In recent years, there has been a wave of criticism from within the Muslim world, much of it from militants and clerics once considered allies by al-Qaeda's leaders. To a large extent it was because al-Qaeda and affiliated groups increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claimed the right to decide who was a “true” Muslim, something that in mainstream Islamic theology only Allah can truly know. Al-Qaeda's Muslim critics knew what resulted from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deemed some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals started killing them.
Given the religio-ideological basis of al-Qaeda's jihad, the condemnation being offered by religious scholars and fighters once close to the group was arguably the most important development in stopping the spread of the group's ideology since 9/11.
These new critics, in concert with mainstream Muslim leaders, created a powerful coalition countering al-Qaeda's ideas. Simultaneously al-Qaeda began losing significant traction with ordinary Muslims. The numbers of people having a favourable view of bin Laden or supporting suicide bombings, for instance, in the two most populous Muslim countries, Indonesia and Pakistan, dropped by at least half between 2002 and 2009.
By the end of the second Bush term, it was clear that al-Qaeda and allied groups were losing the “war of ideas” in the Islamic world, not because America was winning that war – quite the contrary: most Muslims had a quite negative attitude toward the United States – but because Muslims themselves had largely turned against the ideology of bin Ladenism.