The Bombing Plot in Paris Reveals Wider Iranian Threat

Tower: Two Iranian nationals, recently arrested by France and Germany, will be extradited to Belgium in connection to a terror plot that targeted an Iranian opposition rally outside of Paris, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The rally, which took place Saturday, was held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an Iranian opposition group. Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, spoke at the rally calling for the removal of the regime’s rulers.

On Saturday, Belgian authorities arrested an Iranian couple who had 500 grams of a homemade explosive and a detonator in their car.

France has arrested a man of Iranian origin and Germany had arrested an Austria-based Iranian diplomat. According to Reuters, Belgium asked France and Germany to extradite their suspects. A European intelligence source told Reuters that Belgium was taking the lead in the investigation.

On Wednesday, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the  ambassadors of France, Germany, and Belgium to protest the arrest of the Iranian diplomat. Earlier in the day, Iran had also protested to France over allowing the NCRI meeting to take place on French soil. Iran considers the group to be a terrorist group.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed the European claims about a terror plot, saying that the arrest was part of a plot by the United States and Israel to damage European-Iranian relations. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif similarly referred to the charges as a “sinister false flag ploy.”

Iran has been accused in the paste of planning terror attacks, especially targeting opponents of the regime, on European soil. In November of last year, an advocate for Iranian-Arabs was fatally shot in the Hague. In 2012, an al Qaeda terrorist testified in court that Iran facilitated the travel of  him and his accomplices to carry out terror attacks in Europe.

In one of the most notorious of these cases, Iranian agents entered a Berlins restaurant and killed three Kurdish activists and wounded several others in a hail of gunfire. The conviction of the assassins, who were tied to the regime, led to a rupture in relations between Germany and Iran.

*** Deeper dive:

An Iranian diplomat and members of what authorities described as an “Iranian sleeper cell” were arrested this week in Belgium, Germany and France, as they were allegedly planning to a bomb a high-level meeting in Paris. The arrests came after a complex investigation by several European intelligence agencies and were announced by Belgium’s Minister of the Interior, Jan Jambon.

The operation against the alleged sleeper cell began on Saturday, June 30, when members of Belgium’s Special Forces Group, stopped a Mercedes car in Brussels. The car was carrying a married Belgian couple of Iranian descent, named in media reports as Amir S., 38, and Nasimeh N., 33. According to the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, Nasimeh N. was found to be carrying 500 grams of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosive and a detonator inside a toiletries bag. On the following day, Sunday, July 1, German police arrested Assadollah A., an Iranian diplomat stationed in Iran’s embassy in Vienna, Austria. According to reports, the diplomat was driving a rental car in the southeastern German state of Bavaria, heading to Austria. On the same day, a fourth person, who has not been named, was arrested by authorities in France, reportedly in connection to the other three arrests.

The four detainees were in contact with each other and were allegedly working for the Iranian government. All four have been charged with an alleged foiled plot to bomb the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that took place last Saturday, June 30, in a Paris suburb. The National Council of Resistance of Iran is a France-based umbrella group of Iranian dissidents, led by Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a militant group that has roots in radical Islam and Marxism. Between 1970 and 1976, the group assassinated six American officials in Iran and in 1970 tried to kill the United States ambassador to the country. It initially supported the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but later withdrew its support, accusing the government of Ayatollah Khomeini of “fascism”. It continued its operations from exile, mainly from Iraq, where its armed members were trained by the Palestine Liberation Organization and other Arab leftist groups.

Until 2009, the European Union and the United States officially considered the MEK a terrorist organization. But the group’s sworn hatred of the government in Iran brought it close to Washington after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. By 2006, the US military was openly collaborating with MEK forces in Iraq, and in 2012 the group was dropped from the US Department of State’s foreign terrorist organizations. Today the group enjoys open protection from the EU and the US. According to Belgian authorities, the four members of the Iranian sleeper cell were planning to bomb the MEK-sponsored NCRI meeting in Paris under instructions by the Iranian government. Conference participants included over 30 senior US officials, including US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who addressed the meeting. Stephen Harper, Canada’s former prime minister, also spoke at the conference.

Speaking in Brussels this week, Belgium’s Interior Minister Jambon praised the country’s intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies for foiling the alleged bomb plot in Paris. But Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, dismissed claims of an Iranian sleeper cell as “fake news” and described reports of a foiled bomb attack as “a sinister false flag plot”.

Sweden Tells 4.8 Million Homes to Prepare for War

Those that take heed and prepare are left to help a country survive. Sweden is a member of the European Union. Question is what is the EU Headquarters in Brussels response to this? So far, silence.

It is all due to Russia, Crimea and Ukraine especially Kaliningrad. Roughly 220 miles of ocean separates Sweden from the heavily militarized Russian port of Kaliningrad. The country’s long, narrow shape leaves it vulnerable to air assault from multiple sides. And Sweden, along with neighboring Finland, are in the unique position as the only non-NATO aligned nations on the Baltic Sea.

The United States Army performs with Aurora 17.

 Aurora 17

Hence, the nation spent the Cold War years preparing to fend for itself against a great power invasion, drawing up plans for how to mobilize the entirety of the civilian population and infrastructure to defend its territory. And then the Soviet Union collapsed, a new era of peace dawned and those plans were left to fall fallow.

Sweden Advises Its Citizens to Prepare Wet Wipes and Tinned Hummus in the Event of War

Sweden has not gone to war with another country for over two centuries, but that hasn’t stopped the government from reissuing an emergency manual from World War II that advises citizens on how best to cope with hypothetical hostilities.

