SALAFISM, THE CIA AND THE DISTORTION OF “JIHAD”
SALAFISM, THE CIA AND THE DISTORTION OF “JIHAD”
The world is being divided into a new Cold War, between the West and Islam, presented as a “Clash of Civilizations”, based on the assumption that Islam is a belligerent religion. Given that there are clear verses in the Quran commanding the Muslims to “kill the unbelievers wherever you find them”, doubters are caught in a debate where critics and fundamentalists alike appeal to those verses, and conversely, where moderates or apologists and Western liberals, argue that Islam is a “peaceful religion”.
As pointed out by Daniel Pipes, while otherwise known for his Islamophobia, Muslims can be divided into three categories: “traditional Islam,” which he sees as pragmatic and non-violent, “Islamism,” which he sees as dangerous and militant, and “moderate Islam,” which he sees as underground and not yet codified into a popular movement. Interestingly, however, he did concede that he did not have the “theological background” to determine which group follows the Quran the closest and is truest to its intent.
While the media tout the value of “moderate Islam,” the Western world is as yet unaware of the possibilities of traditional Islam, a heritage which even the Muslims themselves have forgotten. As identified by the late historian Marshall Hodgson, Islam’s “great pre-Modern heritage” is possibly the richest source Muslims possess for creating a coherent vision of their religion’s place in the world today. Yet, he comments: “One of the problems of Muslims is that on the level of historical action their ties with relevant traditions are so tenuous.”
Like anything else, a book with the import of the Quran, which is regarded as the Word of God by more than a billion people, should not be subject to uninformed interpretation. Either by its critics, or its defenders.
Islam had built up one of the most extraordinary intellectual traditions in history, through just such a recognition. Extreme care was exercised to ensure that all possible variations of interpretation were given the maximum care and consideration, and that any resulting interpretations were carried out with the utmost attention to detail. The result was the grand formulation of Islamic Law.
Exemplifying the tolerance that marked the early history of the Muslims, due to an acknowledgement that even the most informed opinion could reach a different conclusion, Islamic Law came to be divided into four schools. Known as Madhhabs, they are: the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali, with the Hanafi being the most widely adopted.
All agreed on the fundamentals of faith, but agreed to differ on minor points of ritual. In the tenth century, following centuries of intense debate, the Muslim community decided as all necessary points had sufficiently dissected, and decided to close the “Doors of Ijtihad”, meaning that it would no longer be possible to offer interpretations outside of the conclusions of these four schools.
Thus was Islamic Law protected by the corruptions of any who would seek to insinuate interpretations to serve ulterior motives. And so, it was necessary for the British, whose expanding colonial ambitions were impeded by the colossus of Islamic civilization, to undermine that very foundation.
Military aggression is typically something that is only used when Muslims have established themselves in a separate community, and are in a position to protect themselves collectively, unlike the current situation, when Muslims are living within non-Muslim communities, or Muslim communities that do not apply Islamic law. Therefore, military Jihad is clearly not permitted against these regimes, or people in general. And, in Islam, when violence is used, it must be confined solely to military action, and only to deflect the aggression of the enemy, inflicting the minimum degree of harm possible. As the Quran stipulates, “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors.” A Muslim is no longer allowed to fight or kill the retreating enemy, let alone innocent civilians. In war in Islam, it is not permitted to harm women, children or the elderly, nor even to destroy trees, crops, or religious structures such as churches and synagogues.
Moreover, as noted by Sheikh Mohammed Afifi al-Akiti, a Shafi scholar and Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, in “Defending the Transgressed by Censuring the Reckless against the Killing of Civilians,” traditionally, the ruling for the use of bombs (the medieval equivalent: Greek fire and catapults) as a weapon is that it is discouraged (Makruh) because it kills or maims too indiscriminately, as opposed to rifles.
So how could modern interpretations of “Jihad” deviate so markedly from those of traditional Islam?
As shown by Rudolph Peters, beginning in the seventeenth century, for the first time in its history, the Islamic world was hit by a wave of what scholars refer to as “Revivalists.” What they all had in common was a reverence of a controversial 13th century scholar named Ibn Taymiyya. Aside from his unique variation of Ijtihad, Ibn Taymiyya spent much of his career in jail, put there by the scholars of his time because of his penchant for anthropomorphic interpretations of God. While they are often mistakenly referred to as Sunni “reformers”, they had fallen outside of Sunni tradition for their rejection of the Madhhabs, in favor of renewed interpretation.
