The suspected-dead Al Qaeda’s second-in-command after Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri, resurfaced after months in a video message on Tuesday, denouncing India’s ban on Hijab in schools. Since January 2021, Al Zawahiri has appeared for the first time, proving wrong all the rumors and speculations of his death. His last video message came out last year on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. He remains the most wanted man on the terror lists and with the official media wing (As-Sahab Media) of Al Qaeda broadcasting his video message, conversation over his possible place of residing has started. His latest video was confirmed and translations were provided by SITE Intelligence Group among others.
Hijab controversy spurred in India’s Karnataka state when Hijab-wearing girls were denied entry to one of the schools in the Udupi District. The incident incited a full-blown series and spectator of protests and the issue was taken to court. The court’s judgment maintained the ban on Hijab. In Al Zawahiri’s video message, he can be seen sitting with a poster that reads ‘THE NOBLE WOMAN of India.’ He praised Muskan Khan for upholding the religious practice and condemned India for oppressing Muslims. This is not the first time that Al Qaeda has issued a denouncing statement on an issue pertaining to the practice of Hijab and veil. Previously, France, Holland, and Switzerland, as well as Egypt and Morocco were also called the ‘enemies of Islam’ on account of their anti-Hijab policies.
Al Zawahiri took over Al Qaeda in 2011 after Osama Bin Laden was killed in a targeted operation. In the latest nine-minute video, he can be seen wearing a white headscarf. Originating from Egypt, Al Zawahiri has been a doctor by profession. Speculations are that Al Zawahiri may be in Afghanistan since the world’s eyes have remained centered on Afghanistan after the take-over in August last year by the Taliban. Though the new leadership in Afghanistan has reaffirmed on numerous occasions that no terrorists and terror activities will be allowed from Afghan soil, the memory and discourse around 9/11 allow experts to believe in the possibility of Al Qaeda still being capable of organizing from Afghanistan. The location of Zawahiri’s video remains unknown. However, possibilities are being speculated by experts.
What could a resurfacing of Al Qaeda’s leader indicate? A possible resurgence or just a denouncing of India’s act and a reminder that Al Qaeda continues to stand against the enemies of Islam?