The newly updated 20-page pamphlet, entitled Om krisen eller kriget kommer (‘If crisis or war comes”), offers strategies for handling everything from cyber attacks and terrorism to climate change, food shortages and fake news.

“What would you do if your everyday life was turned upside down?” the English language version of the manual begins.

Since supplies could run low during a crisis, the leaflet provides checklists of what to stock up on, including mineral water, wet wipes and tinned hummus. It also offers tips on where to find bomb shelters, what to do without access to ATMs, cellphones or the internet, and how to spot propaganda.

** Very interesting. has sent a pamphlet with instructions on how to “be prepared for war” to 4.8million homes. Random quote: “If Sweden is attacked … we will never give up. All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false.”

“Although Sweden is safer than many other countries, there are still threats to our security and independence,” the brochure says. “If you are prepared, you are contributing to improving the ability of the country as a whole to cope with a major strain.”

The illustrated instructions went online Monday and are being sent to all 4.8 million households in the country in the first such public awareness campaign since 1961. The handbook was last updated for government officials’ use during the Cold War, according to the Guardian.

The newly minted pamphlets do not specify an attacker, but their release comes amid escalating security concerns following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Sweden has accused Moscow of repeatedly infringing on its airspace and territorial waters — claims the Kremlin dismisses as “Russiaphobia.”

Sweden began increasing its military spending in 2016, reversing years of cuts. It also reinstated the military draft last year, citing Russian assertiveness as one of the justifications, and is considering joining NATO.

In the event of a “heightened state of alert,” the pamphlet emphasizes the expectation that everyone can be marshaled for Sweden’s “total defense.”

“If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up,” the publication reads. “All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false.”


Similar leaflets were first distributed in neutral Sweden in 1943, at the height of the second world war. Updates were issued regularly to the general public until 1961, and then to local and national government officials until 1991.

“Society is vulnerable, so we need to prepare ourselves as individuals,” said Dan Eliasson of the Swedish civil contingencies agency, which is in charge of the project. “There’s also an information deficit in terms of concrete advice, which we aim to provide.”

A Swedish cold-war era defence leaflet.

Father of the Holy War Attended Colorado College

A History Of Islamic Extremism photo

Before Sayyid Qutb became a leading theorist of violent jihad, he was a little-known Egyptian writer sojourning in the United States, where he attended a small teachers college on the Great Plains. Greeley, Colorado, circa 1950 was the last place one might think to look for signs of American decadence. Its wide streets were dotted with churches, and there wasn’t a bar in the whole temperate town. But the courtly Qutb (COO-tub) saw things that others did not. He seethed at the brutishness of the people around him: the way they salted their watermelon and drank their tea unsweetened and watered their lawns. He found the muscular football players appalling and despaired of finding a barber who could give a proper haircut. As for the music: “The American’s enjoyment of jazz does not fully begin until he couples it with singing like crude screaming,” Qutb wrote when he returned to Egypt. “It is this music that the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires.”

Such grumbling by an unhappy crank would be almost comical but for one fact: a direct line of influence runs from Sayyid Qutb to Osama bin Laden, and to bin Laden’s Egyptian partner in terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri. From them, the line continues to another quietly seething Egyptian sojourning in the United States—the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. Qutb’s gripes about America require serious attention because they cast light on a question that has been nagging since the fall of the World Trade Center: Why do they hate us?

Born in 1906 in the northern Egyptian village of Musha and raised in a devout Muslim home, Qutb memorized the Koran as a boy. Later he moved to Cairo and found work as a teacher and writer. His novels made no great impression, but he earned a reputation as an astute literary critic. Qutb was among the first champions of Naguib Mahfouz, a young, modern novelist who, in 1988, would win the Nobel Prize in Literature. As Qutb matured, his mind took on a more political cast. Even by the standards of Egypt, those were chaotic, corrupt times: World War I had completed the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, and the Western powers were creating, with absolute colonial confidence, new maps and governments for the Middle East. For a proud man like Sayyid Qutb, the humiliation of his country at the hands of secular leaders and Western puppets was galling. His writing drew unfavorable attention from the Egyptian government, and by 1948, Mahfouz has said, Qutb’s friends in the Ministry of Education were sufficiently worried about his situation that they contrived to send him abroad to the safety of the United States. More here from Smithsonian.


The Secret Islamist Society That Nurtured Jihadist Terrorism

In the ’50s and ’60s, Islamist radical and theorist Sayyid Qutb cultivated and trained a generation of Muslim radicals who would sow the seeds of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Gerges: After the attacks on the U.S. homeland on September 11, 2001, Sayyid Qutb, master ideologue of radical Islamism and agitator, became a household name in America. He was seen as the godfather of global jihadism like al-Qaeda and an inspiration to radical religious activists worldwide. Security experts mined his writings for signposts about the drivers behind radicalization. An analyst called him “the philosopher of terror.” It has become more difficult to disentangle myths and facts about this Islamist agitator and theoretician who is mythologized by both disciples and distractors.

In contrast, my new biography of Qutb presents a more complex and multidimensional personality than has usually been presented, whose legacy is often deliberately misinterpreted by Islamists themselves. While Qutb’s writings have been debated by scholars,[i] his life in prison between 1954 and 1964 and in the underground has not been fully and critically examined. The prison years are pivotal. His decade-long experience in the prison camps radicalized him and convinced him of the urgent need to overthrow the secular order and replace it with a system firmly grounded in the Qur’an.

As one of Qutb’s devoted jail companions, Sayyid Eid, put it, “The prison years transformed Qutb’s thinking and writing. He turned his pen into a deadly weapon against what he called the tawagheet [tyrants] and aimed at awakening the ummah [worldwide community of Muslims] from its prolonged slumber.”

