Al Takfir Wal HijraAl Takfir Wal Hijra may be the most terrifically terrifying terrorist operation in the world today. The fact that you've never heard of it is part of the problem.
Al Takfir Wal Hijra means "anathema and exile" or possibly "excommunication and emigration." A theologically extreme extension of the Saudi Arabia's Wahabbi doctrines, Takfir is dedicated to restoring the Caliphate, the Islamic political empire that once spanned the Near and Middle East.
Ayman Al-Zawahiri is a member of the Takfir sect. While Osama bin Laden is usually called the leader of al Qaeda, Zawahri runs the terrorist network in most meaningful respects, including ordering attacks and concocting theological justifications for killing.
The founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Zawahiri is one of several international terror masterminds linked to Takfir Wal Hijra.
Takfir is as fundamentalist a sect as you can imagine. Its major tenet holds that all the world's non-Muslim leaders should be overthrown by any means including (and especially) violence. Not only are infidels subject to sanctions up to and including death, but even other Muslims who don't fit the Takfir ideal.
It isn't just the bloodthirstiness that makes Takfir Wal Hijra dangerous, however. It's the techniques. A major element of Takfir religious practice is subterfuge. The threat of Takfir is that its cold, heartless killers could easily be the boy or girl next door. Takfir Wal Hijra members are permitted to disregard the injunctions of Islamic law in order to blend into infidel societies.
In other words, Takfirs can have sex with loose women, drink alcohol, eat pork and do whatever else they feel is appropriate to advance their mission.
In the wake of September 11, and even before, the U.S. and media pundits have frequently engaged in head-scratching over the fact that terrorist operatives often don't appear to be especially Islamic. It seems paradoxical that the 9/11 hijackers could be so dedicated that they would die for the cause, but not so dedicated that they avoided picking up girls at nightclubs.
"(They seem like) regular, fun-loving guys—but they'd slit your throat or bomb your building in a second," a French official told Time Magazine.
Mohammed Atta, although puritanical in his behavior, was believed to be Takfiri. He's not the only al Qaeda operative you could point the finger at. Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed went to discos, drank alcohol and dated call girls. Yousef in particular is renowned for being generally unIslamic and non-observant of prayers and fasting. Although no one has suggested openly that Yousef and KSM were Takfiri, it's hardly a stretch.
Other al Qaeda operatives in the U.S. might be Takfiri, including Ali Mohammed, a senior al Qaeda operative who served with the U.S. Special Forces in the late 1980s, or Mahmud Abouhalima, who joined the NRA before getting mixed up in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In addition to its unparalleled ability to infiltrate Western societies, Takfir also distinguishes itself for its sheer violence and cheerful lack of discrimination among its targets. Even bin Laden has been a target of Takfir killers, supposedly, during a 1996 assassination attempt in the Sudan. This rumor persists despite the fact that Takfirs fought alongside bin Laden's mujahideen in Afghanistan, which tells you something cautionary about being on the wrong side of a Takfir.
The U.S. government is deeply concerned about the Takfiri movement, although you wouldn't be able to tell from the way they never talk much about it.
In 2002, the Justice Department charged four men with running a Takfiri terrorist sleeper cell in Michigan. Members were charged with planning shoe bombings, airline attacks and casing the U.S. embassy in Jordan, Disneyland and a Las Vegas casino for potential attacks. The case began to disintegrate after a series of missteps and illegal acts by the Justice Department. Only two of the four were convicted, and even those convictions may not stand up to review.
After those named above, the next most famous Takfir may be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian who is currently making life miserable for the U.S. in Iraq. Although little credible information is known about Zarqawi, his M.O. and stated beliefs are generally consistent with the Takfir cult. It's also worth noting that he recently attempted to stage a chemical attack on the same Jordanian embassy allegedly targeted by the Michigan cell.
Strangely, there's some conventional wisdom circulating which holds that Takfir Wal Hijra was founded by Lebanese immigrant and Boston taxi cab driver Bassam Ahmed Kanj. However, there's some room for debate. It's likely that the sect (in some form) predates Kanj's involvement beginning in 1996. (He was killed in an uprising in Lebanon in 2000.)
According to the Justice Department, Takfiris are guided by fatwas issued by influential radicals, like the following, issued in 1998 by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an exiled Egyptian cleric now imprisoned in the U.S.:
Cut all links with the [United States]. Destroy them thoroughly and erase them from the face of the earth. Ruin their economies, set their companies on fire, turn their conspiracies to powder and dust. Sink their ships, bring their planes down. Slay them in the air, on land, on water. And [with the Command of Allah] kill them wherever you find them. Catch them and put them in prison. Lie in wait for them and kill these infidels. They will surely get great oppression from you. God will make you the means of wreaking a terrible revenge upon them, of degrading them. He will support you against them. He will cure the afflicted hearts of the faithful and take all anger out of their hearts.Clearly, God will have his hands full with some of these hearts. In the meantime, you can only hope that the boy or girl next door isn't planning to slit your throat any time soon.