A Jordanian-based Islamist cleric urged jihadi terrorists last week not to emulate the late South African leader Nelson Mandela because he is an “infidel” and was given awards by major world powers.
The cleric, Eyad Qunaibi, is western-educated and regarded by U.S. officials as a prominent jihadist ideologue who supports the al Nusra Front, the main al Qaeda rebel group in Syria.
Qunaibi warned Muslims against viewing Mandela as a model, according to a partial translation of a 10-minute video posted to YouTube Saturday.
Qunaibi also criticized Arab news media for giving extensive coverage to Mandela, who died Nov. 5,
Mandela’s opposition to racism and discrimination "should not be the reason to describe him by Muslims as an icon of freedom or to take him as a model for Muslims,” Qunaibi said.
Qunaibi said Mandela is not a model for Muslims because he had received awards from “tyrants and killers” and “merchants of war,” including Russia, the United States, India, Turkey, and Libya.
He said the Soviet Union gave Mandela the Lenin prize after Moscow had killed 1 million people in Afghanistan and was killing Muslims in Russia’s Chechnya.
India’s government also gave Mandela an award and Qunaibi criticized Delhi for killing Muslims in Kashmir, while he said Turkey awarded Mandela a prize after “seizing the freedom of Muslims in Turkey.”
Qunaibi then criticized Mandela for receiving an award from former President George W. Bush during the conflict in Afghanistan and while the United States supported Israel, which he said had carried out the 2002 massacre at a refugee camp in the West Bank.
Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi also gave an award to the late South African leader, he said.
According to the cleric, Mandela’s slogans did not match his actions.
Mandela “should not be taken by Muslims as a model for them" because doing so would be contrary to monotheism and Islam, Qunaibi said. He said any Muslim who regards Mandela and other “infidels who do not believe in the Prophet Muhammad," as a model demonstrates a lack of understanding of Muslim history.
The videotape ended with Qunaibi stating that while he was not attacking Mandela, he advised jihadists not to regard him as a model.
Qunaibi was arrested in 2010 on terrorism charges and in 2012 a Jordanian court found him guilty of charges related to recruiting jihadists to join al Qaeda and given a suspended five-year prison term.
Evidence in the case revealed Qunaibi was linked to raising money for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, the Jordan Times reported.
Tim Furnish, a counterterrorism specialist, said Qunaibi's advice is not limited to jihadists but is meant for all Muslims.
"It boils down to this: No matter how many good deeds an infidel does (and, remember, Mandela was baptized Christian–Methodist), he is still ranked below a Muslim as a human being, according to the Quran and the Hadiths," Furnish said in an email.
"Qunaibi also blends theology with modern politics by adducing Mandela's connections with the likes of the Bushes and al-Qadhafi–thus doubly sullying Mandela's reputation in Muslim eyes," he said.
"This whole line of criticism is aimed at the conflation of Muslim and Third World/Nonaligned interests (as the Iranians are sometimes wont to do), making clear that Qunaibi sees only Islam as the answer and only Muslim role models–and preferably Muhammad and the Muslims of his time–as worthy of emulation and guidance."
At a memorial service in South Africa Tuesday, President Barack Obama praised Mandela, a former communist who advocated violent revolution, as “the last great liberator of the 20th century.”
“Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement—a movement that at its start held little prospect of success,” Obama said. “Like [Martin Luther] King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice.”
Obama in a 15-minute speech also compared Mandela to Lincoln, who he said held his country together when it was threatened with disintegration.
Mandela was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party. He spent 27 years in prison on sedition charges for opposing the apartheid government before being released in 1990. He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Many of Mandela’s ANC followers engaged in terrorist attacks against black political opponents, including the practice of “necklacing”—killing people by placing a gasoline-filled tire around their necks and igniting them.
As a result of his advocacy of using violence, the human rights groups Amnesty International did not recognize Mandela as a political prisoner or “prisoner of conscience.” However, in 2006 the group gave him an “Ambassador of Conscience” award.