The most notorious amongst these was a British agent by the name of Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who founded Wahhabism, which became the official cult of the State of Saudi Arabia, named after his sponsor, Ibn Saud, who was also brought to power through British support. In the 20th century, Wahhabism merged with Salafism, which was founded by another British agent, named Jamal ud Din al Afghani, who was Grand Master of Freemasonry in Egypt. Additionally, as shown in Terrorism and the Illuminati as well as Black Terror White Soldiers, Afghani was an enormously influential figure in the occult world. According to historian K. Paul Johnson, he was the source of the ideas of H.P. Blavatsky, who is regarded as the “godmother” of the New Age movement, and whose tomes are considered the “scripture” of Freemasonry. Through Blavatsky’s influenced emerged the Golden Dawn and the godfather of 20th century Satanism, Aleister Crowley. From their influence emerged the German Nazi movement. Afghani has also been claimed as the source of the Masonic teachings of the renegade Nation of Islam.
Going by the name of Haji Sharif, Afghani inspired Saint-Yves d’Alveydre who founded synarchism, which has been the basis of 20th century fascism, particularly the infamous Gladio. Gladio were an international network of fascist terrorists, secretly deployed by the CIA and NATO to counter communist influence in the World. One such faction was the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded by Hasan al Banna, a follower of Afghani’s Salafism.
The purpose of Gladio was to carry out false-flag terrorist operations which would then be blamed on their enemies the communists. The Muslim Brotherhood would be used for similar violent ends, but under the cover of Islam. In early 1953, one of Eisenhower’s chief psychological warfare strategists, Edward P. Lilly, produced a memorandum called “The Religious Factor,” which called on the US to use religion more explicitly. The real motivating factor was the possibility of exploiting the concept of “Jihad” against Communism.
However, the very strict rules of Islam made it impossible to sanction revolutionary and violent subversion, let alone the killing of civilians. The only way of presenting such a justification was to denigrate the seeking the advice of the Madhhabs as “blind following,” and to suggest that the verses of the Quran could be interpreted anew and without intermediary. In other words, without qualified opinion.
Thus, the Islamists undermined traditional interpretations of Jihad, and opened the way for the adoption of the kind of violence, which the revelation of Islam was actually intended to oppose and irradiate, leading to untold suffering of hundreds if not thousands of innocent non-Muslim civilians, and the millions of innocent Muslims who were the brunt of the retaliation of their governments.
All this carnage can be attributed to the misterpretation of one verse in particular, which states:
“And he who does not judge according to what God has revealed, then they are the disbelievers.”
The Islamists took the word “judge” to mean rule by governments, and because, as they suggested the verse implied, these governments had apostatised, it was therefore necessary to combat them through violent “Jihad”.
However, as shown in an excellent article titled “Deviance: Examining the Understandings and Theological Claims of Takfiri Ideological Movements in Light of Classical Islamic Scholarship”, this interpretation contradicts that of the majority traditional scholars. The verse was revealed in Medina when the Jews questioned the Prophet concerning an affair involving two adulterers. It was exclusively revealed in regard to non-Muslims. The scholars of the Madhhabs regarded the verse as characterizing a kind of unbelief that didn’t result in apostasy. For example, Imam ibn Hanbal, the founder of Adbul Wahhab’s own Madhhab, said: it is a “disbelief which does not remove one from the fold of the religion.”
And yet, the Salafis founded their violence on a particular interpretation of this verse derived from Ibn Taymiyyah. Sayyed Qutb (1906 –1966), who, was heavily influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah and Abd al-Wahhab was the primary architect of the militant philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood, and nearly all terrorism in the name of Islam. The two most important ideas he proposed were Hakimiyya, which he adopted from Pakistani militant Abul Ala Maududi, and Jahiliyya. Like Abdul Wahhab, Qutb regarded the Ummah as having fallen into Jahiliyya (paganism), which must be reconquered for Islam. Hakimiyya involved regarding it a tenet of Islamic belief that God alone is the final legal authority, and therefore that only Shariah can be adopted as the basis of a state governing Muslims. Few Muslims would reject that notion. But for Qutb, the adoption of any non-Islamic law represented an act of apostasy, and therefore sanctioning the killing or overthrow of the errant leader.
The legal precedents were found in Ibn Taymiyyah who first proposed a Fatwa that sanctioned making Takfir against “deviant” rulers. When the Mongols who ruled the Abbasid Empire converted to Sunni Islam, it raised the difficult question of whether it was still legitimate for Mamluk Muslim leaders of Egypt to wage Jihad against them. Ibn Taymiyyah’s supposed response was that the Mongols, by implementing “man made laws” (the Yasa code) instead of Shariah, were in fact living in a state of Jahiliyyah. Consequently Jihad against such “Kuffar” (plural for Kafir) was not only allowed, but obligatory, a ruling that went against the mainstream Sunni reluctance to pronounce Takfir on other Muslims.
