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May 28, 2014 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1095

A Review Of Ansar Al-Shari'a In Tunisia's Facebook Page

May 28, 2014 | By M. Khayat
North Africa, Tunisia | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1095

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

Introduction

Since its establishment in post-revolution Tunisia, Ansar Al-Shari'a in Tunisia (AST), the leading Salafi-jihadi organization in the country, has relied heavily on Facebook to promote its agenda. AST's use of Facebook peaked in 2012-2013, in which period the organization operated a main Facebook page as well as numerous "regional"[1] pages that spread its message inside and outside Tunisia. In terms of their content, the pages promoted two main messages simultaneously. On the one hand, they emphasized AST's activities of da'wa (propagating Islam), which were the focus of the organization's activity inside Tunisia since its inception, as well AST's humanitarian activities for the benefit of the Tunisian population. At the same time, they propagated a jihadi message, expressing support for the global jihad movement in its struggle against "the Crusader-Zionist enemy," glorifying "martyrs," and rejoicing over mujahideen's victories over the "unbelievers." These two messages were aimed at two different audiences: the message of da'wa was aimed at the general Tunisian population whereas the jihadi message was directed at more extremist, jihadi elements.

However, the pages were frequently closed down by the Facebook administration, often after being flagged by users for being extremist.[2] Moreover, after the Al-Nahda-led Tunisian government designated AST a terrorist organization in August 2013, the movement's Facebook presence declined even further. Eventually, the regional Facebook pages disappeared, leaving only the group's main Facebook page (in addition, AST has an official website,[3] a web forum,[4] a Twitter account,[5] and a YouTube channel).[6]

As for the content of this Facebook page, it now focuses on several themes which are notably different from the ones that appeared there in 2013. While in 2013 the page focused almost entirely on AST's more innocuous aspects, which appeal to the general society – in particular on the organization's social activities and humanitarian relief efforts for the benefit of all Tunisians – today it promotes a hardline Salafi-jihadi message focused on religious and political issues. It stresses that the organization will continue seeking to implement the shari'a in Tunisia, even if this involves many sacrifices, including in lives; proclaims unambiguously that the Tunisian government and leaders are heretical because they rule by manmade laws, rather than by the shari'a; warns its followers that any association with, or sympathy for, non-Muslims is a sin that excludes them from the fold of Islam; declares that AST is part of the global struggle against Zionist-Crusader conspiracies; champions Salafi-jihadi causes such as releasing Muslim prisoners held by the "unbelievers" and supporting the families of mujahideen killed in battle; and boasts of the support it receives from jihad groups around the world, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Below are excerpts exemplifying these themes.

AST Is Resolved To Remain Relevant In Tunisia, Despite The Government's Ban; It Will Continue To Promote The Implementation Of The Shari'a, Even If Lives Must Be Sacrificed For This Goal

A message posted on the page on April 5, 2014 states: "[We remain] steadfast, no matter what it costs us to support the shari'a. Let everyone know that working towards implementing the shari'a will cost us [AST] many lives and many people will be displaced – but such is the inevitable price of 'izz [a state of glory and honor]... The goal [of implementing the shari'a] will not be fulfilled within days or months; however, great sacrifices are inevitable, since the ummah had gone into a deep coma, and great efforts must [be made] to awaken it".


"[We remain] steadfast, no matter what it costs us to support the shari'a" [7]

Another message, posted Mach 30, said: "Abandoning the [efforts to] instate the shari'a of Allah [is the] cause of disgrace and humiliation"


"Abandoning the [efforts to] instate the shari'a of Allah [is the] cause of disgrace and humiliation"[8]

A message by AST leader Abu 'Iyadh Al-Tunisi to his followers, posted in March, stated: "Beware, while you are at the height of this affliction, not to look upon yourselves with disparagement... Despite your weakness, small numbers, and absence of supporters, you are [causing] America and the West to lose sleep. You are a problem that has no solution for them... Do you know why? Because, to put it briefly, you are the trustees of Allah's religion... Falsehood will continue to persecute you and [try to] tempt you to give up something of your religion. Beware... for the end of the world will be easier for me now than our appeasing [our enemies] or compromising our religion..."


