Global media is reporting on remarks by Yemeni cleric Abdul-Majid al-Zindani (aka Abd al-Majid al-Zindani) in which he warned against foreign occupation in the cooperation with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. According to a BBC report:
An influential Yemeni cleric has warned the country not to allow “occupation” by foreign powers as it co-operates with the US in counter-terrorism. Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, named as a terrorist by the US and the UN for suspected links to al-Qaeda, said Yemen rejected “the return of colonialism”. Yemen-based militants said they were behind a recent failed US bomb plot. The US has vowed to continue to support Yemen in its fight against militants, but says it will not send troops there. Mr Zindani, head of al-Iman University, a Sunni religious school in the capital Sanaa, was listed as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US Treasury Department and the UN in 2004, but Yemen has taken no steps to freeze his assets…. Speaking to reporters at his home in Sanaa, Mr Zindani said: “We accept any co-operation in the framework of respect and joint interests, and we reject military occupation of our country. And we don’t accept the return of colonialism.” He added: “Yemen’s rulers and people must be careful before a [foreign]guardianship is imposed on them. “The day parliament allows the occupation of Yemen, the people will rise up against it and bring it down.” Parliamentary approval Mr Zindani did not criticise the Yemeni government directly for co-operating with the US, but urged it to get any agreements approved by parliament. “The constitution says agreements must be put before parliament. I demand the implementation of the constitution,” he said…Mr Zindani also said he had no knowledge of al-Qaeda’s activities in Yemen, nor did he have influence over American Muslim radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. Yemeni officials claim Mr Awlaki met Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged in connection with the Chrismas Day plot. It has also emerged that Mr Awlaki gave religious advice by e-mail to a Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people at at base in Texas in November. “I was never a direct teacher for Anwar al-Awlaki,” Mr Zindani said.
The media reports are generally failing to mention Zindani’s role as leader of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood. A previous post reported on the role of the Islah Party, the local Muslim Brotherhood organization in Yemen, as part of what was described as a “cross-ideological inter-party coalition.” Zindani is one the most important leaders of Islah who has been the head of the the party’s Shura (advisory) council for at least three terms. The U.S. Treasury Department has designated Zindani as a terrorist and describes him as a “loyalist” and “spiritual advisor” to Osama Bin Laden. A 2007 Jamestown Foundation report further explains Zindani’s terrorist activities:
According to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department, al-Zindani’s involvement with al-Qaeda includes recruiting, purchasing weapons and acting as a spiritual leader for the movement, as well as acting as a contact for Kurdish Iraq’s Ansar al-Islam. The Yemen government has ignored appeals from Washington for the arrest of the sheikh and the seizure of his assets (Arab News, February 24, 2006). Al-Zindani was recently identified in a U.S. federal court as the coordinator of the October 2000 suicide attack in Aden harbor on the USS Cole. A two and a half year-old lawsuit filed in Virginia by the families of the 17 servicemen killed in the bombing has recently finished by finding the country of Sudan responsible for the attack, opening the way for compensation payments from the US$68 million in Sudanese assets frozen by the U.S. government. The suit also alleged that al-Zindani selected the two suicide bombers that carried out the strike, although the sheikh was never charged by Yemeni authorities with complicity in the attack (The Virginian-Pilot, March 12). Yemen’s minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, welcomed the decision, ignoring the alleged role of al-Zindani, while declaring the verdict proof that Yemen was in no way involved in the attack on the U.S. destroyer.
Also, the Jeruslaem Post reported in April 2006 that Hamas leader Khaled Marshaal had met with Zindani at a fundraising event at the Hamas office in Yemen. The report stated that at the event, Zindani “praised Hamas suicide bombers and and called on his followers to donate money to assist the Palestinian people.”
In addition to his leadership of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, Zindani also has strong links to the global Muslim Brotherhood including serving on the board of global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi’s Union of Good Hamas fund-raising organization and his relationship to Muslim Brotherhood figure Zaghloul el-Naggar of Egypt. The connection with el-Naggar is based on both men’s position as leading exponents of the so-called “scientific basis of Islam.” As the Jamestown report explains:
Al-Zindani is also a leading exponent of the scientific basis for Islam, as outlined in various passages of the Quran that the sheikh interprets as descriptions of everything from black holes to photosynthesis. Last December, al-Zindani, a former pharmacist, claimed to have developed a cure for HIV/AIDS. Unlike other HIV/AIDS medicines, the sheikh’s discovery allegedly has no side effects while eliminating the disease in men, women and even fetuses. Al-Zindani asserts that he will reveal the herbal formula for “Eajaz-3” once a copyright has been obtained. Although the sheikh claims the inspiration of his creation “came from God,” no proof of the cure’s effectiveness has yet been presented (Yemen Observer, December 19, 2006). In the last few months, five Libyan children receiving treatment for HIV at al-Zindani’s al-Iman University have been deported in response to allegations of Libyan assistance to Shiite rebels in Yemen’s Sa’ada province (Yemen Observer, March 6; Terrorism Focus, February 20).
Although the Jamestown report says that Zindani “has lately made a slight retreat from the Islamist global arena”, his activities represent one of the challenges to the notion that there is some kind of “firewall” between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda/and or jihadist organizations.