Monday, October 24, 2005

Arab American National Museum, Dearborn MI

A Mosaic of Arab Culture at Home in America

Edward Rothstein

New York Times 24 October 2005

DEARBORN, Mich. - At the heart of the nation's first museum devoted to the history of Arab-Americans is a mosaic-decorated courtyard surrounding a small fountain, evoking the traditional courtyard of Arab lands. A symbol of hospitality, it is also, typically, a feature of one's home, and this museum is, in its way, a declaration that Arab-Americans really are at home, not just in Dearborn (where some 30 percent of the 100,000 residents identify themselves as Arab-Americans) but in the United States itself.
The surest sign of that may be that, like other groups, they have built this museum honoring their past and their identity. And the 38,500-square-foot, $16 million Arab American National Museum, which opened in May, is, like other museums of American hyphenation, at once an assertion of difference and of belonging, a declaration of distinction and of loyalty. It would be making a political statement even if it weren't directly across the street from City Hall.
The museum was also designed to reflect the interests of its constituency: Arab-Americans. That is a source of its strengths, and suggestive too of its weaknesses: it eagerly wants to celebrate that identity and create a strong political front; it is less interested in reflecting on difficulties and making distinctions. Before the museum was begun, a group of planners, including a sociologist, Anan Ameri, who became its director, spent six months traveling to Arab-American communities, soliciting ideas.
"The museum was built to tell our story," Dr. Ameri explained before leading a critic on a tour. "But before we can tell our story, we have to know what the Arab-American story is."
"People don't know" was a recurring refrain in these consultations, Dr. Ameri said. "People don't know" about who we are, went the complaint. So the museum includes a handsome library and an exhibit chronicling the arrival of Arabs on American shores, including such unusual figures as Hadj Ali, a 19th-century Syrian immigrant recruited by the United States to train camels for the Western deserts.
"People don't know" about Arab contributions to civilization, continued the refrain, so surrounding the central courtyard are display cases summarizing achievements of early Arab civilization; or about everyday life, so another exhibit shows how typically American Arab-Americans have become; or about their accomplishments, so another display shows Arab-Americans in politics (John Sununu), political activism (Ralph Nader), literature (Kahlil Gibran), journalism (Helen Thomas), movies (William Peter Blatty) and opera (Rosalind Elias).
Four Arab-Americans claimed to have invented the ice cream cone. One Arab-American has worked with every presidential administration for 50 years - as the White House Santa.
In all of this, though, the museum, designed by the Cincinnati-based Jack Rouse Associates, hews too closely to its immigrant-museum genre; it seems overly familiar, with only the names and stories varying from group to group.
But this eagerness to construct an overarching Arab-American identity can also be a virtue. It is difficult to imagine a similar museum in Europe, where the hyphenated identities of Arab immigrants are far more troubled. John Zogby, the Arab-American pollster, has argued that one reason for this difference is that it is so much easier to join the mainstream in the United States.
The museum seems to reflect that in its efforts at conciliation and unification. Constructing Arab-American identity means accommodating differences both within the community and with its adopted society. Even on so raw a subject for Arab loyalties as Israel, unusual moderation is evident. Though Palestine is named one of 22 Arab countries on an "Arab World Map" (and is given the boundaries of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), the museum's commentary refers to this Palestinian "state" with objective propriety: "The lack of political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has hindered its establishment."
But there are also problems with the museum's unifying impulse. The commentary on each Arab country, for example, is little more than a travelogue without any discussion of profound problems, at least some of which inspired these Arab immigrations.
Perhaps there was a reluctance to cause offense, because, as the exhibits point out, Arab-Americans have traditionally identified themselves with their village or country of origin rather than with a pan-Arab sensibility. At least three of those nations also helped construct the museum. Qatar contributed $1 million, Saudi Arabia and Dubai $500,000 each.
There are other differences among Arab-Americans that might have been explored. The 2000 United States census counted 1.2 million Americans who identified themselves as Arab-American; a Zogby poll that same year suggested the true number was closer to 3.5 million; the museum cites a later Zogby statistic of 4.2 million. This variation may also suggest the ambiguities of identity. The Zogby poll in 2000 pointed out that 66 percent of Arab-Americans identified themselves as Christian, 24 percent as Muslim. What are the cultural and political differences, then, between recent Muslim immigrations and older Christian waves of immigration, which were largely from Lebanon and Syria? Many disparate communities are embraced in this single label, just as with other hyphenated American identities, like Hispanic or Latino. But the museum's impulse is to incorporate, not to dissect. An effort is even made to be historically accommodating. One label points out that in discussing art, the term Arab-Islamic "does not necessarily refer to art based on religion, but rather based on culture." Judaism too is given a place: "There have been significant populations of Arab Jews in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Egypt and Morocco," the museum notes. That ancient world (which until the 1940's included more than 900,000 Jews) is represented by a photograph of a Tunisian synagogue - the same one, the exhibit fails to mention, that was bombed by Al Qaeda operatives in 2002. The exhibit also does not mention that perhaps 200,000 of those Arab Jews now live in the United States, creating yet another cultural variation.
Perhaps, as the museum evolves, such distinctions might be more thoroughly explored and other more sensitive issues might be more forthrightly taken on, particularly Islamist terror, which may be having a profound impact on the daily life of Arab-Americans. One exhibit, for example, shows a collage of images of Arab terrorists on television, and asks why a more accurate image of Arabs is not broadcast - one more closely resembling another collage, of smiling children and families. But the reason is not necessarily a reflection of prejudice: Islamic-motivated terror has compelled a rethinking of everything from airport design to foreign policy; smiling families have not.
Right now 9/11 is the subject of just a single panel at the museum, on which is reproduced a November 2001 letter from a United States attorney in Michigan, requesting that the recipient come in for an interview, emphasizing that while "we have no reason to believe" the recipient has any association with terrorist activities, some information might turn out to be helpful. The museum comments that after 9/11 "Arab Americans were unfairly held responsible, yet not a single Arab American was found guilty of any connection to September 11th."
But how were Arab-Americans "unfairly held responsible" for 9/11, except by bigots? Some unfairness undoubtedly manifested itself in the quest for information, but who held Arab-Americans responsible as a group? The second assertion is also phrased so narrowly that it misses the point: some Arab-Americans have indeed been found guilty of financing terrorism, and reasonable doubts have been raised about some others.
Here, surely, the museum would want distinctions to be made, between those holding one belief and those acting on another. But that is something the museum should be doing throughout. Once it can feel secure in its home, it might consider making distinctions as well as showing continuities, describing in all its variety a group that is beginning to celebrate itself and its possibilities, exploring the complications of a hyphenated existence.

New museum honors Arab-American culture
First-of-its-kind site, opening Thursday, draws on a rich heritage from around the country and the world

Joy Hakanson Colby

Detroit News 4 May 2005

DEARBORN --When the new Arab American National Museum opens to the public on Thursday, the $15.3 million cultural center will get the red-carpet treatment.
Arabian horses in full regalia, a band, jugglers, drummers and dancers will join the 5 p.m. celebration for the museum, the first to exclusively display the rich heritage and achievements of Arab Americans.
A red carpet will start on the steps of the Dearborn City Hall and travel across Michigan Avenue to the museum entrance. Guests at a civic reception will be able to walk across the street for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. with Amre Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League.
The museum is an offspring of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), whose executive director, Ismael Ahmed, is gratified by what has been accomplished.
"There are some 15,000 museums in the U.S., but since this is the first to be devoted to Arab Americans, we had no model to work from. I'm proud that our museum is done in an interactive, engaging way."
As the first of its kind, Ahmed points out that the museum is having an international impact. Contributors to the $15.3 million project include 22 corporations from across the country, hundreds of individuals, the state of Michigan, the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Congressional appropriation and Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai. Grants and earned revenue from memberships, sales in the gift shop and leasing of spaces for special events are expected to provide the annual operating budget of just more than $2 million.
At 38,500 square feet, the building is small as museums go. But it is a jewel box that deserves to be a Metro Detroit landmark. Clad in Canadian marble, crowned by a dome and enriched with panels of cast-stone arabesques, tiles from Morocco and Arabic calligraphy, it is exquisitely finished inside and out.
"The museum is a delicate blend," says architect Brion Boucher of Dearborn's Ghafari Associates. "It required an Arabic esthetic. But it also had to have clean modern lines and be nonconfrontational."
While the Ghafari team is responsible for the building shell, designers and writers from Jack Rouse Associates in Cincinnati gave the interior exhibits form.
"We helped the museum come up with the concept," says Sara Bennett, a senior writer for Rouse. "The client invited Arab Americans from all over the country to bring ideas and tell their own stories. It developed into a very big story that covers history, customs and the diversity of the Arab world."
"There are three main sections," Bennett says. "They cover coming to America, living here and achieving in this country. The clients were passionate about what they wanted to create. We're proud of what resulted."
For her part, Anan Ameri, the museum's director and founder, is satisfied that the building suits her mission very well. "Arab Americans have been written out of the history books," she says. "We want to put ourselves back in history, and this museum is the way to do it."
Ameri, who is of Palestinian heritage, emphasizes that the museum was in the talking stage at least two years before the New York Trade Center disaster of 2001. "So it was not a direct response to September 11," she says. "We always knew the museum was important, but the bombing hit us in the head and made us move faster."
On a recent morning, Ameri guided an impromptu tour through the building, starting on the ground floor.
"This area is designed like a courtyard with a fountain," she says. "Cases around the walls reflect Arabic architecture and contain artifacts representing various fields of achievement like medicine, photography, music, astronomy and mathematics."
Most of the cases have an interactive element you can push to see pictures, read facts or hear music. Ameri says there are more than 100 interactive devices in the museum, most of them ready to delight kids.
Artifacts in the cases were all donated except for a few loans that will come from the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Toledo Museum and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. An art gallery for changing exhibitions is located on the west side of the ground floor.
The first show, "In/Visible: Contemporary Art by Arab Americans," will begin May 19 "because we didn't want too many openings on the same day," Ameri says.
Looking up at the dome, which soars 50 feet above ground-floor level, the director answers a question about the calligraphy. "It says Arab American Museum. 'National' was omitted because it doesn't translate well."
Leading the way up the wide central staircase, Ameri points out a giant wall map on the second level. It shows all 22 countries that make up the Arab world. "You can touch this screen and bring up pictures and information about each country," she says, demonstrating with a touch of her finger on Qatar.

