Christian Action Network

Daily Terrorism News; WebPage @ www.ChristianAction.Org

To defeat bin Laden, first you have to understand him

(The Globe and Mail) The threat from al-Qaeda and its offshoots remains high, according to recent U.S. intelligence reports. It is clear that Osama bin Laden’s message continues to attract adherents. In order to understand the power of his ideas, one should study the words of the man himself. Bruce Lawrence, a Duke University Islamicist, has done just that in Messages to the World, a compilation of bin Laden’s statements from 1988-2004. The recurring theme in bin Laden’s arguments is reciprocity.  According to Michael Sheuer, a former CIA agent who was in charge of hunting down bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s attacks on the West are not based on “who we are,” but because of “what we do” in foreign lands. Mr. Sheuer is highly critical of American leaders for lying to the American people about al-Qaeda’s true motivation.  In Messages, bin Laden lambastes the U.S. for meddling in the affairs of Muslims. His call: Get out, stop stealing our resources (namely oil), and stop propping up autocratic regimes that act against the interests of the masses. Why, he asks, is Muslim blood so cheap, that it flows so readily in so many lands? His warning: If you continue to kill civilians in our countries, we will do the same in yours, until you stop.  While the vast majority of Muslims reject that prescription, they agree with the gist of the argument – namely, that Western foreign policy has been both intrusive and oppressive. At the heart of Muslim resentment is U.S. support of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians (and, in 2006, the Lebanese). Anger grew, as well, while U.S. troops were stationed for a decade in Saudi Arabia, host of Islam’s holiest sites. It reached a tipping point with the invasion of Iraq, the Guantanamo prison, and a “war on terror” that many see as a front for a “war on Islam.”  Many also see the oft-repeated call for democracy by Western governments as sheer hypocrisy, since people’s choices in some Muslim countries have been annulled (Algeria) or punished (Palestine) when they don’t conform to the wishes of Washington, Paris and London.  Osama bin Laden elaborates on these themes using the concept of jihad.  What does this mean for Canadians?  Bin Laden specifically mentioned Canada after the U.S. and its allies, including Canada, attacked Afghanistan in 2002. His message to the allies: Do not support the U.S. in its hegemonic enterprises. Our fight is with the Americans, but if you insist on supporting their aims by invading our lands, then we will bring the fight to you in yours.  The ramifications of the Afghan mission on domestic security have yet to enter in public debate. However, the upcoming trial of 15 Toronto-area men accused of planning a terror campaign should shed further light. Media accounts have suggested that the men were angered by Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan.  This does not mean that our foreign policy should be held hostage to terror. However, we need to recognize that there is mounting anger – especially amongst Muslim youth – at the injustices perpetrated against their co-religionists elsewhere. When it comes to Afghanistan, there is dismay at the high number of civilian deaths by NATO forces; the impunity with which warlords continue to operate, and the impression that Hamid Karzai is yet another Western puppet. Bin Laden’s message of reciprocity – cloaked in powerful religious terminology – is taking root. In order to diffuse this trend toward an extremist response, we must adopt a strategy that has legitimacy both in the language of Islam, and in democratic norms.  In Messages, bin Laden acknowledges that the Prophet Mohammed forbade the killing of innocent civilians in combat. Yet, to support his call for violence in the West, he bypasses the Prophet’s words in favour of the rulings of a medieval scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah, who sanctioned the killing of non-combatants. Bin Laden stresses reciprocity and perpetual warfare, whereas the Prophetic template stressed patience, strict limits on war, and amnesty. So, in the battle of ideas, Muslim scholars must counter bin Laden’s arguments with authoritative Prophetic examples.  In the democratic arena, there needs to be a push toward civic engagement by Muslim youth. This means that Islamic centres must stop importing preachers who encourage isolation and who forbid or discourage voting. At the same time, Muslim youth should have legitimate avenues to vent grievances and engage politicians. The Americans recognized the importance of this approach by sponsoring a National Muslim American Youth Summit, in which Muslim youth met officials from the departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice. We should follow that example in Canada.  Finally, Muslim youth have the shining examples of Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh, who persevered against terrible injustice without falling prey to radicalization or hatred. Mr. Arar has even called for rebuilding public trust in the very institutions that failed him. Their inspiring story is the ultimate lesson in civic engagement.

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August 7, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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