It is behind the bars of Nasserist jails that Qutb constructed his subversive manifestos that promoted an alternative revolutionary Islamist project and attempted to put it into practice. From November 1954, when he began a 15-year sentence, Qutb worked on radical amendments to his multiple-volume commentary on the Qur’an called In the Shadow of the Qur’an. Representing a rupture with his previous moderate views, this new and firmly ideological outlook emphasized revolutionary Islam and the inevitability of the confrontation with jahiliyya, a term historically used to refer to the spiritual ignorance of Arabian society prior to the arrival of Islam. Qutb drew a direct line between the “the old jahiliyya of the Arabs” with what he called al-jahiliyya al-haditha, the modern jahiliyya.

Qutb defined jahiliyya as a deviation from the worship of One God. He made a correlation between the Egypt in which he lived and the environment in which the Prophet Muhammad had first spread the message of Islam. To this end, he took a radical step in categorizing contemporary Egyptian society as jahili.

If jahiliyya amounted to the servitude of humans to other humans, for Qutb, true Islamic life involves total submission to God. Qutb preached that Islam would ultimately prevail but its triumph would not occur simply by virtue of its revelation by God but rather through a group of people understanding the task, believing in it completely and conforming to it as closely as possible.” Qutb called for the creation of a Qur’anic generation which would act as a vanguard “to point out the road of salvation to humanity and to build the road as well.”


Qutb and Al-Tanzim al-Sirri

This is all familiar by now. What is little known is that from the second half of the ’50s, Qutb embarked on a mission, while in prison, to recruit fellow Islamist prisoners and to rally them to his revolutionary cause. He was in a paramilitary organization subsequently named al-Tanzim al-Sirri (the Secret Organization) by the Egyptian authorities. Qutb provided ideological and practical guidance to operators who numbered in the hundreds inside and outside prisons. According to his disciples, Qutb’s goal for agreeing to be in charge of al-Tanzim was to protect the Islamist movement and ultimately topple the Nasser regime and Islamize state and society. The historical importance of al-Tanzim lies in that it served as a template for subsequent underground jihadist organizations. Qutb’s revolutionary ideas and actions continue to resonate with radical religious activists worldwide, even though there is no straightforward line between the pioneer Islamist agitator and today’s wave of Muslim extremism.

In the summer of 1965, Nasser’s security forces accidentally discovered al-Tanzim after a member they arrested exposed the underground organization. Qutb and his men lost the fight before “firing a single shot,” as one of his young lieutenants Ali Ashmawi put it. The authorities acted swiftly and aggressively to dismantle al-Tanzim’s cells and to complete the destruction of the Brotherhood. After al-Tanzim was exposed and its members arrested, Qutb took full responsibility for his operational role trying to shield his disciples and followers. In his last testament, Why They Executed Me, he implied that his goal had been to bear the brunt of the burden and to minimize the costs to al-Tanzim’s members.

The Egyptian government used confessions extracted under torture from members of al-Tanzim to indict both Qutb and the Brotherhood leadership. Qutb and al-Tanzim’s six top lieutenants were sentenced to death. According to Nasser’s chief of staff, Sami Sharaf, Nasser had taken a particularly strong line. “Nasser said that executing Qutb would deal the Ikhwan a mortal blow, as well as any future counterrevolution by religious fanatics,” he said. Thousands of members of the Muslim Brothers, including senior leaders, were arrested, allegedly tortured, and given long jail terms. “We wanted to bury the Ikhwan, period,” confessed Sami Sharaf. “Our goal was to remove the cancer from the Egyptian body politic.”

Over a two-year period, I spent countless hours attentively listening to Qutb’s surviving contemporary disciples and his right-hand men in al-Tanzim al-Sirri (the Secret Organization) who joined his underground network and spent years by his side in and out of prison. Reminiscing about their past moments with him, they confided what had transpired behind prison walls and drew an intimate portrait of the radical Islamist theoritician. They told me about Qutb’s antipathy to Nasser and his desire to rid Egypt of its faroun (tyrant). Having spent years with him in the solitude of prisons and outside, Qutb’s disciples are best positioned to clarify the background, intentions, and implication of some of his controversial terms and his vision in general. This small circle of followers were his eyes and ears and would have sacrificed their lives for him, as they have indicated.

Those old men in their seventies and eighties introduced me to a younger Qutbian generation that seeks to carry the revolutionary torch forward. Time and again, I was told by Qutb’s followers that by the late ’50s their mentor was essentially in charge of the Brotherhood and tried to revolutionize the timid Islamist organization. Although in 1966 Nasser hoped to extinguish the Qutbian fire by sending Qutb to the gallows, his “martyrdom” provided the fuel that has powered several jihadist waves, according to his contemporary disciples. Qutb’s loyalists say that he knew that his blood would be a curse to haunt Muslim tawagheet (tyrants) and to quench the thirst of the ummah (the global Muslim community) for sacrifice and cultural and political renewal.

I have extensively relied on these firsthand interviews, recollections, and memoirs of Qutb’s contemporaries to reconstruct his life journey—from a public intellectual with a secular mentality to a revolutionary Islamist. My uninhibited access to Qutb’s most inner circle and that of the Brotherhood’s old guard and younger activists provides a unique window into a shadowy, secretive universe, allowing my biography of Qutb to zero in on these prison years and trace his footsteps and actions, thus filling a major gap in the literature.

