Hit & Run

Jihad Backfire (Yemen Edition)

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According to the CSM, a young Yemeni judge named Hamoud al-Hitar has had resounding success in his encounters with the country's Al Qaeda prisoners as a result of challenging them to theological debate.

"If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle," Judge al-Hitar tells militants. "But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence." According to the story, Al-Hitar "invites militants to use the Koran to justify attacks on innocent civilians and when they cannot, he shows them numerous passages commanding Muslims not to attack civilians, to respect other religions, and fight only in self-defense." The exchanges may last for weeks. If prisoners renounce their Islamist views, they are released.

The judge himself notes that, "Since December 2002, when the first round of the dialogues ended, there have been no terrorist attacks here, even though many people thought that Yemen would become terror's capital. Three hundred and sixty-four young men have been released after going through the dialogues and none of these have left Yemen to fight anywhere else."

Reporter James Brandon adds that, "Some freed militants were so transformed that they led the army to hidden weapons caches and offered the Yemeni security services advice on tackling Islamic militancy. A spectacular success came in 2002 when Abu Ali al Harithi, Al Qaeda's top commander in Yemen, was assassinated by a US air-strike following a tip-off from one of Hitar's reformed militants."

"If you study terrorism in the world, you will see that it has an intellectual theory behind it," the judge told reporter Brandon. "And any kind of intellectual idea can be defeated by intellect."

Efforts by moderate Muslims in Egypt to challenge Islamist interpretations of the Koran were noted here.

Thanks to: Former reason staffer Jeremy Lott at GetReligion.