However, this purported Fatwa seems to derive from a corruption of the text. It is known as the Mardin Fatwa, because it was issued in Mardin, the region of Turkey where Ibn Taymiyyah was born. Two versions of the Fatwa were recently discovered. One version of the wording states that the non-Muslim rulers should be “killed,” while the other says “treated” as is due. This change in meaning was the consequence of the substitution of two letters in a single word, where the correct wording would be “Ya’mal” (treated) instead of “Yaqa’tal” (killed).
The incorrect version first makes its appearance in 1909, printed by Faraj Allah Zaki al Kurdi, a student who had been expelled from Al Azhar at the insistence of Rashid Rida for having converted to the Bahai faith. A subsequent edition by Sheikh Abdurahman al Qasima also replicated the error, after which it attained widespread availability. Nevertheless, the Mardin Fatwa would continue to be used to justify revolutionary violence in the name of Islam.
Qutb’s “Jihad” to bring about the implementation of the Shariah was closer to European ideas of revolution and insurrection. Qutb’s idea of a revolutionary vanguard of militant believers does not have an Islamic origin, but is referred to by Malise Ruthven in A Fury for God, as “a concept imported from Europe, through a lineage that stretches back to the Jacobins, through the Bolsheviks and latter-day Marxist guerrillas such as the Baader-Meinhof gang.” As Gilles Keppel further explains, “the political logic of the 9/11 masterminds carried on a tradition of military coups, through which many Arab elites – first among them Gamal Abdel Nasser and his comrades in Egypt in 1952 – seized power. The Islamists simply substituted their religion-based ideology for the socialism-tinged nationalism that was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s.” As John Calvert explained, in Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism, “although Qutb consciously placed himself within the religious tradition that gave birth to the Sufi-oriented jihad of Ibn Yasin, his theorizing is close to Fanon’s and that of the international left.”
Muslim World League
Nevetheless, Qutb’s distortions continued to provide the basis the CIA’s manipulation of the concept of “Jihad”. In 1951, Truman had created the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), later renamed the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB), which began to shift the focus of their efforts on Islam. The plan devised that the US would favor “reform” groups like the Muslim Brotherhood over traditional Muslims. As a report concluded: “programs which are indirect and unattributable are more likely to be effective and will avoid the charge that we are trying to use religion for political purposes. Overt use of Islamic organizations for the inculcation of hard-line propaganda is to be avoided.” The CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination was responsible for the implementation of the plan.
Following the assassination attempt on Nasser in 1954, Hasan al Banna’s son-in-law Said Ramadan and other Brotherhood conspirators were charged with treason and stripped of their Egyptian citizenship. Many of them were shuttled to the CIA’s ally Saudi Arabia. Former US government prosecutor and Army intelligence officer John Loftus discovered that the British Secret Service convinced American intelligence that the Muslim Brotherhood would be indispensable as “freedom fighters” in preparation for the next major war, which was anticipated against the Soviet Union. Kim Philby, Soviet double-agent and son of “Abdullah” Philby, assisted the US in recruiting members of the Muslim Brotherhood who, once they were brought to Saudi Arabia, says Loftus, “were given jobs as religion education instructors.”
Thus, beginning in the 1960s with the CIA’s tacit approval, the Salafis became more formally allied to the Wahhabis who became the principal patrons of the Brotherhood, where they became responsible for the radicalization of Islam in the country, a movement known as the Sahwa. Among them was Mohammed Qutb, the younger brother of Sayyed Qutb. In Saudi Arabia he edited and published his brother’s books and taught as a professor of Islamic Studies at Saudi universities. While in Saudi Arabia, he conceived of the organization now known as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), thanks to large donations from the bin Laden family. Osama bin Laden’s brother Omar was at one time its executive director.
Ramadan, with covert CIA help, reached the pinnacle of his influence with the assumption of leadership of the Muslim World League in the 1960s. In 1962, with CIA encouragement the Saudis had created the League to work for “political solidarity,” that is, acceptance of Wahhabism by other Muslim communities. In addition to Ramadan, it included Brotherhood-connected Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of a party in Pakistan named Jamaat-i-Islami, which was the primary supporter of the CIA’s “Jihad” in Afghanistan. Many of the party’s leaders, like Fareed Paracha, Munawar Hassan, Hafiz Hussain, Qazi Hussain were on the payroll of CIA.
