Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Demise of Osama--and what it means for Muslims

By the Anti Jihadist

By now, the news of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of American commandos at his Pakistani hideout a week ago has well and truly sunk in around the world. While Americans celebrated the death of their arch nemesis, others reacted quite differently. Indeed, it does not take long to see or hear alternative viewpoints online and elsewhere. In fact, this event is probably destined to be forever doubted by Muslims in some fashion, and no doubt subjected to any number of conspiracy theories.

Videos and other materials captured by the Americans at bin Laden's compound reveal that Osama was still quite active and involved in his dream of Islamic world conquest, with discussions ongoing about attacking trains in the United States, perhaps on the anniversary of the September 11th 'victory' he had masterminded 10 years previously. Osama was also involved in ongoing 'shaheed' (martyrdom) and jihad operations in Yemen, Somalia and probably elsewhere, extending his command, control and communications out to the world via a network of trusted couriers.

Yet it was this very network that his enemy, the United States, eventually successfully infiltrated and tracked back to bin Laden himself. Despite bin Laden's strenuous efforts to survive--burning his own rubbish, living behind 6 meter walls topped with barbed wire, staying away from windows, not having or using phone or internet service, and not once leaving his hideout in at least five years--it proved impossible for bin Laden to stay hidden. And when bin Laden no doubt heard the DEVGRU operators blow through the fortified walls and burst into his compound, perhaps he had enough time to regret not destroying the vast treasure trove of information in his possession.  A trove that even now the Americans are ruthlessly following and exploiting to tear down and roll up even more of bin Laden's network.

While the late bin Laden favored a sort of jihadist global insurgency, other Muslims have publicly advocated other forms of warfare. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad once "...told an international conference of young Muslim leaders ... (that) ... Muslims must acquire skills and technology so they can create modern weapons and strike fear into the hearts of our enemies".  Presumably, Mahathir means militarized masses of Muslim missiles, tanks, ships and all the rest. How compatible Muslim armament and striking fear into the hearts of 'our enemies' is, with the stated goals of Mahathir's own Perdana Global Peace Foundation, remains to be seen.

Bin Laden's demise is a supremely teachable moment--a lesson that if one engages in warfare with the west and in particular with America long enough, America will fatally penetrate the jihadist networks and nodes. The 'infidels' will gain access--no countermeasure is ultimate proof against it. And Mahathir's vision of global Islamic/Islamist armament, like bin Laden's dream, strikes me as less a peaceful vision for a future world, and more like fecklessness, a twisted recipe with violent and fatal consequences for Muslim and infidel alike. The Islamist dreams of world conquest have--once again--failed.

So, what is the way forward?

The way forward for Muslims must be through business, science and technology; in other words, through the arts of peace. This may not be the world that bin Laden and Mahathir had in mind. But it must necessarily be a world where Muslims have tamed their demons, recognize the equality of the so-called 'infidel', and acknowledge the universal brotherhood of mankind.

Even now, that future is still possible, if Muslims truly want it.

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