Iraqi citizens and officials say documents found in al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's home in Pakistan, released a day after the first anniversary of his death, indicate al-Qaeda is losing its safe havens in the Islamic world.
Al-Qaeda's willingness to kill innocent civilians has led to its inability to recruit new fighters and has increased public resentment towards the organisation, they say.
These documents take the form of emails and draft messages dated between September 2006 and April 2011 -- 175 pages of which are written in Arabic -- and show bin Laden was concerned about his organisation's image, worried about the decline of public support for al-Qaeda's operations, and fearful of the safety of his followers.
"These documents highlight growing public resentment, particularly among Islamic populations, towards al-Qaeda's deviant ideology, which has resulted in terrorist acts that run contrary to the principles of Islam and its very essence," said Dr. Ihsan al-Shimmary, a political science professor at Baghdad University.
"Through his messages, bin Laden had tried to redirect the focus of his followers and to polish al-Qaeda's image and its ideology among Muslims," he told Mawtani. "This was intended to regain their support and to safeguard against the demise of his organisation as a result of [their] aversion, which constituted a real threat to it."
"According to what appeared in the messages, the al-Qaeda leader was not interested in the bloodletting of Muslims his organisation was responsible for, nor the deviation from the Islamic faith, which prohibits murdering people regardless of their religion or beliefs. The only thing that mattered to him was the survival of his organisation and nothing else," he said.
"The rise of liberal youth currents [of thought] and even moderate Islamist currents in Arab Spring countries caused bin Laden great concern and represented another threat to his organisation. These young people were able to topple dictatorships in their countries through peaceful means, which was a huge blow to al-Qaeda that espouses violence as a means to enable change," al-Shimmary said.
Al-Shimmary said he believes the documents "will not alter how the majority of Muslims, especially in Iraq, see al-Qaeda as a terrorist organisation that deviates from the teachings of the tolerant Muslim faith and its humane values".
"Al-Qaeda is now weak because it has lost most of its safe havens from which it received funding, weapons and fighters," he said.
Imam and preacher of Iraq's Buratha Mosque, Sheikh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, said bin Laden's criticism of actions by his organisation's affiliates "cannot, in any way, be understood to convey bin Laden's dissatisfaction with the barbaric massacres that are an embarrassment to humanity and which have been committed by his group".
"Bin Laden, who founded an entire organisation based on a takfiri and violent ideology, has nothing to do with Islam," he told Mawtani. "He was directly responsible for the worst crimes committed by this organisation against innocent Muslims and non-Muslims. He wanted, through [his] criticisms, to rescue his terrorist organisation, which had become isolated and ostracised by Muslims after they discovered the truth about his false claims and deceptions."
"Al-Qaeda distorted Islam and presented it to the world and to believers of other faiths as a religion of unparalleled violence, cruelty and terror throughout history while Islam forbids killing or harming people and rejects injustice. It is a religion that calls for mercy, compassion, peace and to treat people with kindness," he said.
Al-Saghir called for strengthening efforts "to confront and criminalise takfir fatwas and to fight religious extremism, as well as ideas that poison minds with misguided notions, which deviate from the correct teachings of Islam".
"It goes without saying that al-Qaeda has suffered huge losses in the past couple of years due to the death of most of its key leaders and the drying up of their funding sources," parliamentarian Shawn Mohammed Taha of parliament's security and defence committee told Mawtani.
"Its heaviest loss, however, has been its inability to recruit fighters as a result of growing public anger within Muslim societies in regard to its terrorist activities. This is made clear through bin Laden's exclusive focus on this aspect in his message," he said.
"After the killing of its leader, this terrorist organisation has been suffering from deep disorientation and weakness as a result of the losses and blows they received in more than one region in the world, especially in Iraq," Taha said.
"Iraqis of all sects and makeup will not forget the criminal acts perpetrated by al-Qaeda against them," he said.
"These documents not only reveal al-Qaeda's weakness when it comes to planning and executing terrorist operations, [they also reveal] a managerial weakness at the central command level," said Iraq's former national security adviser, Dr. Mwafaq al-Rubaie. "This is made obvious by the relationship between bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as by al-Qaeda's control over all the other local organisations of the group".
"In Iraq, we registered this weakness early on, especially when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was al-Qaeda's local leader in Mesopotamia," he said.
Al-Rubaie said al-Zarqawi, killed in an air raid in 2006, "strayed from the organisation's central leadership when he focused on terrorist acts with a sectarian dimension and fed the Sunni-Shia conflict."
"Bin Laden would not have opposed [al-Zarqawi] were such sectarian operations not so damaging to al-Qaeda's ideology and caused resentment, especially within the Sunni community in Iraq," al-Rubaie said.
"Al-Qaeda, in its leadership and branches, adopts an unprecedented criminal and terrorist ideology," he said. "Its culture is that of destruction, not of people alone but of everything on the earth's surface including living beings and assets. There is a world of a difference between Islam's ideology, which centres on the well-being of this earth, and al-Qaeda's, which tries to destroy it."
Saad Majid's younger brother was killed in a suicide attack in Baghdad in 2009 for which al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.
"Bin Laden and his terrorist group have brought us nothing but destruction, devastation and tragedy. Many people lost their innocent loved ones because of [al-Qaeda's] excuses that are even worse than their cowardly actions," Majid said.
He continued, "They are the ones who killed my brother, widowed his wife and made his three children orphans. They are void of any religious [values], mercy or compassion and their leader's messages are nothing more than an affirmation of their deviant [twisted] ideology that knows nothing but the loss of innocent lives through the most horrendous methods possible."
Khalil Ibrahim, father of an Iraqi army officer assassinated by an al-Qaeda member about two years ago, told Mawtani, "Those murderers killed my beloved son in cold blood and left in me a wound that will never heal. May God never forgive bin Laden and his followers for all the crimes they committed in the name of religion."
Zahraa Abbas, who lost her husband in an al-Qaeda attack at a local vegetable market south of Baghdad in 2007, said, "We will never forget what al-Qaeda did to our country in terms of massacres and atrocities of appalling proportions. The blood of our loved ones that was shed and the pain of losing them will always stay with us. This gives us patience in hope that one day this terrorist organisation will die out and its sick ideologies will wither."
"What was revealed from documents found at bin Laden's home indicates al-Qaeda's defeat and the deplorable state it found itself in," said Omar Fadhil, another Iraqi resident. He said these documents showed "bin Laden's concern for the lives and safety of his followers, which [were threatened] by pre-emptive military operations and intelligence efforts targeting them."