (Gama’a al-Islamiya) is the Egyptian terrorist organization led by Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh” currently serving a life sentence in a U.S. penitentiary for conspiring to wage a terrorist war against the U.S., conspiring to murder former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and other charges. With Mubarak now sacked, and Egypt enjoying that spontaneous urge for democracy, the IG and its Islamist allies have renewed their campaign to pressure the United States for the release of Sheikh Abdel Rahman.

This campaign has been ongoing since Abdel Rahman was first imprisoned following his 1993 arrest (he was convicted at our little nine-month trial in 1995, and sentenced a few months later). It was from this confinement that he issued the fatwa Osama bin Laden has credited as the Islamic authorization for the 9/11 attacks. The Sheikh had decreed that Muslims must fight for his release, exhorting “Muslims everywhere to dismember their [i.e., our] nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.” That would seem to cover it.

Meanwhile, in Luxor in 1997, the IG massacred 58 tourists, leaving behind leaflets (including one inserted into the severed torso of one victim) demanding that Abdel Rahman be freed. Months earlier, the group warned that it would “target . . . all of those Americans who participated in subjecting his life to danger” — meaning “every American official, starting with the American president [down] to the despicable jailer.” In March 2000, jihadists from the Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped a number of tourists in the Philippines and threatened to behead them if Abdel Rahman were not released. Authorities later recovered two decapitated bodies — several other hostages were never accounted for.

On September 21, 2000, just three weeks before al-Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, al-Jazeera (that favorite network of Hillary Clinton and the Obama White House) showcased a “Convention to Support the Honorable Omar Abdel Rahman,” with featured speakers Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri (bin Laden’s no. 2 and the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad), and Rifai Ahmad Taha, the leader of IG in the Blind Sheikh’s absence. Also wowing the crowd was Sheikh Abdel Rahman’s son, Mohammed, who urged Muslims to “avenge your Sheikh” and “go to the spilling of blood.”

And now, having dispensed with Mubarak — the American ally who cooperated with us against jihadists while keeping the peace with Israel — Egyptian Islamists are flexing their muscles once more. Today, the newspaper Al-Masry al-Aloum reports, they will be protesting outside the American embassy in Cairo to demand that Abdel Rahman be turned over either to Egypt or another Muslim country. Helping spearhead the effort is none other than the Muslim Brotherhood’s favorite cleric, Sheikh Yussuf Qaradawi, the Blind Sheikh’s fellow Egyptian and al-Azhar University alum. As head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Qaradawi has been trying to persuade the government of Qatar to petition the U.S. for Abdel Rahman’s relocation there. (Qatar is home-base for Qaradawi and al-Jazeera.) A Qatari prince had apparently agreed to try to “mediate,” but the government is said to have decided not to intervene . . . at least for now. 

Yes, spring is in the air!


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