Laurent Bonnefoy, a bright young French scholar, has a new article out on the Varieties of Islamism in Yemen.
I respect Laurent’s opinion, but I don’t agree with everything he says here, which is fine because I know he doesn’t agree with everything that I say.
First, I’m not a huge fan of ideal types, in fact I’m not a fan at all. But this seems to be an argument I’ve already lost with nearly everyone I know, so, moving on …
I don’t think the attack on the US Embassy in September 2008 represents a “new strategic phase.” I am of the opinion that this phase – which I have called elsewhere the second phase of the war against al-Qaeda in Yemen (I know, pithy) – began with the February 2006 prison break, and the attack on the US Embassy was part of this and not an anomaly or a break with the past few years. But here again this is a continuation of a conversation Laurent and I had on the sidelines of some meetings in London last summer and neither of us appears to be doing much to change the mind of the other.
Also, I’m curious as to what Laurent means in his section on Salafism about “complete loyalty to the ruler” as I don’t think al-Wadi’i exemplified this as the director of the center at Dammaj. Also, it is curious how people like Abu al-Hasan al-Maribi have gotten involved in politics since the death of al-Wadi’i and the general fragmenting of the al-Wadi’i Salafi movement in Yemen, typical, I believe, of any movement that loses its charismatic leader.
I would also be interested in getting Laurent’s thoughts on why some prisoners in Guantanamo, at least according the public transcripts, claim they traveled to Afghanistan on the strength of a fatwa from Shaykh Muqbil. Or how some other prisoners in Guantanamo, again on the basis of the public transcripts, went from being students of Shaykh Muqbil’s to bin Laden’s bodyguards. Sure, Shaykh Muqbil and bin Laden may have their public spats and disagree with each other over key concepts, but the foot soldiers seem to have little problem working their way back-and-forth across the Islamist spectrum.
Still, these are all small quibbles with the article, which does a good job of pointing out Yemen’s idea of integration.