My interviews with al-Tanzim’s key lieutenants illuminated Qutb’s role in the organization explaining the influence of prison and torture on his ideological transformation between 1954 and 1965. Moreover, Qutb’s contemporaries elaborate on the relationship between al-Tanzim and the rest of the Brotherhood and the extent to which the rift haunted the Islamist group in the following decades. These illuminating conversations highlight what has been a mysterious presence in discussions of the relationships between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nasserist state, but more importantly, they offer a new dimension to understanding the influence of Qutb and the transformation that he underwent during the prison years from 1954 till 1965.

The stirring of militancy from the ruins of the Brotherhood

In the early ’50s, the Brotherhood represented the largest social force in Egypt. Thus, when the Free Officers clamped down on the Islamist organization in 1953-1954, this confrontation ultimately morphed into a prolonged struggle between secular-leaning Arab nationalism represented by the Nasserist state and an emergent radical Islamist current led by Sayyid Qutb. After Nasser launched first wave of mass arrests against the Muslim Brothers in mid-January 1954, it only took the Islamist group a short while to get up and running again despite the imprisonment of thousands of its senior leaders and members. By June of that year, there were already reports of a revival of Brotherhood activism with the intent of securing the survival of the organization.

In the midst of the 1954 clampdown, the dominant view among senior Muslim Brotherhood, led by the General Guide Hasan al-Hudaybi, was that the organization should endeavor to absorb the shock and wait for more favorable political conditions. Meanwhile, the imprisoned members were already plotting their next moves against the state. A divide between the traditional leadership and the lower-rank members was now gradually developing. The Brothers were angry and bitter because they felt betrayed by Nasser who, without the organization’s support, would have not been able to seize power in 1952. As frustration deepened among some imprisoned Brotherhood members, their resentment increased against their own leadership for its quietism and the prisons thus became a key forum for activism.

Moreover, those who had not been caught up in the crackdown did their best to continue their activities under the oppressive new conditions. One of them was Ahmed Abdel Majid, who was both a member of the Brotherhood and an officer in the Egyptian military intelligence service during the prison years. “After the Nasser regime dismantled the Ikhwan [Islamist movement]—young men— sought to absorb the shock and plot our next moves,” he confided. “Initially, there existed no centralized authority. Each unit did its own thing. Others prayed together and talked politics… In the first two years, we kept a very low profile and refrained from recruitment outside our closest circles,” he explained. Although similar efforts were underway elsewhere, they remained organic and dispersed. “We had no idea that throughout the country other young Egyptians had organized themselves in similar cells and shared our goal,” added Abdel Majid, who was a founding member of al-Tanzim. Therefore, the repression exerted by the Nasserist state only hardened attitudes among some sections of the Muslim Brothers and supporters, both inside and outside the prisons.

The Emergence of al-Tanzim

This context is important to understanding the emergence of al-Tanzim. It formed out of units created by some of those who had remained at liberty after the 1954 clampdown and who were determined to continue their armed activism. Gradually, al-Tanzim developed into a somewhat coordinated paramilitary operation, concentrated in urban areas like Cairo and Alexandria. In the late ’50s, as various cells began to link up with one another, they soon realized they needed to put forward a clear vision or road map for the future.

Al-Tanzim’s beginnings were humble. With the dismantling of the Brotherhood’s institutions and networks, followers and supporters had lost their political equilibrium and they sensed danger. Undeterred by the Nasserist state’s concerted effort to destroy the Islamist group, and with hardly any financial backing or military experience, these young activists took great risks in an uncertain bid to unseat Nasser. The power of ideas is key to understanding their self-conscious action, regardless of how reckless and suicidal it may seem to outsiders. The lesson we can draw from al-Tanzim is still relevant to understanding the rise of paramilitary Islamist groups today, insofar as it speaks to the marrying of radical religious ideas with a sense of injustice, victimhood, and persecution.

The first emir (leader) of al-Tanzim was Abdel Aziz Ali, a former army general and minister who was one of the heroes of the 1919 revolution against the British. However, he was still very much wedded to the old ways of thinking and acting. Al-Tanzim’s lieutenants, in contrast, were ambitious, impatient, and determined to pursue the riskier strategy. They thus searched for a charismatic leader with the capacity and the temperament to make their nascent organization more effective. It was at this stage, having become disillusioned with Abdel Aziz and having been turned down by Abdel Khaleq, that members of al-Tanzim began to put out feelers to Qutb. “The key word was ‘inspiration.’ We searched for a leader who would inspire us and educate us about the duties and responsibilities of jihad,” said Abdel Majid, who was head of al-Tanzim’s intelligence committee. “We were less interested in military and intelligence drills, and more so in theological and ideological renewal and transformation. Sayyid Qutb was an inspirational role model who could empower our nascent jama’a [the community].”

To their delight, al-Tanzim’s lieutenants were able to get in touch with Qutb in prison in the late ’50s via two women who acted as intermediaries: Qutb’s sister Hamida and an audacious Ikhwan activist called Zeinab al-Ghazali. Having thus made contact with Qutb, al-Tanzim’s operatives pleaded with him to be their leader and pledged to swear bay’a to him. “We were elated when word reached us that Qutb had consented to our request,” recalled Abdel A’l Aw’d Musa, an intense 76 year old who was then in his twenties and who established one of the first underground cells outside Cairo.

Before Qutb joined, al-Tanzim had consisted only of disconnected underground cells. With Qutb at the helm, a coherent and unified organization emerged, and the goal shifted from the ouster from power of Nasser and his inner circle to the transformation of society as a whole.