The core exhibit

The rest of the second level is devoted to the core exhibition, which is divided into three sections: "Coming to America," "Living in America" and "Making an Impact." Here's where the exhibit gets personal with pictures and stories of real people, some with local ties.
For instance, one wall is devoted to singers Amer and Sana Kadaj, who were celebrities in the Arab-American community from the late 1940s into the 1960s, when they traveled across the country giving concerts. Their daughter, Lila Kadaj, an artist and teacher who lives in east Dearborn, presented their photographs and microphone to ACCESS several years ago and says she's "thrilled and honored" that the material is displayed in the new museum.
"My parents sang together when they were 12 years old in their native Lebanon," Lila Kadaj says. "Years later, my father got a job singing with a radio station in Palestine. When he was asked if he knew a female singer to work with him, he remembered my mother. That's how they got together."
After they married, Amer and Sana Kadaj came to New York on tour. They stayed on after they lost their home in Palestine when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Eventually, they settled in Detroit, and Amer went into the grocery business.
"I'm excited that the museum is opening," says Lila Kadaj, a graduate of Wayne State University. "It presents our culture to the general public, which knows nothing about us."
Across from the Kadaj display is a sculpture of Ahmad Ifrahim, who also left Palestine in 1948. He settled in New York and is one of the refugees who tells his story in a voice recording.
On every tour, director Ameri directs visitors to the story of the first recorded Arab-speaking person to arrive in America. He came on a slave ship in 1528 and was called Zammouri because he was native to Zammour in Morocco. He died in 1539 after his Spanish captors took him on an expedition to Florida.
Another highlight Ameri points out is a Great Migration display with a 3D version of an Ellis Island officer seated at a high desk and recorded voices of people telling their own stories of coming to America.
"Those voices are very touching," says Elsie Holmes Peck, former curator of Near Eastern art at the Detroit Institute of Arts and a consultant to the Arab American Museum. After a recent tour, Holmes Peck called the exhibit "a wonderful chain of tradition that takes you on a journey of the United States."

'Living in America'

"Living in America" has room setups with strong Arab accents. The kitchen stocks mock containers of such foods as hummus and yogurt and a giant bottle of olive oil. On the counter is a box from Shatila, a favorite local source for Middle East pasteries.
A porch is centered by a backgammon game, an Arab invention that dates back some 5,000 years and continues to be popular. "If you drive through east Dearborn when the weather is warm, you won't see an empty porch," Ameri says. "Arab Americans live on their porches."
The "Making an Impact" section is filled with photographs of familiar faces, among them actor Danny Thomas, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, journalist Helen Thomas, heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, astronaut Christa McAuliffe and a sculptured head of the poet Kahlil Gibran.
This Gibran quote is inscribed near the ceiling of the film room: "I believe that you have inherited from your forefathers an ancient dream, a song, a prophecy which you can proudly lay as a gift of gratitude upon the lap of America."
While the core exhibit is handsome, entertaining and informative, Ameri is aware of potential problems down the road. "We looked at other ethnic museums in Seattle and Los Angeles and learned that people come once or twice and never come back," she says.
"So we are planning other attractions -- free family days, Saturday classes for kids, changing art exhibits, concerts, plays and lectures. We want to make the museum very accessible to the whole community."
To emphasize their dedication to diversity, the director and her board chose Cinco de Mayo, Mexico's independence day for the opening. While the Arab Americans walk the red carpet in east Dearborn on Thursday, the Hispanic community will celebrate their day on Michigan Avenue in west Dearborn.
10 facts about the musem
1. It is the first of the country's 15,000 museums devoted exclusively to Arab-American culture.
2. Hundreds of individuals, state and federal grants, 22 corporations and even several Arab nations funded the $15.3 million cultural center.
3. It is an offspring of Dearborn's Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.
4. The building exterior blends clean, modern lines with Arabic calligraphy, a dome and cast-stone arabesques.
5. Exhibits contain 100 interactive elements, including a map that covers all 22 Arab nations.
6. Ground-floor cases display contributions of the Arab world to music, mathematics, medicine and law.
7. The second level is devoted to the three-part themed core show: "Coming to America," "Living in America" and "Making an Impact."
8. Museum director Anan Ameri interviewed Arab Americans across the country to get material for the exhibits.
9. Some 500 artifacts that give substance to the displays were all donated.
10. The museum houses a 158-seat auditorium, a library, an art gallery, classrooms, meeting facilities and a museum shop.

Stories of Identity: Dearborn is home to the country's first Arab-American museum, a $15-million source of pride


Detroit Free Press April 24, 2005

Who knew?
That question may pop in your head often as you tour the nation's first museum dedicated to Arab Americans, their culture and their contributions.
From sports figures like Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie to labor leaders like the late Stephen Yokich, Americans of Arab descent have played major roles in shaping the nation. But until now, their stories have been invisible to many. The Arab American National Museum aims to change that.
Scheduled to open May 5, the $15-million, three-story museum -- on the site of a former furniture store -- stands near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road in Dearborn, right across from City Hall. The Islamic-style dome that tops it off is now part of the city skyline, in its own right a striking symbol of how far Arab Americans have come. Despite the difficult climate after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the community was determined to establish a showcase in Dearborn, a city where nearly 1 of out of every 3 residents claims Arab ancestry --the highest percentage in the country.
ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, raised the millions of dollars needed for the museum, much of it coming from corporations and Arab nations (See sidebar, this page), in an ambitious attempt to manifest the history and singular experiences of Arab Americans. But the museum also reveals the American experience in a more general sense: Extensive displays and exhibits depict how Arab life in the United States has always been closely linked to the lives of African Americans, Latinos and European immigrants.
"Anyone who goes to the museum will see their own story," says Ishmael Ahmed, ACCESS's executive director. "The American story is told... this is everyone's story."

But it's not all history lesson. With interactive displays, 600 artifacts, video displays and more, the museum should hold any viewer's attention.
As carpenter Robert Shadbolt of Southgate was installing exhibits on a recent afternoon, he was amazed to find out that activist (and presidential candidate) Ralph Nader; William Peter Blatty, who wrote "The Exorcist," and Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal are all Arab Americans.
"That really flipped me out," Shadbolt said while on a break. "I got a nice history lesson."
Here's a peek at what you'll find inside the 38,500-square-foot museum. Divided into four major exhibits, the facility also has a 158-seat performance auditorium, a library and information center, a roof terrace with views of Dearborn, classrooms and a gift shop.

The Arab World

The lobby on the ground floor mirrors architecture often found in Arab countries. In the center of the rectangular room is a water fountain; gaze upward and you see an octagonal atrium that shoots up through the third floor toward a glass dome scripted with ornate calligraphy spelling out the museum's name in Arabic. The atrium features blue tiles with repetitive, flower-like patterns often found in Islamic design, as well as windows that circle around, flooding the center with sunlight.
Here, you get an introduction to the world of Arabs outside America. Several display cases line the sides of the room, each describing the contributions of Arabs worldwide. The sections include architecture, religion, mathematics and astronomy, medicine, science and music.
Viewing the exhibits, you get a sense of how the Arab and Islamic cultures helped preserve and develop civilization during Europe's medieval ages. One section on language reveals how Arabic has influenced Spanish and English. Using interactive flash cards, you can play a game to learn the roots of some common English words, such as "admiral" and "cotton," that are derived from Arabic words.
As you walk up toward the second floor, you see a massive map of the Arab world. On the second floor, there's a display with panels naming 22 Arab countries. Open any one of them and the country it corresponds to lights up on the map. The display also features modern photos and images of the Arab world.
Too often, people's ideas of the Arab world are based on outdated notions like bedouins or the pyramids, says curator Sarah Blannett. "It was important to show them as evolving, modern, and vibrant places," she says, gesturing toward the giant display.
As you leave this area on the second floor, you encounter the three main exhibits about Arab Americans.

