Cliff May

In the 20th century, communists waged a struggle for global dominance, but there were conflicts within their ranks as well -- disputes over strategy, ideology and doctrine. Bolsheviks fought Mensheviks, Stalin quarreled with Trotsky (Stalin had the last word: an ice pick delivered to Trotsky's skull), Maoists broke with the Kremlin.

Nowadays, a new global struggle by a new breed of totalitarians aims not at establishing an international dictatorship of the proletariat, but rather Dar al-Islam, a world ruled by Muslims. Among these self-described jihadis there also are disputes over strategy, ideology and doctrine.

Sayyid Imam al-Sharif -- also known by the nom de guerre Dr. Fadl -- may be the most influential Islamist you've never heard of. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, notes that he was "part of the tight circle which founded al-Qaeda in 1988 in the closing stages of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan." He went on to lead an insurgency against Egypt which landed him in Tora prison in southern Cairo where he has since spent his days thinking and writing.

In 2007, he published The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World. In an in-depth report, Daniel Lav, of the invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), boils Dr. Fadl's "guidance" down to this: The jihadist movement has "strayed from the proper practice of jihad as laid down in Islamic law."

That brought a furious response from Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was once Dr. Fadl's disciple and is now Osama bin laden's top deputy. He wrote A Treatise Exonerating the Nation of the Pen and the Sword from the Blemish of the Accusation of Weakness and Fatigue which alleges that Dr. Fadl was forced to criticize al-Qaeda by CIA and Jewish torturers. Al-Zawahiri also disputes Dr. Fadl's contention that the jihadi movement is militarily and financially unprepared to wage a successful war against the West.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.