From Qutb’s viewpoint, the decision to offer “guidance,” as he noted in his confessions, to the organization’s young members bordered on suicidal. Sayyid Eid, the prison companion, recalled Qutb saying that he fully expected to be killed by the Egyptian authorities and that “Al-Shahid [the martyr] acted and behaved as if he was destined to be martyred at any moment,” recalled Eid. As Shazili and others noted, Qutb was not a traditional critic or a theorist confined to an ivory tower. “Qutb did not only theorize about the urgent need for a vanguard but devoted the last decade of his life to building a real vanguard,” explained Abdel Majid al-Shazili, who was in charge of a branch of al-Tanzim in Alexandria during this period, during one meeting in his apartment in Alexandria.

Pressed on the question of whether Qutb sanctioned the use of violent means to effect political change, Ashmawi, the young lieutenant, responded: “Yes, Qutb aimed at violently overthrowing the whole social and political order, not only the Nasser regime.” Furthermore, according to Ali Ashmawi, who was an operational commander, Qutb also played a pivotal role in the education and indoctrination of al-Tanzim’s cadres. “Before we connected with Qutb, we were theologically naive, blind and deaf, feeling our way in the darkness,” he said, with a loud laugh. “He opened our eyes and ears to the truth and showed us the way.” Qutb was able to endow al-Tanzim with a theological vision based on his own interpretation of the Qu’ran for the transformation of Egyptian society. Qutb’s texts were smuggled out of the prison and distributed to the five men of the leadership committee of al-Tanzim who would then spend hours studying Qutb’s words.

The Brotherhood Divided

From the second half of the ’50s until his temporary release from jail on health grounds at the end of 1964 at the behest of the prime minister of Iraq, Abdel Salam Arif, Qutb embarked on a mission to recruit fellow Islamist prisoners and to rally them to his revolutionary cause. Having suffered from breathing problems before he was imprisoned, he spent most of his years of incarceration in prison hospital facilities. During a spell in the Tura prison hospital, he interviewed scores of visiting cellmates from various prisons, particularly al-Qanatir, to find out who would be receptive to his revolutionary ideas. He succeeded in recruiting dozens of prisoners to his underground project. Although Qutb’s followers were a minority—nearly one hundred members among the incarcerated Muslim Brothers, who numbered in the low thousands—their very existence shattered the unity of the Islamist group and exposed internal ideological and doctrinal fault lines.

Throughout this time, Qutb never requested authorization from the Brotherhood leadership to recruit imprisoned members to his cause. He went to great lengths to mask his proselytizing efforts from the top leaders of the movement, and when they confronted him, he denied converting detainees. By covertly recruiting prisoners to his revolutionary scheme, Qutb went against the ethos of absolute obedience to the hierarchy that had long been a core principle of the Islamist organization. He possessed no official function or authority to replace the Brotherhood’s worldview with his own interpretation.

Senior leaders were appalled when news reached them that Qutb had been preaching subversive ideas to the rank and file. The most alarming news was his idea of takfir (excommunication), including the whole of Egyptian society: the state, ordinary people, and the ulama. Faced with this new challenge, the Brotherhood leadership grilled Qutb and demanded that he refrain from spreading fitna (sedition).

“A fitna almost tore apart the ranks of the jailed Ikhwan,” acknowledged Abdel Khaleq, Hudaybi’s trusted man. But he claimed that “the supreme guide swiftly cautioned Qutb against any unauthorized teaching and preaching, and nipped the fitna in the bud.” According to Abdel Khaleq, who as Hudaybi’s right-hand official was privy to the confrontation, Qutb disavowed such heretical views and insisted that he only taught prisoners Qur’anic lessons. “He was agreeable and nonconfrontational, seeking to dispel suspicions that he had gone rogue,” Abdel Khaleq said.

In contrast, Sayyid Eid, who was in Qutb’s camp, said that his mentor’s seemingly conciliatory stance was but an artifice. “We [both sides] put the best face on a dangerously embarrassing situation. Qutb had a low opinion of the tired old men of the Ikhwan who suffered in silence at the hands of Nasser and who willingly refused to resist oppression and injustice. He viewed them as being out of touch with the emancipatory and revolutionary power of ‘aqida,” Eid told me. “Sayyid Qutb had contempt for the Ikhwan political leadership, whom he derisively called functionaries,” he added. “He dismissed them as stupid and spineless, status quo men.” Despite his reassurances to Hudaybi and other Muslim Brothers, Qutb had unambiguously excommunicated Nasser. According to Eid, Hudaybi’s intervention did little to calm the dissidents. “Far from it,” he said. “Dozens of Ikhwan members, including myself, were steadfast in their support of Qutb’s defiance of the Nasser regime and the need to build a vanguard to carry out an Islamist revolution.”

In prison Qutb enlisted Muslim Brothers over the heads of their “legitimate” leaders and drove a wedge into the heart of the Islamist movement. Those who looked up to him for inspiration and guidance distanced themselves from the formal institutions of the mainstream Brotherhood, which caused a serious rift between Qutb’s men and other prisoners. According to Ahmed Ra’if, a well-placed member of the Brotherhood who was in contact with both camps at that time, the internal divide even poisoned the atmosphere in more than one jail. The two sides bickered so bitterly and intensely that Hudaybi issued a directive from his prison cell calling for a cessation to the hostilities, although neither camp adhered to a ceasefire and skirmishes frequently occurred.