Coming to America

Where did your family come from?
In this exhibit, that question is above a sprawling map of the world hanging on the wall, with colorful magnets spread out on different countries. Arrows from all corners of the globe point toward America
"Find a magnet with a color that corresponds to the area on the map where your family comes from.," the display reads, "then move the magnet over to the U.S."
The point is to place the immigration of Arabs in the context of America as a land of immigrants from all over the world.
Another exhibit gives visitors the experience of an immigration center at Ellis Island, where thousands of Arab and other immigrants came to America. As you enter a small room, an audio loop hounds you with questions that an immigration officer would ask of newcomers to America.
So who was the first Arab American in the United States?
The answer may surprise you. An exhibit notes that he was from North Africa, an Arabic speaker from what today would be Morocco. Originally named Zammouri, he was enslaved, renamed Estevancio, and brought to America in 1528 by a team of Spaniards exploring the South. The exhibit notes that in the following centuries, there were Arabic-speaking Muslims among the millions of slaves brought to America.
This section also includes features on Palestinian immigrants who fled to America after the creation of the state of Israel, and it deals with the "brain drain" experienced in many Arab nations -- the emigration of skilled people from their homelands looking to use their talents in America.
But the museum also showcases the lives of all Arab Americans, rich and poor, professionals and farmers, in an attempt to show how diverse the population is.
One part features a life-size statue of a Palestinian immigrant, Ahmad Ibrahim, sitting on the stoop of a Brooklyn brownstone. "In 1948, he and his family were forced to leave their home and farmlands following the declaration of the state of Israel," the display reads.
Other displays talk about immigrants from Yemen who struggled alongside Mexicans in the farms of California. Nagi Daifullah, a farm worker who was clubbed to death by police during a labor protest in 1973, is remembered in a display that mimics the interior of quarters that Yemeni farm workers lived in.
In a nearby room, the effects of Sept. 11 are also dealt with, though briefly. On one wall is an enlarged copy of a letter that the U.S. government mailed to hundreds of Arab men in the fall of 2001 asking them to be interviewed as part of terrorism investigations.

Living in America

Right next door is an exhibit that focuses on the ordinary lives of Arab Americans: The first thing you see when entering is an Arab teenager flying high off a skateboard ramp.
A striking choice, but it shows how intertwined Arab Americans have become with American culture and life, yet bring something unique as well.
Open a refrigerator in this exhibit and you spot falafel sandwiches and rose water, items commonly used by Arab immigrants. Sit down on a makeshift porch and listen to stories of Arab Americans over a speaker. In front is a display of the diversity of Arab-American media. One section notes that the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting went to Anthony Shadid, a reporter of Arab descent with the Washington Post.
As you move into a darkened room, you spot stereotype after stereotype of Arabs in popular culture. In everything from Daffy Duck cartoons to Hollywood movies, Arabs have been portrayed negatively as sinister, violent, fanatics. Media commentators who have espoused anti-Arab American rhetoric are portrayed.
But nearby are the smiling faces of ordinary Arab Americans, a reminder that the media is not always the best place to find out the truth about Arabs and Muslims. Another part of this section tells the remarkable story of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants who moved to North Dakota as homesteaders between 1890 and World War I. Sometime between 1927 and 1930, they established a mosque there that was one of the first in America.
Who knew?
Further along in this section, you can dance the dabke with an interactive exhibit that plays Arabic music, and you can watch videos of interviews with Arab Americans from across the country.

Making an Impact

Exiting the section, you enter an exhibit that focuses on notable Arab Americans.
The entrance features a large mural of Stephen Yokich, former head of the United Auto Workers, speaking to a crowd during the Detroit newspaper strike. Yokich, partly of Lebanese descent, is an example of the influence of Arab Americans in the labor movement in Michigan. As you pass the mural, you enter a section that is divided into several parts, showing Arab Americans who have made names for themselves in activism, science, creative arts, academics and sports.
Here you can see the racing helmet used by driver Bobby Rahal, a sneaker from basketball player Rony Seikaly and one of the first copy machines by Kinko's, which was founded by an Arab American. You also learn about activists like Nader and former South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk, who founded the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, as well as Arab-American scientists like Michael DeBakey, inventor of the heart pump. A billboard advertising Casey Kasem's Top 40 music show is also on display.
It's a lot to take in.
"More than you can see in a day," says Thomas Massey, who is overseeing the installation of the exhibits. Massey has worked on a number of museums, from ones on science to those on African Americans, but he was struck by how interesting this one is.
"They had a major impact on the U.S.," said Massey. "It's really surprising."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Iranian contradictions

Soldiers of the Hidden Imam

By Timothy Garton Ash

New York Review of Books 3 November 2005

Carved high in the towering rock of Naqsh-e Rostam, gazing out across the desert, are the tombs of the great Persian emperors from two and a half millennia ago: Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes. Lower down the cliff face of this imperial Mount Rushmore you see a dramatic stone relief, shimmering in the heat. It shows a later Shah of all the Shahs, Shapur I, accepting the surrender of the Roman emperor Valerian, in the year 260 AD according to the Christian calendar. The conqueror, on horseback and gloriously accoutred, towers over the unmounted, swordless, vanquished Caesar.
"What happened to Valerian?" I asked my Iranian companion.
"Oh, he was killed, of course."


Early this autumn, as today's Iranian rulers defied the new Rome by pressing ahead with their nuclear program, I traveled for two weeks through what is now the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the year of their Lord 1384, I talked to mullahs armed with laptops, regime supporters in the religious hotbed of Qom, and Islamic philosophers highly critical of the regime. I met intellectuals of all stripes, artists, farmers, politicians, and businesspeople. Most memorably, I had long, intense conversations with some of the young Iranians who make up the majority of the country's population. I see their earnest faces before me as I write, especially those of the women, framed in the compulsory Islamic head scarf, the hijab, which they somehow manage to convert into an accessory of grace and quiet allure.
At a rooftop restaurant in the wondrous city of Esfahan, I witnessed the continuity of Persian culture, with a singer chanting verses from the fourteenth-century poet Hafez while local diners peered up at the blue, cream, and turquoise dome of the Sheikh Lotfallah mosque, illuminated against the night sky. (You do not often hear verses from Chaucer being sung in an English pub.) More typically, I was plunging through the heat, dust, eye-stinging pollution, and kamikaze traffic of Tehran, that anarchic city of 12 million people, whose drivers treat every traffic circle as an invitation to play the American game of chicken, only swerving to avoid one another's fenders with millimeters to spare. Or sometimes not swerving.
I also got a taste of life behind the high garden walls of the houses of the middle and upper class, where the hijab immediately comes off and opinions are scathingly contemptuous of the aging revolutionary Islamic zeal of the country's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Within minutes of my arrival at one such house, bikini-clad women were teasingly inviting me to come naked into the swimming pool, while the men offered me a drink from a bottle marked "Ethanol 98% proof."
These encounters illustrated a trait, apparently of long pedigree, to which my Iranian interlocutors constantly drew my attention: the contrast between what Iranians say outside and what they say inside those high walls. Double-talk as a way of life. I have never been in a country where so many people told me I should not believe what people said. (Taken strictly, a self-defeating proposition.) Again and again they pointed to the Shiite custom of taghiye, by which believers are entitled to lie in defense of their faith. Today's nonbelievers have their own taghiye.
Iranians also warned me that theirs is a country rich in superstition— sometimes conveyed by very modern means. In the middle of a Tehran traffic jam, my driver received a text message on his cell phone. It asked him urgently to pray for the return of the hidden imam, the Shiites' twelfth imam or mahdi, who supposedly went into hiding some 1127 years ago. A secular intellectual wondered aloud whether a society so rife with mendacity and superstition is at all susceptible to understanding through reason.
Amid this wild medley of ancient and modern, I sought answers to one crucial question: How might Iran's post-revolutionary Islamic regime be transformed, whether gradually or suddenly, by social and political forces inside that country? And I added a second: How might the policies of Europe and the United States, which fortunately do not at the moment include an Iraq-style attempt to impose "regime change" by military occupation, affect those domestic forces?


