May 3, 2011


The Slaughter That Muslims Could Not Ignore: The killing of Shiites in Iraq was Bin Laden's undoing in the eyes of many Muslims (REUEL MARC GERECHT, 5/03/11, WSJ)

Historically, Islamic societies have had a fairly high tolerance for the use of violence for a just cause. Bin Laden knew well the line of thought that sees rebellion against unjust rulers as a moral obligation. This was a defining theme of early Islamic history, when Muslims as a community wrestled with what constituted legitimate authority after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Among the Arabs, Princeton's Michael Cook has written, "political and military participation were very widely spread, far more so than in the mainstream of human societies—whether those of the steppe nomads, the later Islamic world, or the modern West. It was the fusion of this egalitarian and activist tribal ethos with the monotheist tradition that gave Islam its distinctive political character. In no other civilization was rebellion for conscience sake so widespread as it was in the early centuries of Islamic history; no other major religious tradition has lent itself to revival as a political ideology—and not just a political identity—in the modern world."

Bin Laden, who believed that only the most virtuous had the right to rule over the community, was undone by his love of violence. He pushed it too far: Slaughtering innocent Africans in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 was tolerable since the targets were American embassies (and black Muslim Africans were too far from the Arab world to compel a scathing moral critique). Killing American sailors on the USS Cole in the port of Aden was praiseworthy since no modern Muslim power had ever so humbled an American man-of-war. And destroying the Twin Towers and punching a hole in the Pentagon was just astonishing.

But then came the slaughter that could not be ignored, as al Qaeda affiliates started killing in Muslim lands. The suicide bombers who hit Casablanca in 2003 and Amman in 2005 made an impact. But the war in Iraq was bin Laden's great moral undoing.

Iraq was supposed to be where al Qaeda and other "good Muslims" broke the American back. Instead the carnage there, carried in all its gore by Arabic satellite channels, produced a backlash. There was a limit to the number of Shiite women and children that Sunni Arabs could see murdered. Blowing up hospitals, mosques and shrines—even Shiite ones—became too ghastly to sublimate into an acceptable war against the Americans.

Al Qaeda had helped to provoke one of the worst bloodlettings in contemporary Arab history. Voices within Islam began to rise against its ruthlessness. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's intellectual, knew that his kind had gone too far, but there was little that he or bin Laden could do once the jihadist beast had been let loose.

The peculiar genius of the WoT was the way it consistently liberated and empowered the Shi'a, the scum of the Arab world, provoking reprisals by the fundamentalists and envy on the part of the Sunni masses, who then demanded the same for themselves.

The America that had helped prop up the dictators who kept them powerless may have "deserved it" but the one that was democratizing the Islamic World was to be emulated.

The End of the Jihadist Dream (ALI H. SOUFAN, 5/02/11, NY Times)

Not only has Al Qaeda lost its best recruiter and fund-raiser, but no one in the organization can come close to filling that void. Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, who will probably try to take over, is a divisive figure. His personality and leadership style alienate many, he lacks Bin Laden’s charisma and connections and his Egyptian nationality is a major mark against him.

Indeed, one of the earliest things I discovered from interrogating Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Yemen as well as Guantánamo was the group’s internal divisions; the most severe is the rivalry between the Egyptians and members hailing from the Arabian Peninsula. (Even soccer games pit Egyptians against Persian Gulf Arabs.) While Egyptians typically travel to the Gulf to work for Arabs there, in Al Qaeda, Egyptians have traditionally held most of the senior positions.

It was only the knowledge that they were ultimately following Bin Laden — a Saudi of Yemeni origin, and therefore one of their own — that kept non-Egyptian members in line. Now, unless a non-Egyptian takes over, the group is likely to splinter into subgroups. Someone like Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American who is a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is a likely rival to Mr. Zawahri.

Bin Laden was adept at convincing smaller, regional terrorist groups that allying with Al Qaeda and focusing on America were the best ways to topple corrupt regimes at home. But many of his supporters grew increasingly distressed by Al Qaeda’s attacks in the last few years — which have killed mostly Muslims — and came to realize that Bin Laden had no long-term political program aside from nihilism and death.

The Arab Spring, during which ordinary people in countries like Tunisia and Egypt overthrew their governments, proved that contrary to Al Qaeda’s narrative, hated rulers could be toppled peacefully without attacking America. Indeed, protesters in many cases saw Washington supporting their efforts, further undermining Al Qaeda’s claims.

Little support for Osama bin Laden among Muslims worldwide (Samira Shackle, 03 May 2011, New Statesman)
In the aftermath of the killing of bin Laden, Pew has collated findings from the six predominantly Muslim nations recently surveyed for its Global Attitudes Project.

The highest level of support for bin Laden was found in the Palestinian territories - although even there, only 34 per cent said they had confidence that he would do the right thing in world affairs. In Indonesia, 26 per cent of Muslims said they trusted him, while 22 per cent agreed in Egypt, and 13 per cent in Jordan. There was hardly any support for him at all amongst Turkish (three per cent) or Lebanese Muslims (one per cent).

The figures have also dropped sharply over time. Back in 2003, 72 per cent of Muslims in the Palestinian territories expressed support for bin Laden, a figure which has now dropped by 38 points. The proportion of Indonesian Muslims who voiced confidence in him has also dropped by 33 points from 59 per cent in 2003.

This could partly be because of terrorist attacks on Muslim soil

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Posted by at May 3, 2011 5:52 AM

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