May 9, 2011

OTHER THAN THAT HOW DID YOU ENJOY 9-11, MISTER bIN LADEN:

Bin Laden Was Dead Already (GILLES KEPEL, 5/08/11, NY Times)

The waning relevance of Al Qaeda and authoritarian legitimacy opened a political space for the Jasmine Revolution in Tunis and the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. Islamists and their sympathizers have been involved in the antigovernment movements. Some might once have been lured by Qaeda mythology, but most seek to blend democracy and pluralism with the tenets of Islamic civilization. The Turkish example of a secular state with an Islamic flavor is debated far more in the Arab media than Al Qaeda’s jihadist vision.

The most charismatic of global terrorists is now gone: does that mean that his network will collapse in despair, or are we to expect more violence by his orphans? In April, Ayman al-Zawahri, the Egyptian-born doctor who was Al Qaeda’s second in command, posted an hourlong video from his hideout in Pakistan singing the praises of Abboud al-Zomor, the former intelligence officer who supplied the bullets that killed President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt in 1981. Mr. al-Zomor, who was released from prison after Mr. Mubarak’s downfall, has been trying to mobilize an Islamist party that would adopt Shariah law.

But Mr. al-Zawahri’s desperate effort to jump on the bandwagon of the Egyptian revolution has had little resonance. More troubling are the continued efforts of Qaeda splinter groups in North Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. Any future acts of terrorism, however, are unlikely to have a snowball effect. Terrorism has its own political economy: when repeated too often, to no avail, its operations lose impact and eventually backfire.

Bin Laden’s heirs can still spread havoc, but they have lost the political momentum. Within the field of Islamist militancy, the axis of the battle runs now between Salafists who adhere to a strict, literal version of Shariah and the scattered Muslim Brotherhood, torn between a young generation that finds much in common with its secular contemporaries and the “old turbans” who still run the show. Another fault line divides those Islamists who wish to be a part of pluralistic political life, and those who see elections as a chance to seize power and not give it back.

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Posted by at May 9, 2011 5:30 AM
  

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