Denmark-Based Preacher Praises Al-Qaeda, Endorses Implementation Of Shari'a; Islamic State (ISIS) Supporters Are Wary

By: R. Green*
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March 7, 2021
By: R. Green*

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here. 

Abu Jihad Al-Menawi is the nickname of Amer Jihad Darwich, a young and charismatic Salafi preacher and cleric who currently resides in Denmark, but is originally from the town of Minya in northern Lebanon.

Al-Menawi delivers lectures and sermons at the ‘Aisha Mosque in Aarhus (the Aarhus Waqf mosque), on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, and maintains ties with Muslim clerics and communities in Scandinavian and European countries as well as in Lebanon. Over the past year he has gained a sizeable audience online for his lectures on Islamic theology which are peppered with Lebanese dialect and slang.


Amer Jihad Darwich, aka Abu Jihad Al-Menawi

In his lectures and social media posts, Al-Menawi discusses the central tenets of the Salafi worldview: emphasizing the centrality of the Islamic concept of monotheism (tawhid) and condemning the "scholars of evil," i.e. the establishment scholars in Islamic countries, the illegitimacy of man-made laws, democracy and nationalism, and so on.

While Al-Menawi does not usually explicitly voice support for violent extremist groups, on at least one occasion he expressed support for an Al-Qaeda affiliate (as is detailed below). He also appears to be inspired by radical jihadi clerics, several of whom he openly endorsed.

Moreover, Al-Menawi openly and emphatically supports establishing a system of governance in Denmark based on Islamic law (as this report will indicate), albeit without specifying the course of action he would recommend to achieve this end .[1]

His lectures have attracted the attention of online supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS), and recently some of them have begun to recommend his Facebook page and share some of his clips. It should be noted however, that other ISIS supporters are suspicious of him.


The Facebook page for the Aarhus Waqf mosque, where Al-Menawi regularly delivers lectures and sermons

The following survey reviews Al-Menawi's ideological tendencies:

Social Media Presence

Al-Menawi currently operates a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Telegram channel and a Twitter account.

Facebook

Al-Menawi's Facebook page[2] was launched in February 2020. It is not clear whether he had a previous page. As of this writing, the current page has 6,843 followers, most of them Arabic-speakers from various countries in the Middle East and Europe. He uses the page mainly to shares videos and to promote his lectures, and occasionally to comment about current events and personal matters.

YouTube

Al-Menawi's YouTube channel, created on June 14, 2014, has 826 subscribers and is updated regularly with new video clips featuring excerpts from his lectures, accompanied by special visual and sound effects, and also Islamic nasheeds [Islamic religious chants].[3]

Telegram

Al-Menwai uses his Telegram channel,[4] which currently has 225 subscribers, to promote and mirror his other social media accounts. It also includes content not featured on his Facebook or Twitter account, such as quotations from certain radical clerics.

Twitter

Al-Menawi uses his Twitter account, which was created in February 2020,[5] to comment on current events, although his following there is the smallest – numbering 99 followers as of this writing. Tweets appear sporadically, twice a week on average, with the last one to date appearing on February 7, 2021.

Implied Support For Al-Qaeda

As mentioned, while Al-Menawi does not openly endorse violent extremist groups, he does occasionally express sympathy for such groups. For instance, in an Eid Al-Adha blessing he wrote: “May your holiday be blessed, may Allah bring it upon the Islamic nation with victory, empowerment and application of shari’a. Do not forget to pray for the scholars of the Sunnah, and all the prisoners of the Muslims to be released from the jails of the tawaghit [false gods; a common jihadi term for secular rulers, their governments and security forces]. Likewise pray for the success and victory of the mujahideen, for they are the glory and honor of this nation.”[6]