The political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is at once fiendishly complex and extremely simple. Most of the Iranians I met preferred to stress the complexity. The country has at least two governments at any one time: a semi-democratic formal state structure, now headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a religious-ideological command structure headed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. There are numerous shifting formal and informal power centers, including political parties in parliament, ministries, rich religious foun- dations, the Revolutionary Guards, and the multimillion-man Basij militia, whose mobilization helped Ahmadinejad to get elected. There are also backroom ethnic or regional mafias, and numerous competing intelligence, security, and police agencies—eighteen of them according to one recent count. No wonder Iranian political scientists reach for terms like "polyarchy," "elective oligarchy," "semi-democracy," or "neopatrimonialism."
Yet the longer I was there, the more strongly I felt that the essence of this regime remains quite simple. At its core, the Islamic Republic is still an ideological dictatorship. Its central organizing principle can be summarized in four sentences: (1) There is only one God and Muhammad is his Prophet. (2) God knows best what is good for men and women. (3) The Islamic clergy, and especially the most learned among them, the jurists qualified to interpret Islamic law, know best what God wants. (4) In case of dispute among learned jurists, the Supreme Leader decides.
This is the system which its inventor, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, justified by radically reinterpreting the Islamic concept of velayat-e faqih, usually translated as the Guardianship of the Jurist. This system is not Islam; it is Khomeinism. It would not exist without that one old man, whose grim portrait still stares out at you everywhere in Iran, though now usually flanked by the bespectacled figure of his successor and epigone, the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. If you ever doubted the importance of the individual in history, consider the story of Khomeini.
I visited his childhood home in the provincial market town of Khomein— ayatollahs generally take an honorific name from their home town, so Khomeini means "of Khomein." It's a substantial, rather handsome, yellow-brick house, with the traditional outer and inner courtyards, and an inscription celebrating the "birthplace of the Sun of Khomein." His father was murdered when he was four months old, his mother died when he was fifteen, and he was given over to the theological schools that trained him to be a cleric. If even one of his parents had lived, might this have been a different story? Outside, a billboard describes him, justly enough, as "the revivor of religious government in [the] contemporary world."
Khomeini was both the Lenin and the Stalin of Iran's Islamic revolution. The system he created has some similarities with a communist party-state. In Khomeinism, the Guardianship of the Jurist is an all-embracing political principle that is the functional equivalent of communism's Leading Role of the Party. Here, too, you have parallel hierarchies of ideological and state power, with the former always ultimately trumping the latter. The Islamic Republic's ideological half is almost entirely undemocratic: the Supreme Leader is assisted by a Guardian Council, an Islamic judiciary, and an Assembly of Experts. All of them are dominated by conservative clerics.The state institutions are more democratic, with a genuine if limited competition for power. However, the Guardian Council arbitrarily disqualifies thousands of would-be candidates for parliament, the regime controls the all-important state television channels, and security forces like the Basij militia can both mobilize and intimidate voters, so one cannot seriously talk of free and fair elections.
As in communist party-states, there is intense factional struggle, which Western observers sometimes mistake for pluralism. Unlike in communist party-states, factions actually appeal to voters to strengthen their position. Thus Ahmadinejad successfully presented himself to voters as a kind of plain man's puritan outsider to the system, yet he is now wholly of it, working closely with Khamenei and the Guardian Council. His rival in the second-round presidential runoff, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, was discredited as being too much part of the resented group of mullahs in control: "A stick would have won against Rafsanjani," an Iranian politician told me. Rafsanjani now tactically criticizes Ahmedinejad's Islamic revolutionary– style speech to the United Nations as being undiplomatic. Yet he himself remains head of the powerful Expediency Council, which mediates between the undemocratic ideological hierarchy and the semi-democratic parliament. It was Rafsanjani who this summer declared that "the system [nazam] has decided" on the resumption of uranium reprocessing. When leaders use that specific term nazam, "the system," everyone knows they mean the ideological command hierarchy right up to the Supreme Leader—God's representative on earth.
In a communist party-state, the party line was to be found in the pages of Pravda or Neues Deutschland. In the Islamic mullah-state, the "imam line" is handed down through Friday prayers, two sessions of which I attended, first at the gorgeous Pattern-of-the-World mosque in Esfahan and, the next week, in a closely policed compound at Tehran University. In both places a high-ranking Islamic clergyman—the chair of the Guardian Council, at my Tehran session—delivered a fulminating political homily, denouncing in particular America and Britain. The political message was sandwiched between conventional Muslim prayers, like a kebab wrapped in nan bread. In Tehran, the final prayers ended with an orchestrated crowd chant: "Down with America! Down with Israel! Down with the enemies of the Guardianship of the Jurist!"


How can such a regime be transformed, or, as many still prefer to say, reformed? I heard the word "reform" innumerable times as I traveled around Iran. I soon realized that it meant several different things. First, there's an ideological debate among Islamic intellectuals, turning on what in the communist world used to be called "revisionism"—that is, attempts to revise the ideology on which the state is built. As the views of revisionists in, say, 1950s Poland were also part of a wider debate about international communism, so the views of these Iranian revisionists have significant implications for international Islam.
I was impressed by the liveliness of this debate. While many Iranians are clearly fed up with Islam being stuffed down their throats as a state religion, I found no sense that Islamic ideology is a dead issue, as, for example, communist ideology had become a dead issue in Central Europe by the 1980s. Far from it. In Khomeini's theological capital of Qom, now home to some two hundred Islamic think tanks and institutions of higher education, I met with a research group on Islamic political philosophy. Why should Islam not be compatible with a secular, liberal democratic state, I asked, as is increasingly the case in Turkey? "Turkey is not Qom," said Mohsen Rezvani, a young philosopher wearing the robes and turban of a mullah, to laughter around the table. Islam, Rezvani said, is "anthropologically, theologically, and epistemologically" incompatible with liberal democracy. Anthropologically, because liberal democracy is based on liberal individualism; theologically, because it excludes God from the public sphere; and epistemologically, because it is based on reason not faith. Then they handed me an issue of the Political Science Quarterly—not the American journal but their own Qom-made version. Here I read an English-language abstract of an admiring article by Rezvani about Leo Strauss.
"So you're a neoconservative!" I teased him.
Oh no, he replied, the American neoconservatives don't properly understand Leo Strauss.
I could see at once, even before I had the full article translated for me, what a conservative Iranian mullah would find to admire in Strauss: the insistence that there is a single truth in a classic text, and that the intentions of the author (e.g., God, in the case of the Koran) are best interpreted by a neo-Platonic intellectual vanguard (for the Koran, the Islamic jurists whose ranks Rezvani aspires to join). Yet this Wolfowitz of Qom was immediately contradicted by others at the table, citing Islamic modernists such as Abdolkarim Soroush who maintain that Islam is compatible with a secular state.
Back in Tehran, I met a most impressive Islamic revisionist, Professor Mohsen Kadivar, a smiling, learned, and courageous mullah. One reason the Iranian Islamic debate is so lively is that the Shiite tradition not only permits but encourages spirited disagreement between the followers of rival grand ayatollahs of the highest category, those who have earned the title marja-i taqlid, or "source of imitation." Professor Kadivar is a disciple of the Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who was to have been Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader until the father of the revolution disinherited him and put him under house arrest in Qom.
A few years ago, Kadivar took the bold step of arguing that the Guardianship of the Jurist has no sound basis in the Koran or mainstream Islamic thought, and is incompatible with the essence of a true republic. He also questioned the Islamic rectitude of condemning people (e.g., Salman Rushdie) to death in their absence, and suggested in a newspaper interview that today's Iran reproduces characteristics of the Shah's monarchic rule: "People made the revolution so that they could make decisions, not so that decisions would be made for them." He paid for his intellectual honesty with eighteen months in prison.
So that's what the regime's cheerleaders mean when they chant at Friday prayers, "Down with the enemies of the Guardianship of the Jurist!" Direct criticism of the Guardianship of the Jurist, and of the "sultanic" rule of the Supreme Leader, is also the unforgivable offense of the country's most prominent political prisoner, the journalist Akbar Ganji—once, like Kadivar, an enthusiastic supporter of the Islamic revolution.[*]
I quoted to Kadivar the observation of the Polish philosopher Leszek Kol/akowski, himself a former communist revisionist, that the idea of democratic communism is like fried snowballs. "Exactly!" cried Kadivar. Democratic Khomeinism is like fried snowballs.
That is emphatically denied by another group, also known as "Islamic reformists," who used to be Kadivar's comrades in the revolution. What we might call "in-system" reformers have been in government for the last eight years, under the state president Mo-hammad Khatami. Their hope was precisely that they could reform and partially democratize the Islamic Republic, while leaving unchallenged the central pillars of Khomeinism. They failed. Many people who supported President Khatami and his fellow reformists in the late 1990s told me they are bitterly disappointed.
I talked to one of the in-system reformers' most influential strategists, Saeed Hajjarian, a former head of counterintelligence who in 2000 was shot through the neck, probably by an assassin from a competing secret service connected to the Revolutionary Guards. We met in his spartan, neon-lit office-cum-sickroom in a dreary, stale-smelling, unmarked building, which turned out to belong to the intelligence service of the state presidency. On his bare office wall was an image of Ayatollah Khomeini—Imam Khomeini, as he is officially called in the Islamic Republic—hovering miraculously above his own tomb. On the desk below was a large pile of photocopied articles from Western academic journals, analyzing transitions to democracy.
Perhaps only in Iran could you sit inside a secret service building with a mystical image of the Ayatollah Khomeini gazing down on a pile of Western articles about transitions to democracy. But how on earth would these elements combine? As a result of the assassination attempt, Hajjarian, a frail, yellow-faced figure in a fawn-colored tracksuit, can barely move his body and his speech is slurred. Yet his pithy answers conveyed a sharp political intelligence. He spoke, until he grew tired, of how the reformists could recover, rebuilding popular support through more professional organization and better use of the press and television. They should, he suggested, raise more funds from business and appeal to ordinary people's everyday material concerns, as Ahmadinejad successfully had in his campaign. But I came away from this encounter feeling that the prospects of a full recovery for the in-system Islamic reformists are little better than Hajjarian's own.