AST leader Abu 'Iyadh: "The end of the world will be easier for me now than our appeasing [our enemies] or compromising our religion..."[9]

Using Standard Salafi-Jihadi Parlance, AST Describes Tunisian Government As Heretical, Warns Muslims Against Accepting The Rule Of The Taghout (Evil Tyrants) And Abandoning Efforts Towards Implementing Shari'a

AST sees the "rulers of this era" – i.e., the Tunisian government – as heretical since it does not rule according to the shari'a. On the matter of proclaiming such leaders to be infidels, AST quotes from Al-Thalathiniyya,[10] a 1998 book by prominent Salafi-jihadi cleric Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi: "And the truth is that these rulers, their heresy is very grave, because they have done many things that justify [proclaiming them infidels]… such as [passing] laws alongside Allah, [a practice] which Allah did not permit; ruling by [laws] other than what Allah revealed; and following and desiring [matters] other than Allah's religion... such as democracy and the like; and befriending the Jews and Christians..." (Al-Thalathiniyya, page 36, quoted on AST's Facebook page on April 7).


"The Heresy of Today's Rulers"[11]

AST emphasizes that any Muslim who endorses manmade laws, or even accepts them while believing that Allah's laws are better, is bereft of true Muslim faith. A March 27 message states: "Those who think that human rulings and opinions are better than those of Allah and His Prophet, or are equal or similar to them, are not believers, [and the same is true of those who] have abandoned [the rulings of Allah and His Prophet] and allowed manmade laws and systems to take their place, even if they believe that Allah's rulings are better, more comprehensive, and more just... Worshiping Allah alone, and disavowing, renouncing and cursing the tyrants and those who love them... are [necessary] requirements for the shahada [the Islamic declaration of faith]..."


"They Who Accept The Rule Of The Tyrant Are Not Believers" (March 27, 2014)[12]


Ruling not according to what Allah revealed is heresy that excludes one from the fold of Islam (March 5, 2014)[13]


"No belief in Allah [can exist] without proclaiming the heresy of the tyrant" (March 8, 2014)[14]

AST Denounces All Forms Of Cooperation With Non-Muslims, Warns Muslims Against Engaging In Such Acts

An April 3 message warns against being loyal to the "infidels", which in this case refers to the Jews and Christians: "Among the modern forms of [expressing] loyalty to the infidels [which are] prevalent among people are: supporting them in their unjustness, participating in secular or atheist parties and expressing loyalty and support for them, calling them [i.e. the infidels] by respectful titles such as those applied to gentlemen and rulers, conspiring with them, implementing their agendas, spying on the Muslims for them [to discover the Muslim's] secrets and weaknesses, fighting alongside them, smiling at them, opening [one's] heart to them, honoring and serving them, giving them advice, praising them, and singing their praises [among the people]..."[15]


"Let not the believers take the unbelievers as friends instead of the believers, and whoever does so has nothing to hope for from Allah [Koran 3:28]" (April 3, 2014)[16]


"The Exalted forbade the believers to associate with the Jews and Christians, and unbelievers in general, and this prohibition [also] includes [associating with] apostate rulers and other [apostates]" (March 18, 2014)[17]

AST Is Part Of Muslims' Battle Against Zionist-Crusaders' Conspiracies, Agendas In Region

AST sees itself as an integral part of Muslims' struggle against the Zionist-Crusader agendas in the region, and calls upon Muslims to be aware of these agendas and to oppose them as well. For example, o On March 10, 2014, AST issued a statement in response to the killing of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), excerpts of which were posted on its Facebook page on March 15. The message said: "Here goes the cross, attacking... the heart of the African continent..." It stated that, despite the atrocities being committed in the CAR, Arab and Western media, the Zionist-Crusader alliance, human rights advocates, and the UN "terror council" (i.e. Security Council) have failed to take appropriate action. AST explained that the CAR has been the victim of France's involvement in the African continent, which is motivated not only by France's interests there but also by the desire to ensure that its Crusade against Islam and Muslims continues. Addressing CAR Muslims, AST assured them that "your blood shall not [be spilled] in vain," and that the end of the global powers of colonization will be sealed by "your brothers [in AST] and your mujahideen sons."[18]


AST on CAR events: "Confrontation is inevitable, and there is no way to end these tragedies but through preparation and jihad for the sake of Allah." (March 15, 2014)[19]

AST Advocates The Release Of Muslim Prisoners Held By The 'Infidels', Including By Force

A recurring theme is the need to release Muslim prisoners held by the "infidels," as in the following message: "It is obligatory to release Muslim prisoners and to rescue them from the hands of the infidels by [sacrificing one's] soul, money, and anything else, and by every means available" (April 8, 2014).[20]