Al-Menawi's Eid Al-Adha greeting as it was posted on Facebook

Another example is the lecture Al-Menawi delivered at the 'Aisha Mosque (the Waqf Mosque), which he later posted on his Facebook page and YouTube channel, in which he expressed sympathy for the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Mali. On October 25, 2021, during the furor over the murders in France of French teacher Samuel Paty and three worshipers in a church, following the republishing of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Al-Menawi was critical of French president Emmanuel Macron.[7] He pointed out with glee that the French hostage Sophie Petronin, for whom France paid a hefty ransom, converted to Islam. He then congratulated the Group for Supporting Islam and the Muslims (GSIM), which oversaw the prisoner exchange between France and the government of Mali, for its proud stance. He said gloatingly: “The excellent, honorable guys over there in Mali to whom Macron paid ten million [dollars], the day after the prisoner exchange spread out a large feast, full of grilled meat and sheep. They say, welcome, o Muslim, it’s all paid for by Macron. That’s power and glory!”[8]

 
In the clip posted to his Facebook page, in which Al-Menawi congratulates GSIM, he shares the photos of the large celebration GSIM held for its freed prisoners.

Endorsement of Radical Jihadi Clerics

On his Twitter and Telegram accounts Al-Menawi regularly endorses radical jihadi clerics, such as the prominent Jordanian scholar Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi,[9] whom he often quotes, adding the appellation “may Allah protect him.”[10]


A Telegram post by Al-Menawi, in which he approvingly quotes Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, adding "may Allah protect him."

In September 2020, when Al-Maqdisi came under fire from the Syria-based Saudi cleric Abdallah Al-Muhaysni, a leading voice in the Islamist opposition in Syria, Al-Menawi defended him on Twitter, accusing Al-Muhasyni of being subservient to the Saudi regime.[11]

Al-Menawi also quotes Saudi cleric Sulayman Al-‘Alwan, who is widely admired in jihadi circles.

Furthermore, in one of his Telegram posts, Al-Menawi approvingly quotes Saudi cleric, Nasir Al-Fahd, who famously sanctioned the 9/11 attacks and the use of unconventional weapons against the U.S., and has been in jail in Saudi Arabia for nearly two decades, as follows: “Shari’a law will be applied by force. Anyone who opposes it will be struck by the sword and thrown into the garbage heap, and the number of voters, those who agree or disagree will disregarded.’ The sheikh Nasir Al-Fahd, may Allah free him from prison.”[12]  


Al-Menawi's Telegram post in which he approvingly quoted Nasir Al-Fahd

Calls For Application of Shari’a (Islamic Law) in Europe

Unlike his subtle approval of the use of violence and extremist tactics, Al-Menawi is outspoken and clear about his support for the application of Islamic law in Europe, specifically in Denmark, his country of residence.

In a lecture titled “Man-Made Law vs. Shari’a” Al-Menawi describes a discussion he had with a Danish interlocutor. “They asked me, do you support having shari’a applied in Denmark? I told them, listen. As for myself, I want to speak logically. I don’t see it happening. Allah knows best, but I do not see it being applied [in the near future]. However, if you ask me, do you want it [to be applied], that’s a separate matter. In my point of view, shari’a must be implemented all over the world. If you ask me will it be implemented in Denmark, that’s a hypothetical. As I see it, it’s far away. But if you ask me if I want it, I have an answer for that. So he told me, let’s turn the question around: would you like it for Denmark to be governed by shari'a? I told him, of course.” Al-Menawi then recounts the rest of the discussion, in which he praises the virtues of shari’a law, such as the punishment of cutting off hands as a deterrent to stealing, and so on.[13]

In another lecture, Al-Menawi reiterates his vision: “Whoever calls for the implementation of shari’a... they fight him. Why? Because the return of the [Islamic] nation to the shari’a – herein lies the true victory. Thus, with Allah’s permission, we will conquer the nations. With this all the nations will be submissive to Islam and shari’a... Whoever cries as loudly as possible that he wants to apply shari’a law, and that the shari’a, the Quran and the Sunnah are the fundamental and only source of legislation – forget about it. [They call him] a terrorist, a kharijite,[14] I don’t know what...”[15]


Amer Jihad Darwich, aka Abu Jihad Al-Menawi, delivering a sermon at the mosque in Aarhus

ISIS Supporters Disagree About Al-Menawi

In recent weeks, some jihadis and supporters of ISIS online have begun to recommend Al-Menawi to their friends. It seems that lectures Al-Menawi delivered in December and Facebook posts he shared then drew the attention of jihadis. In these lectures, Al-Menawi spoke against the notion that Palestine is the foremost cause for Muslims, and essentially against Palestinian nationalism as espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. These themes are favorites of jihadis, from Gaza in particular. These hardcore Salafis and jihads are involved in intense ideological rivalry with Hamas, and reject its ideology and its version of Palestinian nationalism.