That skepticism is shared by the outspoken journalist Emadeddin Baghi, a former Islamic reformist who was jailed for more than two years because of his critical writing. Sitting in the neat, modern office of the nongovernmental organization that he has founded for the defense of prisoners' rights, Baghi, a dark-bearded, courteous man in early middle age, told me that what is needed now is not reform from above, within the mullah-state—as Hajjarian still ad- vocates—but organization from below, in civil society. I was reminded of Central European dissidents after the failure of the Prague Spring and Dubcek's "socialism with a human face." Like them, Baghi believes that the way forward is not ideological revisionism or in-system reform—former President Khatami's failed Khomeinism with a human face—but people organizing themselves in society independently of the state.
Although I found his general argument convincing, it struck me that Baghi, who still has a one-year suspended prison sentence hanging over his head, was talking about very modest attempts at social organization. He said plainly that such efforts should be confined to what the mullah-state would not find politically threatening. He knows very well that even prominent activists like himself and, more recently, close colleagues of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi can be locked up at any moment. And he knows that critical journals and newspapers are often simply shut down, as his own newspaper was.
Almost everyone I have mentioned thus far—from top officials of the current regime like President Ahmadinejad, through critics such as Hajjarian, Kadivar, and Baghi, to political prisoners like Akbar Ganji—was once an active participant in the Islamic revolution. They are the children of the revolution. However, there are also many secular leftists and liberals who opposed the Shah but never participated in the Islamic revolution, and now work in NGOs, in publishing, in the universities, or in cultural life, including the country's often electrifying moviemakers. One secular liberal especially well known in the West is Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo, the author of a book of conversations with Isaiah Berlin, who has brought thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty, and Antonio Negri to lecture to passionately interested audiences of up to two thousand people in Tehran.
Yet whether secular or Islamic, the room for maneuver of those working in what they like to call "civil society" is quite limited. All NGOs, for example, have to be officially registered, and their permits renewed each year. Galley proofs of books have to be submitted for censorship by the Ministry for Culture and Islamic Guidance, and the censored pages must then be typeset again so that readers cannot tell where something has been excised. Universities are tightly controlled. Theoretical discussion of the merits of democracy is possible; practical criticism of the Guardianship of the Jurist is definitely not.
The very fact that the system has several centers of power adds an extra element of uncertainty. For example, I talked to one dissident student who was released by the official state security service only to be rearrested a few months later by the Revolutionary Guards. No one knows exactly where the limits are. As a result, there is both a remarkable freedom of intellectual debate and a permanent undercurrent of fear.
For someone who has studied the ways post-totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorships, whether in Europe, Latin America, or South Africa, have gradually become less oppressive states, and eventually democracies, the main question about Iran is therefore this: What forces inside its society might help to increase peaceful social pressure for gradual regime change?
Industrial workers in Iran have so far shown no signs of organizing themselves, as Poland's did in the Solidar-ity movement twenty-five years ago. Among farmers there is much rural unemployment and some discontent. In a sun-baked mountain village, I talked to shepherds who told me that half their fellow villagers were unemployed. Many came out to the fields at night to take drugs. Yet the main response to rural misery is to migrate to the towns. There they swell the numbers of the urban poor who, rather than contributing to a political opposition, are more likely to be recruited as thugs or mobilized in the streets by the regime's Basij militia.
What of the rich, Westernized business leaders? The ones I talked to are witheringly critical of the regime in private, but dependent on it for their businesses. Some have formed commercial partnerships with leading mullahs. They would probably be willing to support an opposition movement at the moment of decisive change, like the oligarchs in Serbia and Ukraine, but not before. Anyway, they themselves point out that most of the Iranian economy is still in the hands of the traditional merchants of the country's teeming bazaars, the bazaaris, who range from tiny stallholders to big-time export-import operators. In Iran, the bazaaris have traditionally been allies of the Islamic clergy, the ulama, and so far there are few signs of their changing sides.
Meanwhile, the regime has major assets for preserving its power. With oil at more than $60 a barrel as I write, its oil revenues have within six months covered the entire state budget for the current accounting year. The government can generously subsidize basic foodstuffs—bread, tea, sugar, rice— and keep the price of fuel extremely low for the country's manic drivers. When I was there, gasoline cost an astonishing thirty-five cents a gallon. A quarter of the workforce are state employees, dependent on the authorities for their jobs. The numerous security services are well provided for. Less than thirty years after an initially peaceful revolution that turned violent and oppressive, most people old enough to remember have little appetite for another revolution. And if the United States and Britain, the Great Satan and Perfidious Albion, try to increase the pressure from outside, Iran can make life more difficult for the foreign occupiers in the Shiite parts of Iraq, where the influence of the Islamic Republic continues to grow.
What, then, has this regime to fear? Only one thing, I conclude, but that a very big one: its own young people, the grandchildren of the revolution.


Iran is a remarkably old country, with some 2,500 years of continuous history. It is also a remarkably young country. Two thirds of its 70 million people are under thirty years of age. This is at least partly the result of deliberate policy: in the 1980s, the first decade after the revolution, the mullahs encouraged a baby boom, denouncing the decadent Western practice of birth control and calling for mass procreation to replace the country's million martyrs in the Iran–Iraq war. Patriotic couples who produced five or more infants were given a free building plot. The regime's propaganda called these children "soldiers of the hidden imam."
To turn these young people into good Islamic citizens, the mullahs opened a nationwide network of new universities, called the Islamic Free University, complementing the existing ones. According to the Iranian statistical yearbook for 1382 (i.e., 2003– 2004), there are some two million students currently enrolled in higher education across Iran, roughly half of them women. And one should add to the brew more millions of recent graduates.
So now you see them everywhere, these "soldiers of the hidden imam," talking on their cell phones or flirting in the parks, the girls' hijabs a diaphanous pink or green, pushed well back to reveal some alluring curls of hair, while their rolled-up jeans deliberately show bare ankles above smart, pointed leather shoes. In the cities, the supposedly figure-concealing long black jackets that were previously required have often been replaced by skimpy, figure-hugging white or pink versions. In a teahouse under the arches of a seventeenth-century brick bridge in Esfahan, I met a beautiful young woman, heavily made up and wearing perfume, who was flaunting a good four inches of bare calf above ankles decorated with costume pearl bracelets. Yes, she giggled, there's a rumor that under the new government they'll be introducing a fine of 25,000 tomans (about $27) for each centimeter of exposed flesh—but she didn't care. Even in the provincial birthplace of the Sun of Khomein, young women were wearing Western-style jeans and shoes under their close-fitting jackets.
The clothes worn by men have a less familiar symbolic language. A law student came to see me dressed in a dark suit and tie. At first, I thought he must be a young fogey; but I could not have been more wrong. Because the regime's regulation dress for men is strictly tie-less (as was President Ahmadinejad when he addressed the UN), to wear a suit and tie is a mark of brave nonconformity. Another student, who had been imprisoned several times for dissident activity, told me, "The tie is a sign of protest!"
Often, their protest takes unpolitical forms. Many want to emigrate and join the millions of Iranians already living abroad. I was repeatedly told of this generation's hedonism; of wild parties behind the high walls of apartment buildings in prosperous north Tehran, with Western pop music, alcohol, drugs, and sexual play. One T-shirt I spotted in the Tehran bazaar said, "Wanted: Meaningless Overnight Relationship." If they can afford it, they slip over to Dubai for a few days, where the young women can tear off the hijab and jive as they please.
Yet for long and memorable hours I met with many serious-minded, impressive young people, most of them well informed about their own country and keen to improve it. They can learn a lot from the local press, if they read carefully. They listen to Western radio stations (the BBC's Persian service or the US-backed Radio Farda), and they watch satellite television, which, though officially prohibited, is accessible to an estimated one in four Iranians. They use the Internet very inventively. Some politically or morally suspect Web sites are blocked on Iranian servers—that of the dissenting Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri (, for example, or, rather curiously, that of the University of Virginia. (The experienced Iranian Web-surfer who alerted me to this suggests that the Islamic censors' automatic search engines must have detected the word "virgin" in Virginia.) But they have ways of getting around the blocks.
Iran also has at least 50,000 bloggers. One student explained that since these blogs are often anonymous, people can speak their minds freely, in a way they generally don't dare to even in circles of student friends, since among those friends might be a regime spy. Alluding to the regime's own euphemistic description of its intelligence agents as "unknown soldiers of the hidden imam," students call them, with heavy irony, "soldiers of the hidden imam." Which is, of course, what they themselves were supposed to be.
The regime has spent twenty-five years trying to make these young Iranians deeply pro-Islamic, anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli. As a result, most of them are resentful of Islam (at least in its current, state-imposed form), rather pro-American, and have a friendly curiosity about Israel. One scholar, himself an Islamic reformist, suggested that Iran is now—under the hijab, so to speak—the most secular society in the Islamic world. Many also dream of life in America, sporting baseball caps that say, for example, "Harward [sic] Engineering School." Quite a few young Iranians even welcomed the invasion of Iraq, hoping it would bring freedom and democracy closer to them. Seeing how the US invasion has benefited the Shiites in southern Iraq, they joke that President George W. Bush is "the thirteenth imam."
These 45 million young people are the best hope there is of peaceful regime change in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their "soft power" could be more effective than forty-five divisions of the US Marines. One positive legacy of the eight years of Khatami's reformist presidency is that this generation has grown up with less fear than its predecessors. The students at Tehran University launched a large-scale protest in summer 1999. They will never forgive Khatami for allowing it to be suppressed. Each year since, a small number of them have tried to mark the anniversary with demonstrations, which have been broken up by the police. Repression is fierce: as I write, a well-known student leader has just been condemned to six years in prison. Yet the impression I got from those I talked to is that they intend to struggle on, perhaps with subtler and more inventive forms of protest.
The potential of what I came to think of as Young Persia is huge. These young Iranians are educated, angry, disillusioned, impatient, and when they leave college most of them will not find jobs appropriate to their training. Given time and the right external circumstances, they could take the lead in exerting the kind of organized social pressure that would allow —and require—the advocates of reform, even of transformation, to gain the upper hand inside the dual state.
The United States would, however, be making a huge mistake if it concluded that these young Iranians are automatic allies of the West—and, so to speak, soldiers of the thirteenth imam. Their political attitudes toward the West are complex, often deeply confused, and volatile. Unlike in neighboring Turkey, even the most outspoken would-be democratizers don't envisage their country becoming part of the West. They seek a specifically Iranian version of modern society. If they see their ancient civilization in a wider regional setting at all, they call it the Middle East or Asia. "We Oriental people," one student activist prefaced his remarks. Moreover, they are as ill-informed about Western policies and realities as they are well-informed about Iran's.
What of Iran's nuclear program? That was not a pressing concern for the young people I met. None of them raised the issue in conversation with me. When I asked them about it, they fell into two groups. The first group felt that Iran, a proud but insecure nation flanked by neighbors already possessing nuclear weapons, has a right not just to civilian nuclear power but also to nuclear weapons. The second felt that a democratic Iran should undoubtedly have such a right, but they would rather this repressive regime did not obtain nuclear weapons. Yet both insisted with equal vehemence that an American or Israeli bombing of nuclear installations, let alone an Iraq-style invasion, would be a wholly unacceptable response to Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"I love George Bush," said one thoughtful and well-educated young woman, as we sat in the Tehran Kentucky Chicken restaurant, "but I would hate him if he bombed my country." She would oppose even a significant tightening of economic sanctions on those grounds. A perceptive local analyst reinforced the point. Who or what, he asked, could give this regime renewed popular support, especially among the young? "Only the United States!"
If, however, Europe and the United States can avoid that trap; if whatever we do to slow down the nucleariza-tion of Iran does not end up merely slowing down the democratization of Iran; and if, at the same time, we can find policies that help the gradual social emancipation and eventual self-liberation of Young Persia, then the long-term prospects are good. The Islamic revolution, like the French and Russian revolutions before it, has been busy devouring its own children. One day, its grandchildren will devour the revolution.
—October 6, 2005


