Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader appeared in a new video Friday calling on Americans to embrace Islam to overcome the financial meltdown, which he described as a consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, whose 80-minute recording touched on a multitude of subjects, also lashed out at Afghanistan's government and said any U.S. gains in Iraq will be temporary.
Zawahiri's new recording came in the form of a question-and-answer session with an off-camera interviewer, who interrupted Zawahiri several times.
Appearing in his white turban and robe, Zawahri discussed the roots of the U.S. economic crisis and said it was a repercussion of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
"The American economy was afflicted by a downturn and loss of investor confidence in the market following the events of Sept. 11," he said.
"The modern economy has been destroyed by the strikes of the mujahedeen (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and the usury," he said, using the Arabic term for holy warriors.
Under Islamic Sharia law, usury, like drinking alcohol, is among the grand sins.
Zawahiri then called on the American people to "embrace Islam to live a life free of greed, exploitation and forbidden wealth."
Zawahiri's new tape came about a week after his last message, which he used to accuse U.S. President-elect Barack Obama of turning his back on his black heritage to gain power.
Usama bin Laden's top lieutenant did not refer to the attacks in Mumbai, India, late Wednesday and early Thursday that killed scores.
Intelligence analysts said the violence carried trademarks of Al Qaeda but evidence has been pointing to homegrown terrorists. A little known suspected Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility.
Zawahiri also labeled Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent attempt to negotiate with Taliban insurgents a sign of his government's weakness. He also accused the United States of giving phony reports of success in the turbulent region, maintaining the Americans are doomed to fail in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Discussing Iraq, Zawahiri said that U.S. gains are temporary. He also stressed that that Sunni Awakening Councils — former insurgents who have revolted against Al Qaeda — will not be accepted by the Shiite majority government.
Zawahiri spoke out against charges Al Qaeda has killed innocent civilians, calling the reports Western propaganda.
The Egyptian Zawahiri also took aim at Egypt's government, blaming it for the blockade of the Gaza Strip because it has kept its border with the territory sealed. Israel has also sealed crossing points because of Palestinian rocket fire.
Zawahiri called on Egyptian students and workers to stage a general strike to demand the lifting of the siege on Gaza.
"What is the problem if everybody goes on strike in Egypt and announces that they are blockading themselves in their houses until the government lifts the blockade from our brothers in Gaza?" he said.