Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 7, No. 16 11 October 2007
Al-Qaeda: The Next Goal Is to Liberate Spain from the Infidels
Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi
- Large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were under Islamic rule from 711
until 1492, with the final eviction of the Moors from what they called
al-Andalus, and the memory of Islamic rule in Spain has become increasingly
part of the discourse in radical Islam.
Osama bin Laden has written: "We request of Allah...that the [Islamic]
nation should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique
flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus." Bin
Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, established that the Islamic obligation to
wage jihad in order to recover lost Islamic territories applies to Andalusia.
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, has
written that while Islam was twice evicted from Europe - from al-Andalus and
from Greece - it is now in the process of returning.
A children's magazine published by Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the
Muslim Brotherhood, called on Palestinian children to restore the city of
Seville to Islamic rule as well as the rest of what was once Islamic Spain.
Al-Qaeda Recalls Islamic Rule in Spain
Historically, large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were under Islamic rule
from 711 until 1492, with the final eviction of the Moors from what they
called al-Andalus. Despite the passage of over five hundred years, the memory
of Islamic rule in Spain has become increasingly part of the discourse in
radical Islamic circles.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Osama bin Laden in the al-Qaeda leadership, in
a new tape publicized on 20 September 2007, referred to the global aspirations
of the Islamic Revolution:
O, our Muslim nation in the Maghreb [North Africa], zone of deployment for
battle and jihad! The return of Andalus [today's Spain] to Muslim hands is a
duty for the [Islamic] nation in general and for you in particular. You will
not be able to achieve this except by purifying the Islamic Maghreb of the
French and the Spanish who have once again returned, after your fathers and
grandfathers had expelled them unsparingly in the way of Allah.
Earlier, in December 2006, al-Zawahiri made a passing reference to "Spain's
occupation of Ceuta and Melilla," two small enclaves on the North African
coast that are under Spanish sovereignty.
This is not the first time al-Qaeda leaders have referred to the Iberian
Peninsula as occupied Muslim territory to which the commandment of jihad
applies until it is liberated and Islamic rule is imposed there. On 29
September 1994, Osama bin Laden wrote to Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, the Grand
Mufti of Saudi Arabia: "All in all, we request of Allah...that the [Islamic]
nation should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique
flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus, as well
as Islamic lands that were lost because of the treachery of leaders and the
helplessness of the Muslims."1
This view is deeply embedded in the thinking of those Islamist leaders who
served as an ideological wellspring for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah
Azzam, established that the Islamic obligation to wage jihad in order to
recover lost Islamic territories applies to al-Andalus.2
Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, who was one of the most powerful Islamist preachers
in Saudi Arabia, wrote a letter to President George W. Bush on October 15,
2001 - after the 9/11 attacks - in which he explained: "Imagine Mr. President,
we still weep over Andalusia and remember what Ferdinand and Isabella did
there to our religion, culture and honor! We dream of regaining it."3
It should not be surprising that these repeated references in jihadist
circles to al-Andalus have had an impact on how new al-Qaeda affiliates have
defined their long-term goals. These groups do not work in a vacuum; the Saudi
Gazette reported in March 2005 that there are four million descendents of
refugees from Muslim Spain currently living in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
In Morocco, the fall of Granada and al-Andalus is commemorated by many of
The theme of al-Andalus appears among jihadi organizations in a variety of
ways. In a January 2007 speech, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the commander of the
Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), addressed Algerian
Muslims as the grandchildren of Tariq bin Ziyad, who crossed the Straits of
Gibraltar in 711 with an Islamic army and conquered most of the Iberian
Peninsula.5 GSPC cells have been known to have operated across Spain in the
last number of years.
More recently, in June 2007, Islamist websites announced the establishment
of "Ansar al-Islam in the Muslim Sahara, Land of the Veiled Ones."6 The
organization promised to win back al-Andalus, as well as declaring war on the
current North African regimes: "Our raids will not encompass just the Muslim
Sahara, but will go beyond it....Al-Andalus is before our eyes, and with
Allah's help we will take back the Land of Islam and what was plundered from
our forefathers, no matter how long this takes."7
One website announcing the formation of the group featured a map showing
"The Great Islamic Caliphate" which it sought to advance, stretching from
Spain across North Africa and the Middle East to India and Western China.
The Muslim Brotherhood Views Spain as Part of the Islamic Homeland
This view is also held by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose doctrine calls on
the Muslims of the world to rise up and unite in the struggle to liberate
parts of the "Islamic homeland" that have fallen into the hands of the
"infidels," "enemies of Allah," and "enemies of humanity." Sheikh Yusuf
Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, has written that while
Islam was twice evicted from Europe - from al-Andalus and from Greece - it is
now in the process of returning.8
The fall of Andalus is mentioned in the speeches of Muslim Brotherhood
leader Muhammad Mahdi Akef in one breath with the loss of Palestine, Iraq, and
Afghanistan.9 Akef believes Islamic goals should be achieved through jihad and
armed struggle against any foreign rule that occupies Islamic land. In a
letter of 26 August 2004, Akef sets forth this strategy in detail under the
heading, "Liberating Parts of the Homeland Is an Obligation under Islamic
[One must develop] the culture of resistance in dealing with the invasion
[of Muslim territory], and this is a culture of the occupied and oppressed
peoples, for whom Allah has permitted jihad and resistance as a means of
achieving liberation....The culture of resistance to occupation and invasion
exists on all levels: intellectual, military and economic. The experience in
Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan has proved to everyone that resistance is not
an imaginary strategy, a false option or impossible. It is a feasible option
when the will of the members of the nation is united, they reinforce each
other, and coordinate their words, weapons and faith to confront the occupier,
whether it comes with weapo ns or bombards us with its ideas, its values or
its invalid morality. 10
It should come as no surprise that two years ago a Hamas children's magazine
called on Palestinian children to restore the city of Seville to Islamic rule
as well as the rest of what was once Islamic Spain.11 According to its
charter, Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and,
therefore, reflects the parent organization's viewpoints on global issues,
like the recovery of al-Andalus.
2 Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Radical Islam (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 2002), p. 222.
3 Patrick Sookhdeo, Understanding Islamic Terrorism (Wiltshire: Isaac
Publishing, 2004), p. 159.
4 "Saudi Daily: Andalusian Muslims Recall Mass Exodus," MEMRI Special
Dispatch Series, No. 873, March 4, 2005,
5 "Speech by Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, Commander of the Algerian Salafist
Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC)," Global Terroralert, January 3, 2007,
6 "The 'Ansar Al-Islam in the Muslim Sahara' Group Declares Jihad Against
the North African Regimes and Promises to Take Back Muslim Spain," MEMRI
Special Dispatch Series, No. 1653, Islamic Websites Monitor No. 118, July 3,
12 Aaron Hanscom, "A Fatwa in Spain," FrontPageMagazine.com, September 4,
* * *
Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East
and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a founder
of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy
Planning Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
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