[*] See his "Letter from Evin Prison," published in The New York Review, September 22, 2005.

Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford. He is the author, most recently, of Free World: America, Europe and the Surprising Future of the West. (November 2005)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Al Zawahiri letter, July 2005

Letter of Al Zawahiri (Afghanistan) to Al Zarqawi (Iraq) July 2005

October 11, 2005

ODNI News Release No. 2-05

Today the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a letter between two senior al Qa'ida leaders, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, that was obtained during counterterrorism operations in Iraq. This lengthy document provides a comprehensive view of al Qa'ida's strategy in Iraq and globally.

The letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi is dated July 9, 2005. The contents were released only after assurances that no ongoing intelligence or military operations would be affected by making this document public.

The document has not been edited in any way and is released in its entirety in both the Arabic and English translated forms. The United States Government has the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity.

Al-Zawahiri's letter offers a strategic vision for al Qa'ida's direction for Iraq and beyond, and portraysal Qa'ida's senior leadership's isolation and dependence.
Among the letter's highlights are discussions indicating:
The centrality of the war in Iraq for the global jihad.
From al Qa'ida's point of view, the war does not end with an American departure.
An acknowledgment of the appeal of democracy to the Iraqis.
The strategic vision of inevitable conflict, with a tacit recognition of current political dynamics in Iraq; with a call by al-Zawahiri for political action equal to military action.
The need to maintain popular support at least until jihadist rule has been established.
Admission that more than half the struggle is taking place "in the battlefield of the media."


In the name of God, praise be to God, and praise and blessings be upon the Messenger of God, his family, his Companions, and all those who follow him.

The gracious brother/Abu Musab, God protect him and watch over him, may His religion, and His Book and the Sunna of His Prophet aid him, I ask the Almighty that he bless him, us, and all Muslims, with His divine aid, His clear victory, and His release from suffering be close at hand. Likewise, I ask the Almighty to gather us as He sees fit from the glory of this world and the prize of the hereafter.

1-Dear brother, God Almighty knows how much I miss meeting with you, how much I long to join you in your historic battle against the greatest of criminals and apostates in the heart of the Islamic world, the field where epic and major battles in the history of Islam were fought. I think that if I could find a way to you, I would not delay a day, God willing.

2-My dear brother, we are following your news, despite the difficulty and hardship. We received your last published message sent to Sheikh Usama Bin Ladin, God save him. Likewise, I made sure in my last speech-that Aljazeera broadcast Saturday, 11 Jumadi I, 1426h, 18 June 2005-to mention you, send you greetings, and show support and thanks for the heroic acts you are performing in defense of Islam and the Muslims, but I do not know what Aljazeera broadcast. Did this part appear or not? I will try to attach the full speech with this message, conditions permitting.

Likewise, I showed my support for your noble initiative to join with your brothers, during a prior speech I sent to the brothers a number of months ago, but the brothers' circumstances prevented its publication.

3-I want to reassure you about our situation. The summer started hot with operations escalating in Afghanistan. The enemy struck a blow against us with the arrest of Abu al-Faraj, may God break his bonds. However, no Arab brother was arrested because of him. The brothers tried-and were successful to a great degree-to contain the fall of Abu al-Faraj as much as they could.

However, the real danger comes from the agent Pakistani army that is carrying out operations in the tribal areas looking for mujahedeen.

4-I want to keep corresponding with you about the details of what is going on in dear Iraq, especially since we do not know the full truth as you know it. Therefore, I want you to explain to me your situation in a little detail, especially in regards to the political angle. I want you to express to me what is on your mind in regards to what is on my mind in the way of questions and inquiries.

A-I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting battle in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam's history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era, and what will happen, according to what appeared in the Hadiths of the Messenger of God about the epic battles between Islam and atheism. It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically in the Levant, Egypt, and the neighboring states of the Peninsula and Iraq; however, the center would be in the Levant and Egypt. This is my opinion, which I do not preach as infallible, but I have reviewed historical events and the behavior of the enemies of Islam themselves, and they did not establish Israel in this triangle surrounded by Egypt and Syria and overlooking the Hijaz except for their own interests.

As for the battles that are going on in the far-flung regions of the Islamic world, such as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Bosnia, they are just the groundwork and the vanguard for the major battles which have begun in the heart of the Islamic world. We ask God that He send down his victory upon us that he promised to his faithful worshipers.

It is strange that the Arab nationalists also have, despite their avoidance of Islamic practice, come to comprehend the great importance of this province. It is like a bird whose wings are Egypt and Syria, and whose heart is Palestine. They have come to comprehend the goal of planting Israel in this region, and they are not misled in this, rather they have admitted their ignorance of the religious nature of this conflict.

What I mean is that God has blessed you and your brothers while many of the Muslim mujahedeen have longed for that blessing, and that is Jihad in the heart of the Islamic world. He has, in addition to that, granted you superiority over the idolatrous infidels, traitorous apostates, and those turncoat deviants.

This is what God Almighty has distinguished you and your brothers with over the mujahedeen before you who fought in the heart of the Islamic world, and in Egypt and Syria to be precise, but this splendor and superiority against the enemies of Islam was not ordained for them.

God also blessed you not only with the splendor of the spearhead of Jihad, but with the splendor as well of the doctrines of monotheism, the rejection of polytheism, and avoidance of the tenets of the secularists and detractors and inferiors, the call to the pure way of the Prophet, and the sublime goal that the Prophet left to his companions. This is a blessing on top of blessing on top of blessing which obliges you and your noble brothers to be constantly thankful and full of praise. The Almighty said: (If ye are grateful, He is pleased with you) and the Almighty says: (If ye are grateful, I will add more unto you.)

B-Because of this, we are extremely concerned, as are the mujahedeen and all sincere Muslims, about your Jihad and your heroic acts until you reach its intended goal. You know well that purity of faith and the correct way of living are not connected necessarily to success in the field unless you take into consideration the reasons and practices which events are guided by. For the grandson of the Prophet Imam al Hussein Bin Ali, (the Leader of the Faithful Abdallah Bin al-Zubair), Abdul Rahman Bin al-Ashath, and other great people, did not achieve their sought-after goal.

C-If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet and if we expect to establish its state predominantly-according to how it appears to us-in the heart of the Islamic world, then your efforts and sacrifices-God permitting-are a large step directly towards that goal.

So we must think for a long time about our next steps and how we want to attain it, and it is my humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals:

The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.

The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.

There is no doubt that this amirate will enter into a fierce struggle with the foreign infidel forces, and those supporting them among the local forces, to put it in a state of constant preoccupation with defending itself, to make it impossible for it to establish a stable state which could proclaim a caliphate, and to keep the Jihadist groups in a constant state of war, until these forces find a chance to annihilate them.

The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.

The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.

My raising this idea - I don't claim that it's infallible-is only to stress something extremely important. And it is that the mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.

If the matter is thus, we must contemplate our affairs carefully, so that we are not robbed of the spoils, and our brothers did not die, so that others can reap the fruits of their labor.

D-If we look at the two short-term goals, which are removing the Americans and establishing an Islamic amirate in Iraq, or a caliphate if possible, then, we will see that the strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy - after the help and granting of success by God - is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries.

So, we must maintain this support as best we can, and we should strive to increase it, on the condition that striving for that support does not lead to any concession in the laws of the Sharia.

