Al-Qaeda's idea of violent jihad twisted, says ex-detainee

Mr Abdul Manaf says Al-Qaeda's escalating and senseless violence forced him to withdraw his support.
Mr Abdul Manaf says Al-Qaeda's escalating and senseless violence forced him to withdraw his support.

PUTRAJAYA • A man who was once held under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA) has learnt the hard way that war fought by terror groups is not the jihad he had in mind.

When Mr Abdul Manaf Kasmuri, 61, pledged his allegiance to Al-Qaeda, he planned to help fellow Muslims who were being oppressed in conflict zones around the world.

However, the terror group's actions - escalating and senseless violence - forced the former army colonel to withdraw his support.

"Back then, jihad was very clean and beautiful. Jihad was only about helping fellow Muslims without resorting to violence," he said.

Jihad is an Islamic term that means "struggle" but can also be used to refer to a "holy war".

Mr Abdul Manaf, speaking to the press about the dangers of extremist ideology on Saturday, said: "Initially, they had my support. But their ideology changed and became twisted."

Mr Abdul Manaf was arrested under the ISA in February 2003 for his links to Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. He was forced to retire from the army in 1995 after his secret support for Bosnian Muslim fighters was discovered.

"Their supporters started believing that it's all right and justifiable to 'export' violence from the battleground to other places, regardless of the consequences," he said.

"They also started believing that if they can't execute you for having a differing view, killing your friend or family would do. There is no line that they won't cross. Whoever opposes them, it is halal (permissible) for them to kill," he added.

Mr Abdul Manaf said his belief in jihad to help others began when he was sent to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s.

"I wouldn't discount that there are some who joined because they genuinely wanted to help their oppressed Muslim brothers and sisters. But there are also those who think that picking up a weapon is the only way to fight back," he said.

There are "many layers" to the battle against terrorism, he said.

"The authorities have to find a way to combat the twisted version of Islam espoused by these people and the violence that comes with it... They also have to tackle how their supporters in Malaysia feel about these misguided struggles."

On Malaysia's terror fight, he said the authorities could still fight extremism despite "being constrained by several aspects, including human rights".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Al-Qaeda's idea of violent jihad twisted, says ex-detainee'. Subscribe