Al Qaeda on the ropes? Little Arab outrage over Osama bin Laden's death.
Osama bin Laden's death stirred little open anger in the Arab world – a sign to some experts that, in the 'battle of competing narratives,' US pro-democracy rhetoric is trumping Al Qaeda terror.
(Page 2 of 2)
“Its narrative was that violence was the way to redeem Arab and honor and dignity,” he said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “But Osama bin Laden and his violence didn’t succeed in unseating anybody.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Al Qaeda narrative had already taken a “body blow” from the successful revolutions in Egypt – home to Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri – and Tunisia. Now “the killing of Osama bin Laden will put Al Qaeda in a leadership crisis, just as they were already in a narrative crisis,” he adds.
Despite that, no international terrorism experts are suggesting that the one-two punch of the Arab Spring and bin Laden’s death mean that Al Qaeda is a threat of the past. But its emphasis could shift.
Al Qaeda's new void
Bin Laden remained a galvanizing force for a global vision of Al Qaeda’s aims, and that big-picture approach may suffer without the charismatic leader, some terrorism experts say.
“One of the big questions now about the [Al Qaeda] affiliates will be, will their agenda be primarily local or global?” says Daniel Byman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a Middle East counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution.
But even if strategic coordination suffers in bin Laden’s absence, that does not mean Al Qaeda can be dismissed, adds Mr. Byman, who notes that US counterterrorism efforts have increasingly focused on the aims and operations of particular affiliates.
For some regional experts, radical Islam’s appeal will only fade when Islam’s most influential leaders with Muslim youth – religious leaders – fully disavow incitement to violence as a viable message and a path to personal honor.
Bin Laden’s brand of extremism “will not end until senior clerics preach that blowing yourselves up in the name of martyrdom and Islam isn’t acceptable,” says Mark Ensalaco, a terrorism expert at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
Yet he seconds other regional experts who say the uprisings sweeping the Arab world suggest bin Laden’s ideology was defeated before the man’s stunning demise.
“Everywhere he preached his message has turned into a disaster for him,” Mr. Ensalaco says. “You see that in the pro-democracy movements in the Middle East."