May 8, 2011


Bin Laden's Death and the Future of Violent Jihad: He is best known for his 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the rise of al-Qaida and the September 11 attacks. In a piece for SPIEGEL, Lawrence Wright argues that Osama bin Laden's death -- at a time when peaceful Arab youths are delivering what jihad has been unable to -- has drastically diminished al-Qaida's standing. (Lawrence Wright, 5/08/11, Der Spiegel)

We are witnessing an extraordinary Arab revolution, and we are observing that al-Qaida has no influence on it, has nothing to say about the choices that Arabs are making. This has been a revelation not only to Westerners, but also to Arabs themselves -- and certainly to al-Qaida. Its message is that peaceful means of protest can bring about the change that years of jihad have failed to accomplish.

Indeed, this is a turning point, something that changes the narrative of al-Qaida, which posits that real change can only come about through violent revolution. Now it has seen that real change can be achieved through nonviolent means. [...]

We are witnessing dramatic change in the Arab world. Look at the evolution of Islamist movements like Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood: They are more open-minded to democracy and modernism now because members of the younger generation are taking over. Indeed, there is a very powerful will among young Arabs to be part of the modern world. Al-Qaida does not stand for this modern world, and that is not a very good stance for a political movement today.

The overthrow of the autocrats, especially in Egypt, makes not only deposed President Hosni Mubarak, but also the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood look like dinosaurs. In fact, it was the youth movement inside the Muslim Brotherhood that finally decided to go out onto Tahrir Square in January.

Zawahiri and bin Laden are also part of the gerontocracy. There are new alliances now, and one of the very powerful ones is the youth movement in the Arab world. Al-Qaida is very far removed from that, from the aspirations of young people. What you see all over now is a modernist movement that has no interest in continuing the fundamentalist search for the past that al-Qaida champions.

As when the USSR fell--thanks in part to the jihadis--what's most striking is how completely outdated the underlying ideology is.

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Posted by at May 8, 2011 10:13 AM

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