The Americans exploited the Brotherhood again to confront Nasser in a proxy war in Yemen in 1963. Referring to the CIA’s exploitation of the Brotherhood, former CIA covert operations specialist, John Baer, in Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude noted:
At the bottom of it all was this dirty little secret in Washington: The White House looked on the Brothers as a silent ally, a secret weapon against (what else?) communism. This covert action started in the 1050s with the Dulles brothers – Allen at the CIA and John Foster at the State Department – when they approved Saudi Arabia’s funding of Egypt’s Brothers against Nasser.
Like any other truly effective covert action, this one was strictly off the books. There was no CIA funding, no memorandum notification to Congress. Not a penny came out of the Treasury to fund it. In other words, no record. All the White House had to do was give a wink and a not to countries harboring the Muslim Brothers, like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Likewise, as part of a devious strategy to defeat the Soviet Union, the Americans began to fund a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood in Afghanistan, known as Hezb-i-Islami, headed by the psychopathic Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, knowing full-well that the Soviets would have no recourse but to invade the country, and thus become embroiled in their own humiliating version of America’s debacle in Vietnam.
To add to the number of “Mujahideen” fighting the Soviets, CIA director William Casey endorsed a worldwide recruitment effort to be organized through the CIA. Arab governments from around the world, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and international organizations, in addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Muslim World League, the International Relief Organization, the Jamat Tabligh, a Pakistani missionary organization, all ran to recruit fighters.
The Neglected Obligation
From Egypt were recruited those fanatics who had been responsible for the assassination of its president Anwar Sadat in 1981. At the time, in addition to the war in Afghanistan, the CIA-backed revolution had succeeded in Iran, and a wave of Islamic militancy was sweeping across the Arab world. As Robert Dreyfuss explains:
This extraordinary series of developments were made possible in part by Sadat’s and America’s favorite ally, Saudi Arabia. Now awash in tens of billions of petrodollars, thanks to the 1970s oil-price increases imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Saudis used cold, hard cash to build a pro-American empire of Islamic banks and financial institutions in Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Turkey, Pakistan, and elsewhere. It was the marriage between the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and the power of Islamic banking that finally catapulted right-wing Islamism to worldwide power.
Sheikh Omar Abdur Rahman, also known as the Blind Sheikh, later responsible for the WTC bombing of 1993, was among those involved in inspiring the radicals who carried out Sadat’s assassination in 1981. The assassination was coordinated by Abdul Salam Faraj, leader of the Cairo branch of Islamic Jihad, to which Sheikh Omar belonged. As explained by Kamal Habib, a founding member of Islamic Jihad.
Faraj made a significant contribution in elevating the role of “Jihad” in radical Islam with his pamphlet Al Farida al Ghaiba (“The Neglected Obligation”). The book, which popularized the use of the bogus Mardin Fatwa, has become a manifesto for militant groups. The original goal of Faraj’s Islamic Jihad was to overthrow the Egyptian Government and replace it with an Islamic state. Later it broadened its aims to include attacking American and Israeli interests in Egypt and abroad. The culmination of this terror campaign was the assassination of Sadat at an army parade by a group of Army officers who were a part of Islamic Jihad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli.
Eric Margolis of the Toronto Star said General Hosni Mubarak, who was wounded in the attack, was then put into power with US assistance. Many members of Islamic Jihad were immediately arrested, and the regime launched a massive manhunt. Among the leaders arrested were Ayman al Zawahiri, later to become Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command.
Al-Zawahiri hails from an elite Egyptian family. His father’s uncle, Rabia al-Zawahiri, was the grand imam of Al-Azhar University. His mother came from the wealthy and influential Azzam clan. Her father, Ayman’s grandfather, served as the president of Cairo University and founded King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His great-uncle was British agent Abdul Rahman Azzam, who was also associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. After WWI, when the Sanussi Brotherhood became an asset of British’s Arab Bureau in Cairo, Azzam was dispatched to Tripolitania to help organize the order’s political work. Azzam would eventually become the first Secretary-General of the British–sponsored League of Arab States after World War II.
Zawahiri was a physician, not an Islamic scholar. His interpretation of “Jihad” showed how Islamic terrorism could be employed by Western powers by completely betraying the very essence of Islam. Worse still, Zawahiri exemplified a Machiavellianism which is a complete reversal of the message of Islam. As explained Azzam Tamimi of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, Zawahiri:
…came to the conclusion that because you have what you believe to be a sublime objective, then the means can be as ugly as they can get. You can kill as many people as you wish, because the end means is noble. The logic is that “we are the vanguards, we are the correct Muslims, everybody else is wrong. Not only wrong, but everybody else is not a Muslim, and the only means available to us today is just to kill our way to perfection. 
