This really ought to be easy. If the mainstream narrative is true, al-Qaeda members are ignoring not only peaceful passages of the Qur’an, but the entire thrust of the Qur’an and Sunnah, which mandates peace and respect for non-Muslims. Yet they are clearly and invariably devout Muslim believers, so “deradicalizing” them ought to be a simple matter of showing them the elements of the Qur’an and Islamic theology and tradition that they have missed, and they should fall right into line. Yet it hardly ever happens that Islamic jihadists turn from their path and announce that they’ve realized that their former ways were in error, and that Islam is actually peaceful. It ought to be easy, yet we hardly ever see it happen. Now, why is that?
“Former Top Al-Qaeda Figure Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani: Al-Qaeda Members Can Be Deradicalized Through Dialogue,” from MEMRI, n.d.:
On December 15, 2013, UAE TV channel Alaan TV aired an interview with Mahfouz Ould Al-Walid, a.k.a. Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani, a former member of Al-Qaeda Shura Council. In the interview, Abu Hafs discussed the causes for the emergence of Al-Qaeda and ways to deradicalize its members. In a previous interview, Abu Hafs told Al-Jazeera TV in October 2012 that he had opposed the 9/11 bombings when they were still in the planning stages (see MEMRITV clip 3622).
Following are excerpts from the December 15 interview:
Interviewer: What is the future of Al-Qaeda, in your view?
Mahfouz Ould Al-Walid: Al-Qaeda is a party to the Islamic nation’s rejection of current realities. It is a product and sectarian expression by Muslims of this rejection. They reject the reality of political tyranny, a reality of plundering the nation’s resources, and the occupation of several Islamic countries. As long as these causes remain, Al-Qaeda will continue to exist, and it will develop and adapt itself to any new situation. New “sister” movements with similar ideologies may arise.
We address these causes and eliminate them, so that we can rectify the mistakes of Al-Qaeda and similar groups. Surprisingly, the West managed to contain even more violent and fanatic groups than many of the Jihadi groups. The IRA carried out bombings and killed civilians and soldiers for decades, yet Britain eventually managed to contain it. The same is true of the Basque ETA organization, and many others.
We could have reached some form of understanding with Al-Qaeda members. I do not doubt that many of them have sincere intentions, although I disagree with the path they have chosen. Unfortunately, however, this has not happened. Instead, the Arab regimes have chosen to demonize Al-Qaeda, and distort its image. In many cases, this achieved the exact opposite results.
Al-Qaeda does not need to obtain a certificate of good character from anyone. It believes in what it is doing and is convinced that this constitutes Jihad. They believe that the anger and objection of the others only prove that they are on the right path. Matters cannot be addressed this way, but by dealing with the root causes behind the existence of Al-Qaeda.
Things should be dealt with in a logical, rational way, not by demonization and distortion. They should be dealt with through dialogue and reform. I believe that many Al-Qaeda members, upon finding true and knowledgeable religious scholars, whom they could trust, would accept true dialogue, based upon true reform, and would abandon their current ways.