Meanwhile, Qutb continued to disseminate his ideas during daily lessons to the prisoners. According to attendees, these primarily focused on two themes: ‘aqida (Islamic doctrine), and siyasa (politics). Qutb reminded his disciples that if they harnessed the hidden power of ‘aqida, they would be emancipated and fearless; they would become closer to God and act as his faithful agents in reinstituting a just and pure Islamic order on earth. “His aim was to transform members from mere religious activists into revolutionaries to confront the internal and external enemies of Islam,” confided Eid. “He made new men out of us, armed us with ‘aqida and summoned us to reestablish Islam in its purity and beauty in a similar way to that of the early Muslims.”

Eid’s recollections testify to the power of Qutb’s message, written especially for the youth who he hoped would spearhead the coming Islamist revolution. “Unfettered by previous conventional interpretations of the Qur’an, Qutb offered his own interpretation in a straightforward and accessible style and addressed us in captivating language that resonated with all of us,” Eid recalled. “My eyes welled with tears when Qutb dictated some passages of his masterpieces, Signposts and his Qur’anic exegesis,” said Eid, who transcribed books that Qutb dictated to him during their time together in prison. “I and many others felt that he was giving expression to our deepest aspirations and fears about the plight of Egypt and the ummah, and the threat posed by renegade rulers and their masters—crusaders and Zionists.”

The hardening of attitudes among some Muslim Brothers members translated into a determination to take practical steps to strike violently at the Nasserist state. Some of those who had moved in these circles at that time, whether inside or outside of prison, told me that they had wanted to kill Nasser and his close aides. More ambitious members had visions of overthrowing the regime as a whole and replacing it with a Qur’an-inspired government. A common thread among these newly radicalized recruits was visceral hatred of Nasser and what he represented.

“We wanted to pull Nasser’s junta up by its roots and liberate our Ikhwan brethren from captivity,” recollected Ali Ashmawi, who took steps to achieve these ends and planned to kill Nasser. “Initially, our aim was to prevent the Ikhwan organization from disintegrating and to prepare the ground for a future uprising against Nasser and his thugs. We wanted organizational continuity but with new blood and fresh faces unknown to the security services.”

Of all al-Tanzim’s lieutenants and foot soldiers, Ashmawi was the most forthcoming about the history of the organization because he had little to lose, having been demonized by the Brotherhood for breaking down under torture following his arrest in 1965 and exposing his co-conspirators. His old cohorts have never forgiven this “human act of weakness and treachery,” as he put it, although he assured me that when he found himself sitting next to Qutb in a courtroom some weeks after their arrest, the latter showed empathy for his plight. “I explained to him that the Ikhwan abused me and treated me like a pariah in prison. Qutb reassured me that he understood my predicament and that blaming the victim is wrong. ‘Nasser’s security men are the villains, not you,’ [he] added with a gentle smile on his face,” according to Ashmawi.

Ashmawi’s narrative is significant for this study as he was present at the birth of al-Tanzim and served as its military field commander. His is the most unscripted, comprehensive, and revealing voice on the issues at stake, and the least constrained by any existing connections with the Brotherhood. Most of Ashmawi’s recollections are corroborated by other members of al-Tanzim and independent sources.

Others who moved in these circles at the time also confirmed the shift to more militant views that was then under way. “We could not be passive while our brethren were being unjustly abused and oppressed,” said Ahmed Abdel Majid. “That would have violated one of the fundamental tenets of our religion; resisting injustice and defying renegade rulers.” Beyond the question of vengeance and a perceived duty to defend their oppressed co-religionists, taking action against Nasser under these circumstances was also seen as necessary in order to defend Islam itself. “Once Nasser’s regime persecuted the Ikhwan, it became obligatory for us to step forward and defend Islam,” said Abdel Majid. Challenged on his implicit assumption that the Brotherhood could be directly equated with Islam per se, he responded that “the Islamist movement is the guardian and protector of Islam… If you target its sons, you are harming Islam and hindering its growth.”

More and more former disciples of Qutb told me their priority had been to eliminate Nasser: “We concluded that Nasser must go. We wanted to kill the devil and rid Egypt of him,” agreed Abdel A’l Aw’d Musa, who was introduced to me by Abdel Majid. The two men knew each other from al-Tanzim and became best friends while in prison. “Blinded by hatred and revenge, many of us pledged to assassinate Nasser and be martyred in the process,” added Aw’d, who, as mentioned previously, was in charge of an underground cell which, although initially designed to assist the families of incarcerated Ikhwan members, became tasked with the more ambitious goal of subverting the Nasser regime. “My unit’s fundamental goal was to kill Nasser and avenge our persecuted Brethren,” he explained. “We recruited between fifty and seventy fit young men, raised one thousand pounds to carry out the operation, and trained and readied ourselves for an opportune moment.” The cell selected Alexandria as an ideal location and developed a plan to position three separate assassination teams armed with automatic weapons.

However, as division over whether it would be better to assassinate Nasser or overthrow the regime hardened, the plan never came to fruition. “As we talked to other members who had also organized themselves in small paramilitary units, our plot met with stiff resistance and opposition from senior leaders who warned against rash actions inspired by vengeance and emotion. We were told that killing Nasser would not dramatically change the system and that a like-minded secular dictator would replace him. It was not easy to postpone our short-term goal of punishing Nasser for his crimes, for the greater good of overthrowing the corrupt, decadent regime,” explained Aw’d. “While debating the decision with our Brothers, we cried and prayed for inspiration and wisdom. What you need to comprehend is that Nasser hurt us badly and left deep scars in both our souls and our bodies,” he emphasized.