One jihadi from Gaza, Muhammad Nasr Abu Bakr, a clip of Al-Menawi’s in which he spoke out against those who advocate the centrality of Palestine, and enquired about the identity of the speaker. Several weeks later, apparently after having viewed more of Al-Menawi’s clips, he shared a link to Al-Menawi’s page and wrote: “I recommend following him, there is much good in his lectures.”[xvi] Many other jihadis on Facebook began to share clips and promote his page.


Facebook post by Muhammad Nasr Abu Bakr, a jihadi from Gaza, in which he recommends Al-Menawi's Facebook page to his friends

However, after noting the enthusiasm for the young Denmark-based preacher, other ISIS supporters expressed reservations and warned their counterparts.

A prominent Gaza-based supporter who has a channel called La Yahum juxtaposed a photograph of Al-Menawi with Sudanese preacher Muhammad Al-Jazouli. The latter was known for his radical and militant sermons, but in recent years he has been the leader of a political movement in Sudan, and is therefore notorious among jihadis for being a turncoat.[17]

One ISIS supporter wrote a post on Techhaven, the ISIS network on the Rocket.Chat platform, titled “An Important Warning to the Supporters of The Islamic State:” “In recent days video clips of a man called Abu Jihad Al-Menawi have spread among the supporters of the State of the Caliphate [ISIS], in which he calls for the application of shari’a and so on. Some have been fooled by him and excited by his words and began to distribute his videos among the supporters. I’m amazed by you! Who is this Al-Menawi who sits comfortably in his home, in the shadow of the rule of the tawaghit, and releases these videos to us here and there? Shouldn’t his first priority be to make good on his words with actions, implement what he preaches for and migrate to the State of the Caliphate [to ISIS-controlled territories]?... We hereby warn our brothers the supporters of the State of the Caliphate about the one called Abu Jihad Al-Menawi, and we call upon them not to follow him and not to share his videos or promote them...”[18]


The above poster from ISIS supporter La Yahum attacks Al-Menawi.
 

 

[1] See lecture titled "Man-Made Law vs. Shari’a Part 1," YouTube.com/watch?v=33fEMrYWIsE, November 23, 2020.

[2] Facebook.com

[3] YouTube.com

[4] Telegram.me

[5] Twitter.com

[6] Facebook.com, July 31, 2020.

[7] Facebook.com, October 25, 2021.

[8] For more information about the GSIM celebration of the prisoner exchange, see MEMRI JTTM Report: Al-Qaeda Affiliate GSIM Celebrates Prisoner Exchange With Malian Government In Ceremony Attended By Emir Iyad Ag Ghaly, October 12, 2021.

[9] ‘Issam Muhammad Tahir Al-Barqawi aka Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, is a radical Salafi scholar who resides in Amman, Jordan. He is among the most influential theologians and ideologues in the jihadi movement, revered by Al-Qaeda members and leadership. See for instance Al-Maqdisi’s role in providing guidance to Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Syria in MEMRI Report: Al-Qaeda's Decline In Syria – Part IV: What Does the Future Hold?, February 25, 2021.

[10] Telegram.me, December 28, 2020.

[11] Twitter.com, September 25, 2020.

[12] Telegram.me, January 19, 2021.

[13] Youtube.com/watch?v=33fEMrYWIsE, November 23, 2021.

[14] The Kharijites or Khawarij were an early Islamic sect that advocated excommunicating Muslims for even minor sins. The term is used today pejoratively by Muslims to denounce ISIS and other jihadi groups. 

[15] Facebook.com, January 2, 2021.          

[16] Facebook.com, January 30, 2021.

[17] Telegram.me, February 4, 2021.

[18] Techhaven, February 5, 2021.

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