Since 2003, Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi's website, Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad ("The Pulpit of Monotheism and Jihad," henceforth MTJ) has been the main online home for the global Salafi-jihadi movement. For two decades, Al-Maqdisi has led the radical Salafi movement in Jordan and has gained recognition among Salafi-jihadis worldwide as a religious authority and spiritual leader. Over time, his website became the main platform for the dissemination of Salafi-jihadi doctrine, publishing extremist texts, and issuing jihad-related fatwas. In addition to Al-Maqdisi himself, the website is overseen by a shari'a committee of radical Salafi-jihadi clerics from various countries. These clerics hail from a variety of Arab countries, as alluded to by the aliases by which they appear on the website: Al-Baghdadi, Al-Jazairi [from Algeria], Al-Shinqiti [from Mauritania], etc. These aliases do not necessarily reflect the clerics' current place of residence, as in the case of shari'a committee member Abu 'Uzair Al-Jazairi, who resides in Denmark.
The website's domain, http://tawhed.ws, is registered under the name Mr. Isam Otaibi. It is hosted by Interserver, Inc (http://www.interserver.net/), of Secaucus, NJ. The company can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (877) 566-8398.
The following report will provide an overview of Al-Maqdisi's background, his influence on global jihad, and a number of reactions to the assassination of Osama bin Laden which appeared on his website:
Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi's Stature and Significance in the Global Jihad World
Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, whose real name is 'Issam ibn Muhammad ibn Taher Al-Barqawi, is a Jordanian of Palestinian origin. He studied in Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s, where he attended jihad training camps in which he taught religious courses and published his first books.
Al-Maqdisi is one of the founders of the Salafi-jihadi movement. His books and essays essentially formulate and articulate the movement's creed and ideology. Today, Al-Maqdisi is considered the foremost theological and jurisprudential authority among jihadis worldwide. He plays a leading role in global jihad in the following ways:
- He was a spiritual mentor to Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi.
- Following the 9/11 attacks, he issued an unprompted fatwa approving their religious legality.
- Upon request, Al-Maqdisi has provided guidance and counsel to several jihad leaders and groups around the world – the two most significant cases being his correspondence with Abu Mus'ab 'Abd Al-Wadoud, emir of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Anzor Astemirov, former chief qadi of the Caucasus Emirate.
- Jihadis from Western countries also seek guidance from Al-Maqdisi. One of these is Abu Imran of Belgium, leader of Sharia4belgium, who has consulted Al-Maqdisi on how to advance Islamic causes in Belgium.
- Upon request, Al-Maqdisi has offered guidance to an inquirer from Nigeria regarding the best way to promote the jihadi movement in that country.
- As an authority in the global jihad world, Al-Maqdisi has endorsed several jihad groups.
Encouraging Terrorism Against the U.S. and U.S. Targets
Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad offers an online library of essential jihad-related texts, such as books, articles, e-journals, pamphlets, and communiqués; an online library of jihad-related media, such as videos and audio recordings, which include recorded speeches by and messages from leaders of Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and other jihad groups – such as Osama bin Laden and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi; a fatwa section, in which the clerics on the shari'a committee post answers to questions posed by website users; a section of original content (books, articles, pamphlets) written by members of the site's shari'a committee.
Beyond MTJ's main focus – religious, theological, jurisprudential, and ideological matters – the website offers extensive literature on operational aspects of jihad. For instance, the members of the site's shari'a committee issued fatwas sanctioning martyrdom operations (suicide bombings) and other types of attacks.
The site's library contains articles on various military issues, ranging from strategic studies, instructions and guidelines for jihad fighters in the field. It also offers background articles justifying and glorifying martyrdom, as well as background articles on more practical military topics, such as weapons and explosives – including mines, napalm, biological weapons – and psychological warfare.
Fatwas and articles which appear on Al-Maqdisi's website have a practical significance and are not merely philosophical texts. Rather, their importance lies in the fact that they are rulings issued in response to practical inquiries raised by sworn followers and supporters of various jihadi movements and groups. Fatwas that have to do with waging jihad appear on the website in the section titled "Jihad and Its Rules." Many of these rulings have to do with attacking Western and specifically U.S. targets.
