Home > ISR, PAL > Ma’an Exclusive: Interview with Gaza’s Salafi leader Omer Al-Ansari

Ma’an Exclusive: Interview with Gaza’s Salafi leader Omer Al-Ansari

May 20, 2010

The following article is reprinted with permission from Ma’an News Agency, Palestine.

Interview with Gaza’s Salafi leader
©  Ma’an News Agency
By Ibraheem Qanan
May 20, 2010  12:43 (updated)

GAZA – Ma’an Exclusive – “Salafism is not only in Gaza, it is all over Palestine and needs no license to practice in the heart of Tel Aviv or in Washington,” Jaish Al-Islam (Army of Islam) leader Omer Al-Ansari told Ma’an during an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

“But enough about the movement, its time to move is subject to its men and their ability to stand in the face of the tyrannies,” Al-Ansari said from his secret hideout and weapons store, settling in for an in-depth discussion on the relationship of the movement to Al-Qaeda, tensions with the ruling Hamas party, and its vision for the Palestinian national struggle.

Al-Ansari described movement as independent in both its make-up and method, saying it had its own path to reach goals that are similar to Al-Qaeda, while at the same point having its own visions and policies in relation to “Jihadist issues in general and Palestine in particular. “He called the affiliation as “more moral than financial.”

Followers and operatives of Jaish Al-Islam and other Salafist movements, the leader said, have been “killed imprisoned or placed under house arrest.” He said the movements were “being chased, terrorized or were threatened, conspiracies coalitions were set up against them.”

Many of the founding leaders, he added, “the sheikhs and the scholars, have been killed, captured or displaced.”

On resistance, Al-Ansari appeared to fall in with the official Hamas line, saying that the “explosions that are happening in Gaza are political in the first place with the main mission of creating a state of security chaos,” but accusing the leading party of using the chaos to operate under an “undeclared law of emergency,” and to scuttle any opposition.

He said a truce with Israel, the liberation of Islam’s holy places, freedom granted to prisoners, and an end to the occupation, “are all the same case.”

Al-Ansari then sat down and answered a series of questions relating to the movement:

Q:  Army of Islam, what does it mean? Who are you? What are your goals?

A:  Army of Islam is an Islamic group that lives among the unbelievers: Israelis and Christians. It does not have a producer, or founder, nor date of creation or expiry date. The movement extracts understanding and action from the Qur’an and the Sunna.

Its goal is divided into two parts, the first: preaching the mission of prophets and his messengers, sharing the reasons why Allah sent messengers and holy books based on Tawheed (Oneness) and rejecting atheism.

The second, Jihadist: This does not follow preaching and does not precede it, anyone who declares Islam is from the Muslims.

Q:  In a previous interview with a leader of a Salafi group, he estimated that the number of affiliates to Salafism, and specifically Jund Ansar Allah, was some 11,000. What do you think of this number? Has there been a real increase?

A:  The Salafi method has proven itself when all failed in attempts to kill its affiliates. We have established coalitions.

Q:  To what extent is Army of Islam is linked to Al-Qaeda?

A:  Army of Islam is in general is linked with the entire Muslim world, and we are supported in carrying out Jihad against enemy nations, against the Israelis, against the Christians and against Muslim rejectionists in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Coalitions between our groups add little in terms of support or advice.

Concerning the organizational link, Army of Islam is an independent group, entity and method, it has its own path and mechanism to reach its goal, which are similar to Al-Qaeda, but has its own vision and policy especially in relation to Jihadist issues in general and in Palestine in particular.

Q:  What is the nature of the relationship with other Salafi groups? Why they are not united?

A:  Each of the Salafist group has its own path to reach what is agreed on.

Q:  It was said that the Army of Islam’s Tawheed brigades and those of Jihad are the most extreme of the Salafist groups? Is this correct? Is it true that Army of Islam believes in change by force?

A:  One who does not understands Islam in the right way and is not able to understand the Salafi method [may say this]. Islam is a whole and indivisible, anyone who separates “extremist” from others has been affected by western civilization.

Using force has conditions and religious regulations. It is best to balance mercy and force, this is what we teach men following the Salafist way.

Q:  Who are the scholars you rely on? Do you have Sheikhs here in Palestine or abroad? Who are the most important scholars whom you rely on read their books and Fatwas listen to their advice?

A:  Most of the scholars we relied on were either killed, imprisoned or chased away. The jails are full of them.

Q:  Some say that you will not be able to be an alternative to other Palestinian factions? What do say to that?

A:  Islam was not an alternative for those who lived before it. All of the Palestinian factions had all production date, a country of production and a founder. They have a best before date and most have expired. They only exist in the memory of history.

Q:  Are you going to continue with resistance? Or are you committed to the undeclared truce?

A:  Islam does know resistance in its modern incarnation. Allah legitimized Jihad for his sake in defense of his religion. Resistance today is limited within geographical borders that ends with the liberation of meters of land which men are left behind to share. This is nothing of Islam, it is only a reiteration of the Sykes-Picot agreement and the recognition of borders. Islam does not recognize this issue that works on getting justice for all, instead of dealing with unjust religions and rulers.

The truce should be applied for all Muslims by those authorized to declare it according to the basics and rules of Sharia, not according to the rules of parties and their private interests. This applies in any place, but for Palestine, because it is an Islamic Waqf (site left for the heritage of Islam), it not only belongs to Palestinians but to all Muslims, and no Palestinian has the right to speak on its behalf.

Anyone who holds a truce with the Israelis before liberating the holy sites and ending the occupation and releasing the prisoners is a guard for the enemy and supports the Israelis and the Christians.

Q:  Salafist groups are accused of using Gaza and the situation to their advantage. Why don’t we hear about you in the West Bank and inside the Green Line?

A:  We exist everywhere, with permits or without we are in Tel Aviv and in Washington too. We are not just in Gaza.

Q:  You have been accused of perpetrating bombings, attacks on internet cafes, salons and other places. Have you?

A:  Attacking with explosives creates a state of alert and security chaos. There are some parties that take advantage of this.

Q:  It is known that the Salafist Jihad support Al-Qaeda. Is this true?

A:  We do not comment on the methods or acts of Al-Qaeda. We cannot judge them positively or negatively. We apply Islam and we have no modern philosophical thinking like the Christian Church.

It is important to know that the Islam is not divided and the community knows the Qur’an very well and they can understand us.

Q:  What is your attitude toward Christians living in Gaza?

A:  Christians in Gaza are separated into two categories. There are the ones who are good, who cause no problems for the community. They will always be protected. But there are the ones who drink alcohol and spread prostitution. Those are the ones targeted and rejected from Gaza.

There is no doubt that there is hatred between Christians and Muslims in Gaza. This is because many Christians get money from Churches, while others can’t find anything to eat.

Q:  Describe your relationship with Hamas. Have you made special agreements with them?

A:  The problem is not in the form or the nature of the relationship. The problem is that Hamas has decided to deal with modernity, and they chose the path of democracy; thus dealing with the western world. Thus creates a gap between us and them.

They are preventing the brigades from fighting against Israel. This is proof they are fully aware of what they do. They are divided, and imposing a divided and unfair policy.

Q:  There is a lot of concern about Salafism in Palestinian society. Can you give people any reassuring words, especially regarding personal freedoms?

A:  Islam has a great message of justice, equality and freedom to all Muslims.

Islam is the greatest religion for military, politics, economy and society. Unfortunately many tend to corrupt Islamic society using the name of democracy and freedom.

[End.]

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