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Feb 19, 2010
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Sheik Sarraj Al-Zahrani, a Former Saudi Fighter in Afghanistan, Exposes Crimes and Un-Islamic Behavior by Mujahideen

#2411 | 12:05
Source: Al-Arabiya Network (Dubai/Saudi Arabia)

The following are excerpts from an interview with Sheik Sarraj Al-Zaharani, a former Saudi mujahid in Afghanistan. The interview aired on Al-Arabiya TV on February 19-26, 2010.

Reporter: Sarraj Al-Zaharani, a mujahid in the past and a sheik and preacher today, stores in his head the memories of the Jihad of the 1980s in Afghanistan. Then, like many well-intentioned Saudi youths, he enthusiastically responded to the call to Jihad. He traveled to Peshawar. He underwent training, recruitment, and fighting. Although he did not stay for long in Afghanistan or in Peshawar, Pakistan, he says that he discovered the truth: The era, which some depict in utopian terms, was tainted by deception and by abuse of the enthusiasm of the youth.


Sheik Sarraj Al-Zaharani: The youth developed love of Jihad, of martyrdom, and of fighting for the sake of Allah. We were shown films that presented the Afghan mujahideen as the 20th-century parallel to the Prophet's companions.


Before the [Arab mujahideen] were sent to the battlefront, some of the leaders would sit with them in Peshawar, and would advise them to avoid arguing with the Afghans, and to refrain from being strict with them. The [Arab mujahideen] would overlook many [transgressions]. It got to the point that they would join the Afghans in their heretical innovations in order to please them. I even heard someone say: "I am prepared to wear an amulet, and if I am martyred, this will be forgiven anyway from the first drop of blood." It got to that level.


Some Arabs did go to the battlefronts. This cannot be denied. Some honest men were even killed, may Allah accept them as martyrs. But those who survived, and were influenced by the ideology of takfir [accusing others of heresy], have become a time bomb, especially considering the fact that their training in Peshawar and in Afghanistan itself was peculiar.

The young men were trained to produce bombs. Why would you need to make bombs, if you have Russian and other bombs ready for use? If what you want is indeed to use bombs against the Russians, you have bombs that are ready and need no production. They were trained to make bombs using available means, like pipes and so on. This proves that they were planning to use these skills in their own countries. They were trained in urban warfare, even though the war was being waged mostly in mountainous and desert areas. There was no urban warfare until they approached Kabul.

Interviewer: The training was in contrast to what was going on in the field.

Sheik Sarraj Al-Zaharani: Exactly. They prepared them for [Jihad] in their own countries. This is the truth. I underwent some of this training. They even trained us to place explosives inside a book.


Interviewer: What's your opinion on the tales of miracles that happened to the Arabs in Afghanistan?


Sheik Sarraj Al-Zaharani: Undoubtedly, some were exaggerated. [Abdallah Azzam's] book mentioned many miracles. Some were exaggerated, and even constituted a transgression of Islamic law.

Let me give you one story as an example. Abdallah Azzam wrote that the son of an old man was killed in Afghanistan, and the father was told that his son was a martyr. The old man came to Azzam, and said that he wanted to make sure that his son was indeed a martyr. The man said: "I will have no peace of mind until I am convinced." So they took him to his son's grave, and the old man said to his buried son: "My son, if you are a martyr, give me a sign." The son reached out from his grave and shook his father's hand. Then the father was relieved and happy. This story represents a transgression of Islamic law.


Take, for example, the tale about how, when warplanes would rain down bombs, birds would come and carry the bombs away from the mujahideen. This is not true.


There were many young men, especially non-Saudis, who showed no signs of piety. Some of them would smoke, and some did not grow beards. They claimed to be pious, yet some of them wore inappropriate clothes.

They would bring VCRs and TV sets to the offices of Abdallah Azzam and Osama Bin Laden. My colleagues and I asked them why. They said: "We want to use Jihadi films to train the mujahideen." But once, I walked in on them, and saw a group, headed by Abdallah Azzam's right-hand man, Abu Akram, watching Pakistani free-style wrestling. So I made fun of them, saying: "I see that your jihad training is powerful. Those wrestlers are wearing things that don't even cover their private parts. This is how you conduct training?!" They were embarrassed and said nothing.


