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Devilishly skilled jihadist

On Sunday, Osama bin Laden spoke to the world. On Monday it narrowed.


[outlaw] There's something murderously charming about Osama bin Laden. Not in the sense that he charms his alleged cousins ​​in the sink. On the contrary. His calls on the Sunday tape, the first in three months, were categorically rejected by all as the Al Qaeda leader tries to embrace:

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, after bin Laden's rigid approach on Sunday, stated that the Palestinians have a "totally different" ideology than Al Qaeda. Ahmed Hussein in the Sudanese rebel group Justice and Equality

the movement put his declarations of war in place with this statement to Al Jazeera:

“We categorically reject these declarations. His words are totally unrelated to the realities of Darfur. Bin Laden still preaches the theory of an American-Zionist conspiracy, although the problem comes from Khartoum where a Muslim government is killing other Muslims. ”

However, rejection is not unusual for

Osama bin Laden, who has lived as an outcast for many years. In 1994, he was expelled from his own family. The following year, the country of birth took Saudi

Arabia from him citizenship because of terrorist actions. Since then, he has lived as an outlaw, with limited support for his “global

jihad »even among jihadists and violent Islamists. These would rather fight against the "internal enemy", namely the regimes in Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, as researcher Fawas Gerges has pointed out.

However, lack of support does not make bin Laden less dangerous. On the contrary. It is when he feels let down that he strikes hardest.


A widespread claim in Norwegian media is that bin Laden attacks the "West". However, the focus of both Sunday's speech and Al Qaeda's terrorist attack lies in Asia and Africa. The speech also shows how desperate he has become: fighting the terrorist organization in Pakistan and India he refers to as a "Zionist-Hindu" war on Muslims, while he believes the United Nations was created to allow "white rulers" to retain power in the world.

At the same time, he refers in Sunday's speech

explicit to the Muhammad caricatures and

hijab ban in France to win additional support.

It should not surprise the regular European that bin Laden can be seductive. terrorism

organizations such as the IRA and ETA have been very supportive in their home countries Ireland and Spain. In Norway, mass murderers such as Mao, Pol Pot or Lenin in the 1970 century were cultivated in certain environments.

Large sections of the population have been seduced by charming speeches instead of watching the terror of dictatorship. The guerrilla warrior Che Guevara is a hero who can be seen daily depicted on Norwegians' clothing. The Marxist Guevara, who regarded "hate against the enemy" as a means of fighting, has become a greater symbol of peace in Norway than Mahatma Gandhi.

It is in such a context that we can also understand Osama bin Laden's global posterboy appeal: he is like Guevara, the handsome guerrilla warrior – far more charismatic than Mao and Pol Pot combined – who apparently fights against evil superiority. Not without reason, bin Laden has also become a kind of hero among many in Latin America in recent years. Not that you should put too much into it – just as you can not conclude that a Che Guevara picture on a Norwegian t-shirt means that you support guerrilla warfare.

What about Osama support in Muslim countries? After the terrorist attacks against the United States almost five years ago, this question has gnawed at the Europeans. Various Osama measurements in Muslim countries have been cited as evidence of his popularity. As we can see in the Egyptian reports on the previous pages, his violent struggle against civilians has little support.

This is also confirmed by the independent research institution Pew Research's global survey from last year: 72 percent of Morocco's residents fear Islamic extremism in their own country, as do half of Indonesia's and Turkey's population. Not without reason – it is mainly Muslim, non-Christian countries that are affected by the Al Qaeda terror.

The Pew survey shows that bin Laden's support has fallen sharply: In countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, he now has the confidence of two and seven percent of the population, respectively. In Morocco and Indonesia, confidence since 2003 has almost halved, to 26 and 35 percent of the population. This is still a large minority? Yes, but the interesting question then becomes what it really means when you confirm that you "support" bin Laden.

Three axes

Here we can return to his speeches, such as the one from January (see page 27). Bin Laden's arguments have mainly gone along three axes: rebellions against corrupt regimes in the Middle East, US forces out of holy Saudi Arabia, and fighting for the Palestinians against the "Zionists" in Israel. As "proof" of the persecution of the world's Muslims, he points out the mass killings of Muslims in Bosnia and Chechnya.

The uncomfortable part is that large parts of the Norwegian and international public struggle to disagree with bin Laden on these points. Bin Laden's argument refers to Amnesty reports on the Guantanamo prison or to opinion polls in the United States.

If the "Osama test" is to be taken on most Norwegians and Europeans, the sympathy for his political arguments, especially on the left, can be uncomfortably high. In such a context, it is not difficult to understand that many frustrated people in the Arab world must agree with much of his rhetoric. The dilemma is that both oppositionists in Egypt, most Norwegians and bin Laden agree that, for example, Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak should step down from power. Disagreement goes on the method, and the alternative, not on the main goal.

Therefore, Osama tests have little practical value, since they cannot come up with the complexity of his devilishly well-argued arguments. Precisely in order not to stave off potential combat traps, bin Laden needs a rhetoric based on something widely agreed upon.

So far he lives well on the fear his mere name creates among most Europeans, and on the subsequent repression most Muslims feel exposed to in a Europe characterized by anxiety.

Dag Herbjørnsrud
Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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