Allergic to the accusation that radical Islamism sprang from within their ranks, contemporary Brotherhood leaders deny even very existence of al-Tanzim as an armed force. “Why do you keep quizzing me about Qutb’s al-Tanzim?” Mahmoud Izzat, a 70-year-old multimillionaire who currently runs the organization in exile, demanded of me angrily, arguing that “the whole thing is a Nasserist construction invented by his intelligence thugs to use as a bludgeon against the Ikhwan,” he assured me. Others within the Islamist group, while acknowledging the existence of al-Tanzim, deny that it ever had the blessing of the leadership. Senior official Abdel Khaleq continually insisted that the senior leadership, particularly the General Guide, had not sanctioned Qutb’s paramilitary organization. “Hudaybi’s hands had already been burned, and he would not let a few well-meaning and excited activists ignite a fire that would destroy the organization,” he insisted.

Although Qutb kept his recruitment of followers inside the prisons, radical activist Zeinab al-Ghazali Ghazali seems to have acted as an intermediary between Qutb and Hudaybi, the General Guide, thus pointing to some kind of awareness and approval of the existence of al-Tanzim by the Brotherhood’s top leadership. The nature of this relationship goes to the very heart of a broader question regarding whether al-Tanzim was a paramilitary arm of the Brotherhood or an independent venture undertaken by young dissidents. From the time of the exposure of al-Tanzim in 1965, the Egyptian authorities launched a propaganda offensive aimed at undermining the Islamist group as a whole asserting that al-Tanzim was its affiliate. Against this background, officials of the Brotherhood have repeatedly denied that the broader movement and its leadership played any formal role in al-Tanzim and have accused the Nasserist state of manufacturing evidence.

Primary evidence suggests that Hudaybi did in fact sanction al-Tanzim. Abdel Majid recalled that after Abdel Khaleq, the General Guide’s trusted man, had refused to take charge of the organization, its members had approached Hudaybi directly to seek his approval. “We could not have moved forward without the authorization of the supreme guide because we needed religious legitimation,” said Ali Ashmawi. The young lieutenant. “We sought and promptly received Hudaybi’s approval.”

All surviving members of al-Tanzim say that from the outset, Qutb himself had refused to head the underground group unless he obtained an official decree from the General Guide. These contradictory internal accounts are unsurprising given that the Islamist organization was in a state of virtual paralysis. Hudaybi wanted to have it both ways: to shield the political organization against accusations, while keeping his options open with regard to the possibility of militarily confronting the Nasserist state.

The Clampdown on al-Tanzim

For his part, Qutb assured his disciples that his death would in fact serve as a catalyst for his cherished Islamist revolution. There are many accounts of the final hours leading up to Qutb’s execution on August 29, 1966. A common thread that runs through these stories is that Qutb went to the gallows with no hesitation or regret. From interviews with his disciples, a portrait emerges of the man as a crusader who was unafraid to die for his beliefs and in fact welcomed martyrdom. Well versed in Islamic history, Qutb knew better than Nasser the enduring and powerful role that iconic symbols and martyrs have played in Islamic tradition. One of the few images that exist of Qutb on the day of his hanging shows him with a smile on his face.

Qutb was buried in an unmarked grave in al-Qarafa al-Kubra (the Great Cemetery) but has remained alive in the minds and hearts of Islamists worldwide, endearingly referred to as al-Shahid al-Hayy (the living martyr). “Qutb’s words have a special resonance due to his steadfastness in the face of tyranny,” said Shazili, who would eventually be imprisoned after al-Tanzim was crushed in 1965; he spent almost a decade behind bars. “By practicing and living what he preached, he set an enduring model for future generations of religious dissidents.”


The relationship between Qutb and the Brotherhood was fraught with tensions and contradictions. Qutb was an outsider, a belated convert to the cause. Only 18 months after his official joining of the Islamist group in 1953, he was arrested and Qutb never really developed institutional links within the Brotherhood. A maverick with a volatile character, he was not the type to toe the party line.

According to his disciples, Qutb saw himself as guiding the Islamist caravan in the right direction and rescuing Islam from oblivion. His attempted coup against the Brotherhood shows the extent of his ideological transformation as a revolutionary Islamist theorist and ideologue, and his determination to bring about real change. He aimed at dismantling all existing institutions, including his own mainstream Islamist group. This fact does not match the emphasis typically placed by Qutb’s biographers on continuity over discontinuity, and their tendency to portray Qutb as simply an extension of the Brotherhood institutional family.

What emerges from Qutb’s formative years and early adulthood was his quest for recognition and deference, no matter which circles he navigated. Unsuccessful in the literary scene and with the Free Officers, his new reinterpretation of Islam finally won him the recognition for which he had so urgently strived. In his own writings, the carefully crafted image of Qutb is that of a prophet-like, selfless man whose total embrace of Islam allowed him to reestablish the sovereignty of God on earth (hakimiyya). In this context, it is unsurprising that the political struggle between the Nasserist state and the Qutbian Islamists has come to be invested with existential overtones. With both camps repeating mirroring narratives of the Other as an existential threat, violence became the norm.

Unfortunately, this vision is still a prevalent feature of Arab politics and has contributed to the rise of waves of radical jihadists, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. This initial framing of the struggle as existential has been recycled by subsequent generations of religious activists and nationalists. Today this fierce struggle plays out in Egypt, the most populous Arab state, and in neighboring Arab countries. In their quest for power, both Nasser and the Brotherhood laid the foundation for an articulation of politics and of the relationship between ruler and people as strictly unitary and autocratic, thus paving the way for the institutionalization and normalization of one-party authoritarian rule and religious extremism.