One example is an article Al-Maqdisi published shortly before he was imprisoned in September 2010. In the article, he lashes out at the Western countries, all of whose residents he says must bear responsibility for acts perpetrated against Islam – referring, among others, to the Koran-burnings instigated by Pastor Terry Jones – even though they may have been carried out by specific individuals. Similarly, a member of MTJ's shari'a committee, Abu Al-Walid Al-Maqdisi, decreed that it is not only permissible but desirable to attack or steal from U.S. companies, such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's, in Islamic countries. Another member of the shari'a committee, Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti, issued a fatwa permitting attacks on Western civilians in Muslim countries.
Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad Praises Osama bin Laden as Martyr, Threatens Retribution Against U.S. for His Assassination
Following the killing of Al-Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. forces, MTJ dedicated a special section on the website to commemorate him, including statements, articles, audio recordings and other material celebrating bin Laden's "martyrdom."
Immediately following the news of bin Laden's death, MTJ posted its own obituary statement in which it congratulated Muslims on the occasion of bin Laden's "martyrdom," and promised retribution against the U.S. The statement read: "We congratulate the Muslim ummah in general, and especially the mujahideen, on the occasion of the martyrdom of our era's sheikh of jihad, Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden, may Allah have mercy upon him...
"While we at Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad grieve the sheikh's death and departure, at the same time we rejoice over two things: firstly, that the sheikh of the mujahideen, Osama bin Laden, achieved that which he had asked and strived for, for thirty years. The fact that our sheikh achieved a thing which our Prophet wished for himself is a cause for joy and delight among all those who love the sheikh and his vision; secondly, just as it means life in the heavens for the lion of Islam, Osama bin Laden, his martyrdom... also means life for the religion for which he died...
"Since America rejoiced over the death of Sheikh Osama bin Laden, we announce that Allah has things in store for it that will inflict painful punishment on it."
In addition to the abovementioned statement, MTJ published several other eulogies for bin Laden penned by members of its shari'a committee, such as Abu Muslim Al-Jazairi, Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti, and Abu Dhar Al-Samhari Al-Yamani. These eulogies emphasized bin Laden's success in reviving the notion of jihad against the infidels and the Muslims' commitment to it, in establishing the global jihad movement, and especially in spearheading the war against the U.S.
 A pseudonym for Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, Isam being his given first name and Otaibi being the name of his ancestral clan.
 For more on the relationship between Al-Maqdisi and Al-Zarqawi, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 239, "Dispute in Islamist Circles over the Legitimacy of Attacking Muslims, Shi'ites, and Non-combatant Non-Muslims in Jihad Operations in Iraq: Al-Maqdisi vs. His Disciple Al-Zarqawi," September 11, 2005, Dispute in Islamist Circles over the Legitimacy of Attacking Muslims, Shi'ites, and Non-combatant Non-Muslims in Jihad Operations in Iraq: Al-Maqdisi vs. His Disciple Al-Zarqawi.
 See MEMRI JTTM report "Al-Qaeda Maghreb Adopts Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi as Shari'a Authority," September 22, 2009, http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/blog_personal.htm?id=1947%C2%B6m=APT.
 See MEMRI JTTM report "Exclusive: Posthumous Astemirov Letter Points to Presence of Jihadist Moles in Russian Army and Intelligence," April 5, 2010, http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/report.htm?report=4080¶m=GJN.
 See MEMRI JTTM report "Radical Belgian Muslims Turn to Jihadist Cleric Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi for Guidance," April 27, 2010, http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/blog_personal.htm?id=3283%C2%B6m=APT.
 "Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi Answers Question on How Best to Further the Jihadist Movement in Nigeria," March 9, 2010, http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/blog_personal.htm?id=3042%C2%B6m=JT
 See MEMRI JTTM reports "Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi Openly Endorses Palestinian Jama'at Al-Tawhid Wa'l-Jihad," March 10, 2010, http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/report.htm?report=4191¶m=IDTA.
 The most recent fatwa sanctioning suicide bombings was issued by sheikh Abu Hummam Bakr Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Athari, "What is the Ruling on Martyrdom Operations?", http://tawhed.ws/FAQ/display_question?qid=4569, May 31, 2011. For another example, see "Martyrdom Operations and the Balance of Power," http://www.tawhed.ws/r?i=re54xzjh.
 According to Islamic faith, death on the battlefield accords a Muslim status as a shahid, or martyr, and grants him immediate entrance into paradise, among other rewards.