And it's very important that you allow me to elaborate a little here on this issue of popular support. Let's say:

(1) If we are in agreement that the victory of Islam and the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet will not be achieved except through jihad against the apostate rulers and their removal, then this goal will not be accomplished by the mujahed movement while it is cut off from public support, even if the Jihadist movement pursues the method of sudden overthrow. This is because such an overthrow would not take place without some minimum of popular support and some condition of public discontent which offers the mujahed movement what it needs in terms of capabilities in the quickest fashion. Additionally, if the Jihadist movement were obliged to pursue other methods, such as a popular war of jihad or a popular intifada, then popular support would be a decisive factor between victory and defeat.

(2) In the absence of this popular support, the Islamic mujahed movement would be crushed in the shadows, far from the masses who are distracted or fearful, and the struggle between the Jihadist elite and the arrogant authorities would be confined to prison dungeons far from the public and the light of day. This is precisely what the secular, apostate forces that are controlling our countries are striving for. These forces don't desire to wipe out the mujahed Islamic movement, rather they are stealthily striving to separate it from the misguided or frightened Muslim masses. Therefore, our planning must strive to involve the Muslim masses in the battle, and to bring the mujahed movement to the masses and not conduct the struggle far from them.

(3) The Muslim masses-for many reasons, and this is not the place to discuss it, do not rally except against an outside occupying enemy, especially if the enemy is firstly Jewish, and secondly American.

This, in my limited opinion, is the reason for the popular support that the mujahedeen enjoy in Iraq, by the grace of God.

As for the sectarian and chauvinistic factor, it is secondary in importance to outside aggression, and is much weaker than it. In my opinion-which is limited and which is what I see far from the scene-the awakening of the Sunni people in Iraq against the Shia would not have had such strength and toughness were it not for the treason of the Shia and their collusion with the Americans, and their agreement with them to permit the Americans to occupy Iraq in exchange for the Shia assuming power.

(4) Therefore, the mujahed movement must avoid any action that the masses do not understand or approve, if there is no contravention of Sharia in such avoidance, and as long as there are other options to resort to, meaning we must not throw the masses-scant in knowledge-into the sea before we teach them to swim, relying for guidance in that on the saying of the Prophet to Umar bin al-Khattab: lest the people should say that Muhammad used to kill his Companions.

Among the practical applications of this viewpoint in your blessed arena:

(A) The matter of preparing for the aftermath of the exit of the Americans: The Americans will exit soon, God willing, and the establishment of a governing authority-as soon as the country is freed from the Americans-does not depend on force alone. Indeed, it's imperative that, in addition to force, there be an appeasement of Muslims and a sharing with them in governance and in the Shura council and in promulgating what is allowed and what is not allowed. In my view-which I continue to reiterate is limited and has a distant perspective upon the events-this must be achieved through the people of the Shura and who possess authority to determine issues and make them binding, and who are endowed with the qualifications for working in Sharia law. They would be elected by the people of the country to represent them and overlook the work of the authorities in accordance with the rules of the glorious Sharia.

And it doesn't appear that the Mujahedeen, much less the al-Qaida in the Land of Two Rivers, will lay claim to governance without the Iraqi people. Not to mention that that would be in contravention of the Shura methodology. That is not practical in my opinion.

You might ask an important question: What drives me to broach these matters while we are in the din of war and the challenges of killing and combat?

My answer is, firstly: things may develop faster than we imagine. The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam-and how they ran and left their agents-is noteworthy. Because of that, we must be ready starting now, before events overtake us, and before we are surprised by the conspiracies of the Americans and the United Nations and their plans to fill the void behind them. We must take the initiative and impose a fait accompli upon our enemies, instead of the enemy imposing one on us, wherein our lot would be to merely resist their schemes.

Second: This is the most vital part. This authority, or the Sharia amirate that is necessary, requires fieldwork starting now, alongside the combat and war. It would be a political endeavor in which the mujahedeen would be a nucleus around which would gather the tribes and their elders, and the people in positions, and scientists, and merchants, and people of opinion, and all the distinguished ones who were not sullied by appeasing the occupation and those who defended Islam.

We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the students and the people of Qandahar alone. They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. Even devout ones took the stance of the spectator and, when the invasion came, the amirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile. Even the students themselves had a stronger affiliation to their tribes and their villages than their affiliation to the Islamic amirate or the Taliban movement or the responsible party in charge of each one of them in his place. Each of them retreated to his village and his tribe, where his affiliation was stronger!!

The comparison between the fall of Kabul and the resistance of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Al Qaim and their fearless sisters shows a clear distinction, by God's grace and His kindness. It is the matter towards which we must strive, that we must support and strengthen.

Therefore, I stress again to you and to all your brothers the need to direct the political action equally with the military action, by the alliance, cooperation and gathering of all leaders of opinion and influence in the Iraqi arena. I can't define for you a specific means of action. You are more knowledgeable about the field conditions. But you and your brothers must strive to have around you circles of support, assistance, and cooperation, and through them, to advance until you become a consensus, entity, organization, or association that represents all the honorable people and the loyal folks in Iraq. I repeat the warning against separating from the masses, whatever the danger.

(2) Striving for the unity of the mujahedeen: This is something I entrust to you. It is between you and God. If the mujahedeen are scattered, this leads to the scattering of the people around them. I don't have detailed information about the situation of the mujahedeen, so I ask that you help us with some beneficial details in this, and the extent of the different mujahedeen movements' readiness to join the course of unity.

(3) Striving for the ulema: From the standpoint of not highlighting the doctrinal differences which the masses do not understand, such as this one is Matridi or this one is Ashari or this one is Salafi, and from the standpoint of doing justice to the people, for there may be in the world a heresy or an inadequacy in a side which may have something to give to jihad, fighting, and sacrifice for God. We have seen magnificent examples in the Afghan jihad, and the prince of believers, Mullah Muhammad Omar - may God protect him - himself is of Hanafi adherence, Matridi doctrine, but he stood in the history of Islam with a stance rarely taken. You are the richer if you know the stances of the authentic ulema on rulers in times of jihad and the defense of the Muslim holy sites. And more than that, their stances on doing justice to the people and not denying their merit.

The ulema among the general public are, as well, the symbol of Islam and its emblem. Their disparagement may lead to the general public deeming religion and its adherents as being unimportant. This is a greater injury than the benefit of criticizing a theologian on a heresy or an issue.

Of course, these words of mine have nothing to do with the hypocritical traitors who are in allegiance with the crusaders, but I wish to stress the warning against diminishing the ulema before the general public.

Also, the active mujahedeen ulema - even if there may be some heresy or fault in them that is not blasphemous - we must find a means to include them and to benefit from their energy. You know well -what I am mentioning to you- that many of the most learned ulema of Islam such as Izz Bin Abdul Salam, al-Nawawi, and Ibn Hajar - may God have mercy on them - were Ashari. And many of the most eminent jihadists, whom the Umma resolved unanimously to praise such as Nur al-Din Bin Zanki and Salahal-Din al-Ayyubi - were Ashari. The mujahedeen sultans who came after them - who didn't reach their level - whom the ulema and the historians lauded such as Sayf al-Din Qatz, Rukn al-Din Baybars, al-Nasir Muhammad Bin-Qallawun, and Muhammad al-Fatih, were Ashari or Matridi. They fell into errors, sins, and heresies. And the stances of Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiya regarding al-Nasir Muhammad Bin Qallawun and his extolling of him and his inciting him to jihad - despite the prosecutions and prison which befell the sheikh in his time - are well known.

If you take into account the fact that most of the Umma's ulema are Ashari or Matridi, and if you take into consideration as well the fact that the issue of correcting the mistakes of ideology is an issue that will require generations of the call to Islam and modifying the educational curricula, and that the mujahedeen are not able to undertake this burden, rather they are in need of those who will help them with the difficulties and problems they face; if you take all this into consideration, and add to it the fact that all Muslims are speaking of jihad, whether they are Salafi or non-Salafi, then you would understand that it is a duty of the mujahed movement to include the energies of the Umma and in its wisdom and prudence to fill the role of leader, trailblazer, and exploiter of all the capabilities of the Umma for the sake of achieving our aims: a caliphate along the lines of the Prophet's, with God's permission.

I do not know the details of the situation where you are, but I do not want us to repeat the mistake of Jamil al-Rahman~, who was killed and whose organization was shattered, because he neglected the realities on the ground.

(4) The position on the Shia:

This subject is complicated and detailed. I have brought it up here so as not to address the general public on something they do not know. But please permit me to present it logically:

(A) I repeat that I see the picture from afar, and I repeat that you see what we do not see. No doubt you have the right to defend yourself, the mujahedeen, and Muslims in general and in particular against any aggression or threat of aggression.

(B) I assert here that any rational person understands with ease that the Shia cooperated with the Americans in the invasion of Afghanistan, Rafsanjani himself confessed to it, and they cooperated with them in the overthrow of Saddam and the occupation of Iraq in exchange for the Shia's assumption of power and their turning a blind eye to the American military presence in Iraq. This is clear to everybody who has two eyes.

(C) People of discernment and knowledge among Muslims know the extent of danger to Islam of the Twelve'er school of Shiism. It is a religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad of heresy in a campaign against Islam, in order to free the way for a group of those who call for a dialogue in the name of the hidden mahdi who is in control of existence and infallible in what he does. Their prior history in cooperating with the enemies of Islam is consistent with their current reality of connivance with the Crusaders.