Germany’s al Qaeda/Jihad Problems Include Welfare Payments

Primer: May 16. Ziyad K., a 32-year-old Iraqi Yazidi, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for raping two Chinese students, aged 22 and 28, at the University of Bochum in August and November 2016. Police linked the man, who was living with his wife and two children in a refugee shelter in Bochum, to both crimes through DNA evidence. “He has never shown remorse,” Prosecutor Andreas Bachmann said. “How could a person fleeing from violence and danger come to do this terrible violence to other people?”

The Muslim population of Germany surpassed six million in 2017 to become approximately 7.2% of the overall population of 83 million, according to calculations by the Gatestone Institute.

A recent Pew Research Center study on the growth of the Muslim population in Europe estimated that Germany’s Muslim population had reached five million by the middle of 2016, but that number is short by at least a million.

Pew, for instance, “decided not to count” the more than one million Muslim asylum seekers who arrived in the country in 2015-2017 because “they are not expected to receive refugee status.” European Union human rights laws, however, prohibit Germany from deporting many, if not most, of the refugees and asylum seekers back to conflict areas. As a result, most migrants who arrived in the country will almost certainly remain there over the long term.

In addition, German authorities have admitted to losing track of potentially hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, many of whom are living on German streets and are believed to be sustaining themselves on a steady diet of drug dealing, pickpocketing, purse snatching and other forms of petty crime. Much more detail here.

*** Copyright: Matthias Graben (WAZ) photo

According to the German newspaper WAZ, Sami A. allegedly recruited young Muslims in Bochum mosques to join the “Holy War.” The paper also linked him to the radicalization of two members of the so-called Düsseldorf al Qaeda cell.

WAZ also reported that Sami A. had taught two terrorists in Bochum mosques: 21-one-year-old Amid C. from Bochum and 28-year-old Halil S. from nearby Gelsenkirchen. Both reportedly received ideological training from him for their alleged terrorist plan. The two young men are on trial in Düsseldorf, accused of planning an attack together with two accomplices. According to the indictment, they intended to plant a cluster bomb in a crowd of people and “spread fear and terror in Germany.” More here.

Newsweek: The alleged former bodyguard of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden has been found collecting welfare checks from the government in Germany, according to local media, because he cannot be deported—even though he was refused asylum status.

A report in the German tabloid Bild said the man, named only as 42-year-old Sami A to protect his privacy, cannot be deported to his native Tunisia because he is at risk of torture there. He has lived in Germany since 1997 and has a wife and three children.

Sami A collects around $1,430 a month in welfare from the German government, a figure revealed after the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) asked questions of the local authority where he lives in Bochum, near the Dutch border.

He was accused by witnesses in a terrorism trial back in 2005 of having been Bin Laden’s bodyguard near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a few months at the turn of the millennium, something the judge said he believed to be true, though Sami A denies it.

German authorities regard Sami A as a “dangerous preacher,” reported Spiegel Online in 2012, and prosecutors say he was responsible for the radicalization of two men who later former part of a terror cell caught planning a bomb attack.

Though considered a security risk, no charges of Al Qaeda membership have so far been brought against Sami A. He must report every day to the police in Bochum, which he has done so since 2006. He was refused asylum status because of the security concerns, the BBC reported.

DG Parker MI5 Declares Terror Threats Worst Yet

MI5 Director General (DG) Andrew Parker addressed an audience  in Central London today, in which he spoke about the international counter terrorism threat that we are facing and how MI5 works with partners to tackle it.  This marks the first time that a DG has given a speech on-camera.

MI5 also continues to counter threats from terrorism in Northern Ireland and the actions of hostile states seeking to carry out damaging espionage activity.

  MI5 photo

Mr Parker said MI5 remains a multi-dimensional organisation that is constantly evolving and continues to be innovative in order to meet the changing threat.

He added:

Day in and day out we are identifying and disrupting threats: stopping terrorism. Our response is unrelenting. Those that wish our country harm can expect to meet MI5 and the police. And they will face the full force of the law and be brought to justice.

We face this new order of challenge from a position of strength. The UK has world-class intelligence agencies and counter terrorism policing. We are developing, growing and sharpening our capabilities all the time.

Throughout our history MI5 has been all about innovating to meet the changing threat and the shifting technological environment. We review every major operation and learn from our successes. And when an attack happens we are determined, using the harsh light of hindsight, to squeeze out every last drop of learning so that we can be the very best we can be, now and in the future.

…the challenge that we face is undoubtedly a stark one. More threat, coming at us more quickly, and sometimes harder to detect. But it is a challenge that we and our partners are rising to and are facing down. We are committed to this for the long haul. Our unrelenting focus will remain on doing everything in our power every day to keep Britain safe.

Andrew Parker, director general of the security service, gave a rare public speech, calling the threat “multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before”.

Another 20 terrorist attacks on the UK were foiled over the past four years and “many more” were prevented, he said.

The intelligence chief said there has been a “dramatic upshift” this year, which resulted in the London and Manchester attacks which killed a total of 36 people. He said continental Europe has faced a similar surge, particularly in France, Belgium, Germany and Spain.


Mr Parker said MI5 has more than 500 live investigations involving roughly 3,000 people known to be involved in extremist activities.

In addition, he said, more than 20,000 individuals have been scrutinized in the past for possible terror ties and there are undoubtedly “violent extremists” who have thus far not been detected by the Security Service.

The director called on technology companies to work with the government on preventing their social media platforms from being used by extremists for communications that cannot be monitored.

When asked if Facebook and Google were doing enough on this front, Mr Parker declined to discuss specific companies.

He praised advancements in communications technology, but said an “unintended side effect” has been to make it easier for extremists to avoid legal monitoring by using apps, including many that provide encryption, to avoid detection. He said companies should to more to prevent this abuse of their communications systems. More here