May 22, 2011


Bin Ladenism: its prospects (Wajahat Qazi, 22 May 2011, Open Democracy)

Essentially, a reactive ideology and posture, Bin Ladenism reflected the reaction or anger against Islam’s encounter with modernity, articulated through the idiom of colonialism and then the perception of a ‘neo colonial’ enterprise that the west had allegedly embarked upon against the ‘dar el Islam’ (world of Islam) through, first the creation of the nation state system, thus dividing the ummah, and then the alliance system, often buttressing vicious authoritarian regimes, maintained by the west. The ‘distant crusader’, by according both tacit and overt support to these odious regimes, became the ‘immediate and real enemy’ and the wrath of the Al Qaeda network which had incubated during the tether end of the Cold war (but has a history predating this) was visited on the west. The result, as we all know was 9/11.

The support accorded to Al Qaeda by state actors such as Afghanistan and implicitly Pakistan reflected, in the case of the former an ideological predilection on the part of the Taliban, and in the case of the latter, an instrument of statecraft. In the process, the region became a play ground for Jihad Inc or Jihad International: that is, a hotbed and magnet attracting a motley bunch of mostly young people - the disaffected and the discontented, the idealistic and the adventurous and, as these kinds of movements always attract, carpetbaggers and rat bags. Bin Laden was an iconic figure in the eyes of many: a Che Guevaraesque figure who had the spine to stand up against the ‘hostile and usurping west’ as opposed to the grovelling and spineless regimes and states who had abdicated Islam in favour of regime maintenance and power. This is why Bin Ladenism attained popularity and Bin Laden became a folk hero in much of the Islamic world. Here was someone who had allegedly given up worldly comforts in pursuit of an ascetic and peripatetic life, staked all and finally poked the eye of those that many in the Muslim world held responsible for the ‘humiliation’ and ‘subjugation’ of Islam. Or in prosaic terms, a classic case of projection took place: the disaffected, powerless, frustrated and denuded mass of people across the Muslim world felt suddenly and momentarily empowered. The schoolyard bully, so to speak, had been given a bloody nose. The violence was felt to be, in the Fanonian schema and formulation, cathartic.

In the meantime, the fallout in much of the western world was that Islam came to be increasingly associated with violence and terrorism. Brand Osama tarnished brand Islam. This transient feeling of illusory empowerment gave way to 'life as usual'. The sober and sobering realities of life in the world of Islam - bad governance, poor economic conditions and an overall sense of torpor and anomie – reasserted themselves. This resignation was given a jolt again by the Arab spring and the world of Islam again made headlines, this time by popular and spontaneous uprisings articulated in an idiom of democracy and rights.

The only thing that could have given Islamicism oxygen is if America had met 9/11 with a war on Islam, which would have fit the narrative. Instead, W launched a war on the dictatorships that held Muslims in thrall. Thus did al Qaedism destroy itself on 9-11.

Posted by at May 22, 2011 1:50 PM

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