Following the assassination of Sadat, an offshoot of Islamic Jihad was created, known as al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (“The Islamic Group”), of which Sheikh Omar became the leader. Though he had been tied to the assassination of Sadat, the CIA nevertheless regarded Sheikh Omar as a valuable asset. Omar was an associate of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam in Afghanistan. While bin Laden was responsible for the organization and training of new recruits, it was Azzam who formulated the purported Islamic justification for participation in the war based on the Fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah. Barnett R Rubin, a Columbia University associate professor and senior fellow at the CFR, says sources have told him that Abdullah Azzam was “enlisted” by the CIA. Azzam was killed in 1989, some say, a hit commissioned by bin Laden.
Also according to Rubin, Sheikh Omar too was in the employ of the CIA. Once in the US, the CIA paid Sheikh Omar “to preach to the Afghans about the necessity of unity to overthrow the Kabul regime.” As one FBI agent said in 1993, he is “hands-off… It was no accident that the sheikh got a visa and that he’s still in the country. He’s here under the banner of national security, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA.”
However, Sheikh Omar was finally sentenced to life imprisonment in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. According to Rubin, not long after he was arrested, a source asked Robert Oakley, former US Ambassador to Pakistan, how the U.S. would respond if the Sheikh disclosed he had worked for the CIA. Oakley laughed, saying it would never happen, because the admission would ruin the Sheikh’s credibility with his militant followers. Sheik Omar’s al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya is reported to be responsible for the killing of hundreds of Egyptian policemen, soldiers and civilians, including the 1997 Luxor massacre in which 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed.
Zawahiri went on to become bin Laden’s second hand man, and then the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, after the organization was formally merged with al Qaeda. Bin Laden, according to at least two separate reports, was recruited by the CIA in 1979. And contrary to common perception, he was not a fighter. Working closely with Saudi intelligence, bin Laden was the bagman responsible for transmitting funds to the front and to train the thousands of Arab and other volunteer fighters recruited from around the world to fight in the “Jihad.”
Ibn Taymiyyah provided a fatwa to justify “collateral damage,” which stipulated that the “Mujahideen” who intended to target “infidels” were allowed to kill other Muslims who might stand in the way of attaining their mission. Al-Qaeda used this fatwa to justify the killing of large numbers of Iraqi civilians with car bombs and improvised explosive devices following the US invasion in 2003.
A key agent of reviving the specter of al Qaeda in Iraq was another prominent Jihadi Salafi, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, whose spiritual mentors included veterans of the “Jihad” in Afghanistan, such as Abu Qatada and the Palestinian-Jordanian Abu Mohammed al Maqdisi. Maqdisi, considered the founder of Salafi-Jihadism, spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s, where his writings and speeches legitimizing violence influenced al Qaeda. Originally influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, al Maqdisi began to see the rulers of the Muslim world as apostates (Kafirs) who should be fought in order to apply the Shariah.
Abu Qatada is a known M15 agent. A Palestinian militant of Jordanian citizenship, Qatada is under worldwide embargo by the UN for his affiliation with al-Qaeda, and is considered to have acted as the ideologue for that organization and as the leader of terrorist groups in Algeria, the US, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Jordan. Abu Qatada became infamous after 1994 when he supported the Fatwa of an Algerian cleric that the killing of women and children by the militants in the Algerian civil war was justified. However, in the mid-1990s Abu Qatada offered his services to MI5, boasting of his wide influence, but promising that he would not “bite the hand that fed him.” Britain then ignored warnings from half a dozen governments about his links with terrorist groups and refused to arrest him.
Zarqawi, the initial leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, achieved notoriety for decapitating hostages. However, an ideological rift emerged between he and al Maqdisi in 2004, due to Zarqawi’s Takfiri pronouncements against the Shia of Iraq, who had subsequently become the focus of his violence instead of the Americans. Al Maqdisi was briefly released from prison and criticized Zarqawi’s car-bombing campaign against the Shiah. Those pronouncements led some to accuse him of becoming a tool for the Jordanian or American authorities, an accusation that has been renewed in recent years. The writings of al Maqdisi still have a wide following. A study carried out by the Combating Terrorism Center of the United States Military Academy (USMA) concluded that al Maqdisi “is the most influential living Jihadi Theorist” and that “by all measures, Maqdisi is the key contemporary ideologue in the Jihadi intellectual universe.”
The current name of the group orginally founded by Zarqawi, known as the Organization of Monotheism and Jihad, is now the infamous ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who by continuing to base their violence on the errant Mardin Fatwa, serve as the new specter used to exaggerate fears about Islam as a violent religion, and to provide Israel with the needed pretext to justify continued American support and to expand its colonial ambitions in the region.
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