"The obligation of releasing [Muslim] prisoners from the hands of the infidels" (April 8, 2014)[21]


"Releasing prisoners by fighting, or, if not, by means of money" (April 9, 2014)[22]


"Our prisoners [held] by the arrogant tyrants – who do they have [to help them], except Allah, if you let them down? Never, never let them down. Supporting them [is done by] praying for them, reminding Muslims about their misery, looking after their families... and by seeking to set them free" (March 10, 2014)[23]

AST Advocates Taking Care Of The Families Of Fallen Fighters

AST calls upon Muslims to support the families and dependents of mujahideen killed on various jihad fronts, to whom it refers as "ghuza for the sake of Allah,"[24] stressing that this is a virtue for which one is rewarded in the Hereafter.


AST's "Single Body Campaign"[25] calls to support the families of fallen fighters (AST Facebook page, March 6, 2014)[26]

AST Showcases The Support Its Receives From Muslims, Including From The Islamic State Of Iraq And Syria (ISIS)

On February 23, 2014, an online campaign in support of AST was launched on Facebook and Twitter under the Hashtag #Support_Ansar_Al-Shari'a_Tunisia. AST urged people to participate in this campaign by posting supportive statements and signs. Among the responders were ISIS members (see first four images below), who asked AST to remain steadfast against its enemies. Below are some of the responses to AST's campaign:


"Support for AST from ISIS soldiers" (February 25, 2014)[27]


"Remain steadfast… [people] from near and far have united against the #Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and Syria, [yet] it remains strong, thanks to Allah - #Support_Ansar_Al-Shari'a_Tunisia" (February 24, 2014)[28]


"Tell the enemies of the shari'a [to] die by your anger.. .your brothers in the #Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and Syria...#Support_Ansar_Al-Shari'a_Tunisia" (February 24, 2014)[29]


"Patience, O monotheists, the path to pride and empowerment surely involves affliction and tribulations... We love you in Allah, your brothers in the #Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and Syria #Support_Ansar_Al-Shari'a_Tunisia" (February 25, 2014)[30]


Salafi-ihadi sheikh Abu Sa'd Al-'Amili: "We inform the enemies of Allah in Tunisia, those who are hostile to Allah's shari'a: behold glad tidings [that will] harm you, since all the monotheists are supporters of the shari'a..." (February 23, 2014)[31]


"The da'wa continues, even if the apostates, coconspirators, Madakhila,[32] and infidels hate [it] – Ansar Al-Sharia [in the town of] Soliman, [Tunisia]" (February 24, 2014)[33]


"We are your brothers in Indonesia, [who are] proud of your presence in the honorable land of Tunisia... Many apologies to you for not being able to really defend you..." (February 24, 2014)[34]


"This is Ansar Al-Shari'a, this is the factory that produces men" (February 25, 2014)[35]


"Ansar Al-Sharia, you are the future of the ummah..." (March 4, 2014)[36]


"Ansar Al-Shari'a in Montreal, Canada..." (March 5, 2014)[37]


Support from Qatar: "Support for AST, [it] endures, Allah willing" (AST Facebook page, February 28, 2014)[38]

*M. Khayat is a research fellow at MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[1] AST had regional Facebook pages for Tunis, Qayrawan, Majaz Al-Bab (Beja Governorate), Mahdia (central-eastern Tunisia), Gafsa (central Tunisia), Douar Hicher (Manouba, northern Tunisia), Jebiniana (Sfax), Cité El Khadra (Tunis), Al-Manazeh (Tunis), and the western Tunis suburbs.

[2] Facebook allows its users to report a page for a variety of reasons, including promoting "violence or harmful behavior" or containing hate speech.

[4] http://www.ansar-alsharee3a.com, accessed March 31, 2014.

[10] The full title is Al-Risala Al-Thalathiniyya Fi Al-Tahdhir Min Al-Ghulou Fi Al-Takfir.

[24] In Islamic context, a ghazi (plural ghuza), is a warrior participating in fighting or raids for the sake of Allah.

[25] An analogy of Muslims being part of a single body (i.e. ummah)

[32] Madakhila are members of the Madkhalis school, a quietist Wahhabi school named after sheikh Rabi' bin Hadi Al-Madkhali. They are bitter rivals of the Salafi-jihadi stream.

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