Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Mar.27 (ANI): One of the world's most influential jihadi theologians has reportedly been criticised by some of his former followers for allegedly moderating his views, a claim he denies.
According to a Christian Science Monitor report, the criticism of Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who was spiritual adviser of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, is significant because of Maqdisi's stature as a revered spiritual mentor who legitimises violence with his religious interpretations of Islamic sacred texts.
For some outside experts, the bitter verbal dispute in jihadi online forums is alarming because it heralds the emergence of an even more radicalised younger generation of violent extremists.
Murad Batal al-Shishani, a London-based analyst of Islamic groups calls this radicalised generation "neo-Zarqawists."
Other analysts regard the back-and-forth between Maqdisi and his critics as an indication of disarray in a jihadi movement that is past its prime.
The attacks on his credibility come on top of other disputes that have already caused "fragmentation" within the jihadi community, claimed Thomas Hegghammer, a fellow in Harvard Kennedy School's international security program and moderator of jihadica.com, a blog that monitors jihadi Internet activity.
"I think we're seeing some kind of decline. We're past the peak.... We're at just the beginning of the decline," he added.
The two assessments reflect a complex trend that analysts have been seeing for some time:
Even as Al Qaeda has become a spent organizational force, and the wider Salafi-jihadi community has been weakened by a loss of public support and by internal disputes - in large part because of the violent excesses of Zarqawi in Iraq that killed so many Muslims - a new danger has emerged in smaller, independent, and more radical groups that are inspired by jihadi ideology and devoted to violence.
Steven Brooke, a Washington-based analyst, notes that while an organized jihadist movement "remains a remote possibility" for now, "a non-violent but especially stern ... brand of Salafist Islam has elbowed its way into Egypt's religious landscape."
According to jihadica.com, some of the most virulent attacks on Maqdisi have appeared on the jihadi web forum Madad Al Suyuf, where he was criticized for "ambivalence" on the issue of declaring other Muslims apostates. (ANI)