This year’s Eid al-Adha, Islam’s festival of sacrifice, will be celebrated amid a escalating war of words fought on the Internet between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the eve of what is considered one of Islam’s holiest days, which coincides with the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage, two prominent al-Qaeda leaders have both assailed the Brotherhood for what they say is it’s betrayal of Islamist principles.

Al-Qaeda Number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, fired the first verbal salvo when on a video message broadcast by Qatar-based TV network Aljazeera on 6 January, he accused the Egyptian chapter of the Brotherhood of serving Washington’s interests.

“That is the truth of the political game America is playing in Egypt, through presidential and parliamentary elections, to exploit the masses and their love for Islam,” he said.

“They (the Brotherhood) said they won 30 seats, now they say they have won 80 and in five years time they will say 100. And so goes [the American] strategy to conceed them some space,” he said, referring to the Brotherhood’s decision to take part in the Egyptian polls.

Al-Zawahiri, describing the Brotherhood as “these Islamic factions who have been pursuing the same strategy (parliamentary legitimacy) for decades” pointed to how the Brotherhood’s founder, Hasan al-Banna, “had tried this experience twice since World War II and failing.”

The Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt) sharp response came from the mouth of its spokesman Essam al-Erian. “Those who are opposing reformist Islamic movements [like the Brotherhood] are the Americans, the autocratic Arab regimes, the secular extremists and al-Zawahiri. What’s that like for a strange alliance,” he said.

The Brotherhood spokesman added that his organisation believed in the use of jihad, or holy war, but only in contexts “like Iraq and Palestine” of self-defence against external attacks.

Just days later, in an audio message posted on the Internet, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq also raged against what he saw as the Brotherhood’s treachery.

“How can anyone choose any other path but that of Jihad? They (the Brotherhood) have chosen to enter parliament and accept the constitution. Well, they are deviants,” he said.

“I appeal to the Islamic party (the Brotherhood): abandon this strategy which is a losing one for Sunnis and which is not in accordance with (Islamic) Sharia law… Where do you think that road will take you?” he added.

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