Young people joined them from the US and France with their families, because they had heard that this was an Islamic caliphate. When they reached this Islamic caliphate, they did not find what they had expected. They found that things were different.

I know a young man from Mecca, who was with Al-Qaeda and participated in the Afghan Jihad. When I met him a few years later, he was in an appalling state. Even his face looked different. I asked him if he was using drugs, and he said that he was. I asked him who got him into this. He said: "I was with the Khilafa Group, and I was influenced by them. They believe that drugs are not prohibited. They say that there is no proof that drugs are prohibited. So they permitted us to use drugs. That is how low we got. Even worse than that – when one of the Frenchmen, who came from the West with their families, committed a heretical violation – even if only a slip of the tongue – they would pronounce him a heretic, and would declare his wife 'permitted,' and she would become a slave girl for the leader and his cronies." He said: "This is how low we got."

This is a serious matter. In addition, they would raid Pakistani shops and steal gold from them. This went on until the Pakistani tribes got fed up with this, and they fought them in the mountains, and drove them out, into Afghanistan. When they got to Afghanistan, they were welcomed by Hekmatyar, and when Osama Bin Laden came, he began to finance the Khilafa Group.


There was overt support for Al-Qaeda among [Saudi] youth, who would support and praise Osama Bin Laden at school. It got to the point that some young men would recite poems in his praise. They would support Al-Qaeda and praise the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in general. This was spreading fast among the youth. It only cooled down after things exploded and the fighting began. Some people only got it when the explosion reached the Muslim countries. Residential compounds were bombed.


After years of bombings, killings, and incitement, many of the "Islamic Revival" preachers still keep their mouths shut. None of them denounced Al-Qaeda's ideology of takfir. None of them talked about Osama Bin Laden. Only when things calmed down, and Osama Bin Laden became worthless and Al-Zawahiri took his place, did some of those preachers talk, in a whisper, about Osama Bin Laden.

Interviewer: In other words, the opposition to this organization's ideology was soft.

Sheik Sarraj Al-Zaharani: Undoubtedly. There was also sympathy for Osama Bin Laden. This sympathy was undisguised. Why didn't the "Islamic Revival" preachers warn against Osama Bin Laden's ideology? Why didn't they warn the youth of that dangerous ideology of takfir?


Nobody was drying up the springs of the takfir ideology. This ideology sprung from the Muslim Brotherhood, to be honest. From the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood emerged the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, who accused entire societies of heresy.


Before things exploded, some leaders of the "Islamic Revival" and their followers had amassed weapons, and buried them underground, as we have seen. They even buried weapons in graves.


There is a book by Sallah Al-Sawi, titled The Constants and the Variables, which discusses this. Al-Sawi subscribes to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. He says that the Muslim Brotherhood can be divided into two groups. One group will fight. These are the mujahideen, or the military wing. They will fight the heretic countries and governments. The other group – the leaders – will denounce and condemn the mujahideen.


If the fighters defeat the governments, the leaders take charge. But if the fighters are defeated, and the governments assume control, the leaders – who condemned the fighters – will have won the sympathy of the governments, as well as of the people. Then, they will start spreading their ideology anew.


When there were problems in Iraq, in Palestine, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Afghanistan, the imams of some mosques cried about the catastrophes that befell the Muslims. They emphasized this in their prayers. They did not wait for a fatwa, or for a memorandum by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

But when we received the ministry's memorandum, instructing us to curse the terrorists in our prayers – many imams didn't. They didn't curse them. When the [Saudi] Mufti ruled that people should curse the Houthis, and pray for our brothers, the mujahideen of the army and of the Interior Ministry, we didn't hear the imams do that. Only a few of them believe that they should obey this country. "The dung points to the camel," as the saying goes.

This is a strong indication that there is ideological influence, and that some people still believe that Saudi Arabia is an infidel country. They do not believe that they should pray for its victory, and they support its adversaries – whether Shiite, Al-Qaeda, or anybody. Unfortunately, they are willing to form an alliance – I'm not exaggerating – even with Satan himself, against Saudi Arabia.

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