(D) The collision between any state based on the model of prophecy with the Shia is a matter that will happen sooner or later. This is the judgment of history, and these are the fruits to be expected from the rejectionist Shia sect and their opinion of the Sunnis. These are clear, well-known matters to anyone with a knowledge of history, the ideologies, and the politics of states.

(E) We must repeat what we mentioned previously, that the majority of Muslims don't comprehend this and possibly could not even imagine it. For that reason, many of your Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia. The sharpness of the questioning increases when the attacks are on one of their mosques, and it increases more when the attacks are on the mausoleum of Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib, may God honor him. My opinion is that this matter won't be acceptable to the Muslim populace however much you have tried to explain it, and aversion to this will continue.

Indeed, questions will circulate among mujahedeen circles and their opinion makers about the correctness of this conflict with the Shia at this time. Is it something that is unavoidable? Or, is it something can be put off until the force of the mujahed movement in Iraq gets stronger? And if some of the operations were necessary for self-defense, were all of the operations necessary? Or, were there some operations that weren't called for? And is the opening of another front now in addition to the front against the Americans and the government a wise decision? Or, does this conflict with the Shia lift the burden from the Americans by diverting the mujahedeen to the Shia, while the Americans continue to control matters from afar? And if the attacks on Shia leaders were necessary to put a stop to their plans, then why were there attacks on ordinary Shia? Won't this lead to reinforcing false ideas in their minds, even as it is incumbent on us to preach the call of Islam to them and explain and communicate to guide them to the truth? And can the mujahedeen kill all of the Shia in Iraq? Has any Islamic state in history ever tried that? And why kill ordinary Shia considering that they are forgiven because of their ignorance? And what loss will befall us if we did not attack the Shia? And do the brothers forget that we have more than one hundred prisoners - many of whom are from the leadership who are wanted in their countries - in the custody of the Iranians? And even if we attack the Shia out of necessity, then why do you announce this matter and make it public, which compels the Iranians to take counter measures? And do the brothers forget that both we and the Iranians need to refrain from harming each other at this time in which the Americans are targeting us?

All of these questions and others are circulating among your brothers, and they are monitoring the picture from afar, as I told you. One who monitors from afar lacks many of the important details that affect decision-making in the field.

However, monitoring from afar has the advantage of providing the total picture and observing the general line without getting submerged in the details, which might draw attention away from the direction of the target. As the English proverb says, the person who is standing among the leaves of the tree might not see the tree.

One of the most important factors of success is that you don't let your eyes lose sight of the target, and that it should stand before you always. Otherwise you deviate from the general line through a policy of reaction. And this is a lifetime's experience, and I will not conceal from you the fact that we suffered a lot through following this policy of reaction, then we suffered a lot another time because we tried to return to the original line.

One of the most important things facing the leadership is the enthusiasm of the supporters, and especially of the energetic young men who are burning to make the religion victorious. This enthusiasm must flow wisely, and al-Mutanabbi says:

Courage in a man does suffice but not like the courage of one who is wise.

And he also says:

Judiciousness precedes the courage of the courageous which is second
And when the two blend in one free soul it reaches everywhere in the heavens.

In summation, with regard to the talk about the issue of the Shia, I would like to repeat that I see that matter from afar without being aware of all the details, I would like my words to be deserving of your attention and consideration, and God is the guarantor of success for every good thing.

(5) Scenes of slaughter:

Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable - also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God.

And your response, while true, might be: Why shouldn't we sow terror in the hearts of the Crusaders and their helpers? And isn't the destruction of the villages and the cities on the heads of their inhabitants more cruel than slaughtering? And aren't the cluster bombs and the seven ton bombs and the depleted uranium bombs crueler than slaughtering? And isn't killing by torture crueler than slaughtering? And isn't violating the honor of men and women more painful and more destructive than slaughtering?

All of these questions and more might be asked, and you are justified. However this does not change the reality at all, which is that the general opinion of our supporter does not comprehend that, and that this general opinion falls under a campaign by the malicious, perfidious, and fallacious campaign by the deceptive and fabricated media. And we would spare the people from the effect of questions about the usefulness of our actions in the hearts and minds of the general opinion that is essentially sympathetic to us.

And I say to you with sure feeling and I say: That the author of these lines has tasted the bitterness of American brutality, and that my favorite wife's chest was crushed by a concrete ceiling and she went on calling for aid to lift the stone block off her chest until she breathed her last, may God have mercy on her and accept her among the martyrs. As for my young daughter, she was afflicted by a cerebral hemorrhage, and she continued for a whole day suffering in pain until she expired. And to this day I do not know the location of the graves of my wife, my son, my daughter, and the rest of the three other families who were martyred in the incident and who were pulverized by the concrete ceiling, may God have mercy on them and the Muslim martyrs. Were they brought out of the rubble, or are they still buried beneath it to this day?

However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this.

E-I would like you to explain for us another issue related to Iraq, and I think without a doubt that you are the most knowledgeable about it. Can the assumption of leadership for the mujahedeen or a group of the mujahedeen by non-Iraqis stir up sensitivity for some people? And if there is sensitivity, what is its effect? And how can it be eliminated while preserving the commitment of the jihadist work and without exposing it to any shocks? Please inform us in detail regarding this matter.

F-Likewise I would like you to inform us about the Iraqi situation in general and the situation of the mujahedeen in particular in detail without exposing the security of the mujahedeen and the Muslims to danger. At the least, we should know as much as the enemy knows. And allow us to burden you with this trouble, for we are most eager to learn your news.

G-I have a definite desire to travel to you but I do not know whether that is possible from the standpoint of traveling and getting settled, so please let me know. And God is the guarantor of every good thing.

5-Please take every caution in the meetings, especially when someone claims to carry an important letter or contributions. It was in this way that they arrested Khalid Sheikh. Likewise, please, if you want to meet one of your assistants, I hope that you don't meet him in a public place or in a place that is not known to you. I hope that you would meet him in a secure place, not the place of your residence. Because Abu al-Faraj - may God set him free and release him from his torment - was lured by one of his brothers, who had been taken into custody, to meet him at a public location where a trap had been set.

6-The brothers informed me that you suggested to them sending some assistance. Our situation since Abu al-Faraj is good by the grace of God, but many of the lines have been cut off. Because of this, we need a payment while new lines are being opened. So, if you're capable of sending a payment of approximately one hundred thousand, we'll be very grateful to you.

7-The subject of the Algerian brothers at our end, there are fears from the previous experiences, so if you're able to get in touch with them and notify us of the details from them, we would be very grateful to you.

8-As for news on the poor servant,

A-During an earlier period I published some publications:

(1) Allegiance and exemption - A Faith transmitted, a lost reality.
(2) Strengthening the Banner of Islam - an article emphasizing the authority's commitment to monotheism.
(3) Wind of Paradise - an article about: Most Honorable Sacrifices of the Believers - Campaigns of Death and Martyrdom.
I endeavored in this article to include what was written on the subject as much as I could. I also strived to verify every word in it, and it's an issue that took me almost a year or more.

(4) The Bitter Harvest-The Muslim Brotherhood in 60 Years-Second Edition 1426h - 2005m.
In this edition, I wanted to delete all the extreme phrases for which there's no proof, and I referred to the book a number of times, then I wrote a new preface. In it I pointed out a dangerous trend of the Brotherhood, especially in the circumstances of the New Crusader War which was launched on the Islamic Umma. In my opinion, this edition is better than the first with respect to the calmness of the presentation instead of being emotional. The Brotherhood's danger is demonstrated by the weakening of the Islamic Resistance to the campaign of the Crusaders and their supporters. God is the only one who is perfect.

(5) I have also had fifteen audio statements published and six others that were not published for one reason or another. We ask God for acceptance and devotion.I will enclose for you the written statements and what I can of the audio and video statements with this message, God willing. If you find they are good, you can publish them. We seek God's assistance.

(6) I don't know if you all have contact with Abu Rasmi? Even if it is via the Internet, because I gave him a copy of my book (A Knight under the banner of the Prophet) so he could attempt to publish it, and I lost the original. Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper published it truncated and jumbled. I think that the American intelligence services provided the aforementioned newspaper with it from my computer which they acquired, because the publication of the book coincided with a publication of messages from my computer in the same newspaper. So if you can contact him and get the original of the book, if that is possible for you all, then you can publish it on your blessed website and then send a copy to us, if that is possible.

B-As for my personal condition, I am in good health, blessings and wellness thanks to God and His grace. I am only lacking your pious prayers, in which I beg you not to forget me. God Almighty has blessed me with a daughter whom I have named (Nawwar), and Nawwar means: the timid female gazelle and the woman who is free from suspicion, and technically: it is the name of my maternal aunt who was a second mother to me and who stood with me during all the difficult and harsh times. I ask God to reward her for me with the best reward, and have mercy on her, our mothers and the Muslims.

9-My greetings to all the loved ones and please give me news of Karem and the rest of the folks I know, and especially: By God, if by chance you're going to Fallujah, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In closing, I ask God entrust you all with His guardianship, providence and protection, and bless you all in your families, possessions and offspring and protect them from all evil and that He delight you all with them in this world and the next world, and that He bestow upon us and you all the victory that he promised his servants the Believers, and that He strengthen for us our religion which He has sanctioned for us, and that He make us safe after our fear.Peace, God's blessings and mercy to you.

Your loving brother

Abu Muhammad
Saturday, 02 Jumada al-Thani, 1426 - 09 July, 2005.