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memri
February 23, 2017 No.
6798

Editor Of Independent Egyptian 'Al-Misriyyoun' Daily: Sheikh 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman Was Never Convicted Of Assassinating Sadat – Or Of Involvement In 1993 World Trade Center Attack

Following the death of 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman, known as the Blind Sheikh, who was the spiritual father of the Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya organization and was known as one of the founders of the global jihad movement, Mahmoud Sultan, editor-in-chief of the independent Egyptian daily Al-Misriyyoun, wrote in defense of the sheikh. Under the headline "'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman – The Islamists Oppressed Him Even Before the Americans Did!" Sultan stated that despite the accusations that the sheikh was involved in both the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, he had not been convicted in either case.[1] Sultan also clarified that the sheikh had no connection to an essay titled "The Abstaining Sect," which permitted the killing of Muslims in the police and military. This essay, Sultan said, was written in 1981 by two Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya officials who attempted to attribute it to the sheikh. Thus, he concluded, Sheikh 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman had been treated unjustly by Gama'a Al-Islamiyya officials even before the Americans treated him this way.

The following are excerpts from Sultan's article:[2]


'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman (image: english.ahram.org.eg)

"While the headline on CNN reported on 'the death of Sheikh 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman,' almost all Egyptian media featured the headline: 'the death of the terrorist 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman.' The difference here between the 'sheikh' and the 'terrorist' reflects the difference between 'professional' media and 'parasitic' media. No one can be certain of the truth of the charges on which Dr. 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman was convicted in the U.S. in 1996, because all versions [of the events] confirm that he was not accused of having ties to the perpetrators of the [1993] World Trade Center attack, but because of his 'opinion' on the U.S., which he expressed openly in a conversation with a friend who later turned out to be an agent who was, unbeknownst to him, recording his words. Any attempt to investigate the 'content' of this opinion that led him to prison, where he remained for years until his soul returned to its Maker, is doomed to failure.

"In closed meetings, the members of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya blamed 'his loss' [i.e., his imprisonment] on the group's leadership abroad, headed by Sheikh Ahmed Refai Taha and Mustafa Hamza, because they gave him no protection against those who got to him, lured him in, and spied on him from the moment he arrived in the U.S.

"To the best of my knowledge, the Egyptian military tribunal that tried [Egyptian president] Sadat's five assassins – Khalid Al-Islambouli, Muhammad 'Abd Al-Salam Farag, Hussein Abbas, 'Abd Al-Hamid 'Abd Al-Salam, and 'Atta Tayel – acquitted Sheikh Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman and did not convict him of assassinating the late president. It is also astonishing that the National Security Tribunal, headed by 'Abd Al-Ghaffar Muhammad, determined that none of those accused of assassinating Al-Sadat was entitled to issue a fatwa, except for Dr. 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman, who was a lecturer in Koran commentary and had an academic degree, which qualified him to do so. Many do not know that 'Abd Al-Rahman was a student of Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the late Al-Azhar sheikh who was a respected Muslim cleric and the greatest of imams, and who guided him during his doctoral work. Thus, he was never convicted by an Egyptian court of terrorism or of assassinating Sadat. On the contrary: The court treated him as [a source of] religious [authority] and recognized his right to issue fatwas.

"Even if there was a crisis of confidence with the late sheikh because of the well-known controversial essay titled 'Al-Ta'ifa Al-Mumtani'ah' ['The Abstaining Sect']... that was written in 1981, [Sheikh Omar] 'Abd Al-Rahman had nothing to do with [this essay,] which was [actually] authored by two leaders of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, Essam Derbala and Essam 'Abd Al-Maged, [3] and they added to some of the copies [of the essay], the line '[Written] under the supervision of Sheikh 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman.' [They did this] out of a desire to provide an Al-Azhar aegis for this grievous study, which from the outset was written as a document to be submitted to the court as religiously valid evidence of the legitimacy of violence against the state.

"Two days ago, on February 18, 2017, Prof. Maher Farghali, a former member of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya who is today a political Islam researcher, revealed on his Facebook account that Dr. Mahmoud Shu'ayb, 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman's brother-in-law, had told him that he ['Abd Al-Rahman] had [at the time] recommended submitting 'The Abstaining Sect' to Al-Azhar prior to publication because of its grievousness, but that the Al-Gama'a leadership had ignored this.

Therefore, the man's curriculum vitae shows that he was dealt two injustices – one at the hands of the Muslims and one at the hands of the Americans."

 

 

[1] After Sadat's assassination 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman was arrested by the Egyptian authorities on charges of issuing the fatwa that resulted in the assassination, but was eventually acquitted of this charge. In the 1996 trial in the U.S., 'Abd Al-Rahman and his followers were not directly charged with the 1993 World Trade Center attack but were convicted of conspiring with those who carried out the bombing. The sheikh was also convicted of a series of other terror-related charges, including conspiracy to murder Egyptian president Mubarak, solicitation to attack a U.S. military installation and conspiracy to conduct bombings.

[2] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), February 20, 2017.

[3] Al-ta'ifa al-mumtani'ah is a term in Islamic law meaning "the sect that abstains," referring to Muslims who abstain from keeping any of the fundamental Muslim commandments and therefore should be fought to the death. In 1981, following the Sadat assassination and the terror attack on the intelligence headquarters and police centers at Asyut, in which 120 soldiers and officers were killed – both carried out by Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya– Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya officials Essam Derbala and Essam 'Abd Al-Maged, both of whom were involved in the Asyut attack, published an essay titled "The Abstaining Sect" explaining why it is permitted to fight and kill Muslim soldiers and police. According to reports, Sheikh 'Omar 'Abd Al-Rahman did not agree with the essay's premise, and criticized it; however, the authors concealed the sheikh's position from their movement.

Derbala and 'Abd Al-Maged, themselves were part of the Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya leadership, were arrested in 1981 for involvement in the Asyut attack and the Sadat assassination. They served 25 years in prison and were released in 2006.

It should be noted that since 1997, Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya has undergone an ideological reversal, and its leaders have vowed to abandon terrorism and have apologized for the attacks it carried out. They have espoused an ideology of coexistence with the regime, and are making efforts to condemn Al-Qaeda's ideology and fight its influence among Muslims.

See also: MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.309, The Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya Cessation of Violence: An Ideological Reversal, December 22, 2006.