March 10, 2009


Now He's 52: Osama bin Laden Nearly eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the world's most wanted criminal is celebrating another birthday as a free man. But is his power finally waning? Reza Aslan on Osama bin Laden's new irrelevance. (Reza Aslan, 3/10/09, Daily Beast)

Today, bin Laden is little more than an absent figurehead with almost no command control over al- Qa‘ida’s many franchises across the globe. In no way can he be described as al-Qa‘ida’s “commander in chief.” He is not even the organization’s principal ideologue. In a survey of the most oft-cited theorists on militant Islamic web sites conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center, researchers found that Osama bin Laden’s name was barely mentioned at all. Poll after poll across the Muslim world has revealed overwhelming majorities among all classes, ages, and sectors of society rejecting bin Laden and condemning his actions (The best and most comprehensive data can be found in Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito’s Who Speaks for Islam, a publication of the Gallup Muslim World Poll). Even fellow Jihadists like the infamous Dr. Fadl (a.k.a, Shukri Mustafa), founder of an organization called Takfir wal Hijra, which many consider to be the precursor to al-Qaeda, have written tracts denouncing bin Laden. “[Ayman] Zawahiri and bin Laden [are] extremely immoral,” Dr. Fadl told the Saudi daily Al-Hayat. “I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don’t know them.” (Dr Fadl’s rebuke was so damaging to al-Qa‘ida’s reputation that Zawahiri felt compelled to publish a two hundred-page rebuttal.)

Psychology is too sketchy to get a firm grip on such a matter, but one has the intuitive feeling that some considerable portion of the cultural disquietude of the past several years is a function of the fact that 9-11 was so terrifying but the resulting war was so easily won. It's just hard to derive much satisfaction from defeating a more ambitious Lee Harvey Oswald.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2009 7:15 AM
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