Al-Qaeda faces an ideological crisis (Amr Hamzawy, May 06, 2006, Daily Star)

Three remarkable aspects of Osama bin Laden’s latest videotape suggested that its strident tone masked an ideological crisis for Al-Qaeda. First, in his speech, broadcast on the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera on April 24, bin Laden betrayed a need to justify his organization’s terrorist mission not just to extremists, but to broader Muslim publics. […]

The second remarkable aspect of bin Laden’s videotape was his addressing, albeit by assailing them, Arab liberals. In previous videotapes, he accused pro-Western Arab governments and official religious institutions of seducing their populations away from the path of jihad. But this time he blamed Arab liberal intellectuals and writers for betraying the true spirit of Islam. For bin Laden, the liberals disseminate “blasphemous ideas” of democracy, human rights, and moderation, and in so doing diminish the degree of popular support for Al-Qaeda’s jihad. […]

Finally, bin Laden tried to seize on Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections. His Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had taken the exact opposite position. While Zawahiri claimed that Hamas’ participation in elections would only serve as an act of submission to Western conspiracies by detracting Palestinians from jihad, bin Laden endorsed the Hamas government and called on Muslims to support it. However, it would be misleading to interpret this new position as an attempt to give sustenance to Hamas. Rather, it was much more a bid to ride the movement’s coattails. […]

Arab politics have transcended the legacy of Al-Qaeda. Today gradualism, participation, and democratic reform, rather than radical violence and jihad, set the agenda.

That was easy.

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