Thursday, May 05, 2011

Something objective on Bin Ladin and the Al Qaeda

There have been numerous appreciative comments (for which many thinks to everyone!) on my post regarding Bin Ladin

However, several have asked whether I might reflect more objectively or at least less personally on the future of the Al Qaeda

Well, the first thing I should say is that I know nothing about Al Qaeda and Bin Ladin beyond what I have read in the newspapers (I am not much of a TV man, and prefer radio if I have to have some broadcast medium).

Having shared that caveat, I should say that anyone who shares three characteristics is bound to be a leader, in any country and in relation to any cause: (a) gives away his money, (b) lives a simple lifestyle, and (c) is a good public speaker.

Bin Ladin qualified on all three grounds, I think, though I have no means myself of judging how good a speaker he was, as Arabic is not one of my languages.

Being a leader is naturally a different matter from being a competent leader - and that is a much more difficult matter to judge, because competence in leadership derives from a rather more complex mix of factors.

So, what does the death of Bin Ladin mean for Al Qaeda and related movements?

There has been a general decline in their appeal over the last few years, and Bin Ladin's death could strengthen that tendency.

But Bin Ladin's death could, instead, reverse that tendency, depending on who steps in to lead the movement. If it is really someone like Awlaki, who is reputed to be the brain behind the most damaging attacks staged by Al Qaeda, then there are the following considerations:

a. Bin Ladin was Saudi, Awlaki is Yemeni - and Yemen is not Saudi Arabia.

b. Bin Ladin came from an extremely rich family and gave away his wealth. Not the case with Awlaki (so far as I know)

c. No idea about Awlaki's lifestyle, but that is just evidence that he is not known for it.

d. What he is known for is his apparently "intellectual" sermons. Assuming they are as effective as is claimed, Awlaki's legacy will depend on how he is able to leverage this single source of appeal.

Naturally, if he is able to recruit lots of people and then guide them into successful actions, it is possible that he might eventually come to rival Bin Ladin in reputation.

But I hope that will not be the case, given the general Arab turn away from this sort of nonsense as that only ends up bringing disrepute to Islam. Sphere: Related Content

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