October 24th, 2008
11:20 AM ET

Throwing the jihad back at bin Laden

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/11/art.vert.binladen.380.jpg width=292 height=380]

Nic Robertson | BIO
Senior International Correspondent

There is a new fight against Bin Laden, al Qaeda and their fellow radicals. It’s coming from within Islam and may yet prove the most powerful agent for transforming the Saudi terror leader from radical Islamist Icon to a has-been hero.

Taking down one of his best loved web sites is only the beginning. Much, much more is happening behind the scenes. Muslims angry Bin Laden is giving Islam a bad name are fighting back.

I’m hearing it from guys as diverse as those that fought along side the Al Qaeda leader in the anti Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan to British Pakistani’s frustrated their children are being singled out for ridicule for being un-Islamic by their peers. These Muslims want to do something and they are.

Waseem Mahmood, a British Pakistani helped get a bunch of popular Pakistani pop stars to record a song decrying Bin Laden type terror. It was an instant hit staying at the top of the Pakistani charts for several weeks. He followed up with a SMS, phone text message petition for Pakistanis to sign up if they were against terrorism. More than 60 million did, that’s more than a third of the population, massive when you consider most of us think of Pakistan as a very Conservative Muslim nation. Mahmood is getting ready to grow that number.

A recent Pew Global Attitudes report found in Pakistan more than half the population had negative rather than positive view about al Qaeda and the Taliban. As Bob Dylan said “times they are a changing” and so are attitudes.

What I’m hearing time and again is that Bin Laden and the Egyptian’s like Ayman al Zawahiri who influence him are taking Islam in to the dumps. The world view they offer of a Global Caliphate has little resonance. The way they have set about trying to achieve it by killing innocents, Muslims and non-Muslims alike is repulsive.

Muslims are standing up to be counted because they don’t want this image. Is it going to be a problem for Bin Laden you bet. Is he going to disappear over night, no. Is he going to find it hard to be heard yes.

Just before the last US election late in October 04 Bin Laden threatened the people of the United States to stay out of the affairs of Muslim nations.. "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Each state that will not play with our security, by default will secure themselves." Now the shoe is on the other foot. It is Muslims who most threaten Bin Laden’s long term security.

The al Qaeda leader has yet to be heard from on the November elections, there is still time yet, but with some of his favorite websites down he will find it much harder. Maybe he’s already tried, there is every possibility he has some now routine invective already prepared waiting to go.

In 2004 his threats had more resonance, in March that year al Qaeda had made good on his threat to target Spain or at very least a European ally of the US in Iraq, killing 191 people in coordinated bombings on early morning commuter trains in Madrid. What ever threat that was implied for US citizens in Bin Laden’s 2004 Election message it has yet to reach maturity. A similar message this year would sound hollow but as Bin Laden has so far not changed tactics and responded to growing Muslim anger it’s unlikely he has much else to offer.

But as I said he won’t be going away over night, the threat from his followers is still real but the tide is turning. As we can see in the 04 message Bin Laden favors neither Democrats nor Republican’s. The threat he will most fear is of a US President willing and able to act with both patience and precision in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As I hear time and again from both Afghans and Pakistanis the conflict there is regional and requires a regional solution. It will take patience to achieve but such a result will win local support and may ultimately help flush Bin Laden out.

Men who once fought alongside Bin Laden are today at the root of efforts to drive a wedge between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Their goal is to bring down al Qaeda by isolating them, the cost may be political reconciliation for some Taliban and even their leader Mullah Omar. A US President who can help pull that off, these men tell me, will make their job easier and Bin Laden that much more vulnerable to isolation from more and more Muslims and ultimately that means easier to catch.

Some people may find these ideas hard to stomach but when I talk to the people at the forefront of taking the Muslim jihad or inner struggle back to Bin Laden that’s what I’m hearing. The same people who are taking down al Qaeda websites are brothers in arms of the Pakistani pop stars and Bin Laden’s former allies.

Al Qaeda’s radical attacks and the carnage they cause is having a damaging effect not just on the image of Islam but increasingly on Muslims. It is a cost that is now being counted. Most of those killed in suicide attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan these days are Muslims. It’s an inescapable fact and the logic of it is finally catching up with the men ultimately responsible. Bin Laden is being called to account by the very people he seeks to win over.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Nic Robertson • Osama bin Laden • War on Terror
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. kesang

    I think this is a very courageous step taken by the anti-bin laden community of 60 million!!! very encouraging and good news for the rest of the world!

    The muslim community across the globe has suffered the brunt of one lunatic's doing and it's time the world took note!

    October 27, 2008 at 7:25 am |
  2. Jillia

    I must be perfectly honest and say that – No, most people do not trust
    Arabs and Muslims. But of course, most people also realize that not all Muslims and Arabs are bad.

    October 25, 2008 at 6:27 pm |
  3. Jillia

    Hm...what a bunch of crap. I see this writer seems want us to believe that if the west would just:

    " the cost may be political reconciliation for some Taliban and even their leader Mullah Omar. A US President who can help pull that off, these men tell me, will make their job easier and Bin Laden that much more vulnerable to isolation from more and more Muslims and ultimately that means easier to catch."

    So. Let me get this straight.... IF the American President would just give money and support and reconciliation to the filthy Islamic terrorist monsters like Omar – and the TALIBAN – we can all just forgive and forget and it will isolate Bin Laden? What a bunch of crap!!! Shame on the author for even printing this pittle! Also, of course ISLAMIC POP STARS don't want an Islamic Theocracy like Islam and Bin Laden taking over because in Islam they are Not permitted to Sing, be a POPSTAR ...or –enjoy life – or any simple pleasures that come with life.

    I will not fall for Islam's tide turning anytime soon – and will not ever fall for a "western hope" that states "If Only the West Understood Them". Too many have died horrible deaths that continue on and Islam – the ideology – is to blame. It's time to squash Islam where it stands – No credit or humanity points earned because a western journalist "thinks the tide is turning" or because Pop stars don't want to lose a career. Pooh. For once, someone think about the victims.

    October 25, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
  4. To CIndy

    It’s about time that the American community stood up and kicked Bush to the curb! They should have done it long ago! .. now so many people has died, hundreds times more that 2001 09 11..

    October 25, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  5. Earl Berg

    To Syed Sajjad: The woman was concerned about Obama. McCain's answer was about Obama. I don't think it occured to McCain to make an extrapolation to your wider question. On the other hand, Secretary/General Powell adressed the issue of Muslims very effectively last Saturday.

    October 25, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  6. Syed Sajjad

    This is a great article. I moved from Pakistan last year to USA. I can tell you that around 95% of Pakistan hate Bin Laden and his followers. Most of them including me consider him coward, if he knew that becuase of him hundred of thousands of his "brothers" would be killed, he should have shown up and get himself arrested before any war. These radical groups have given a new image rather the worst image to Islam so far in the history.

    There is another point that I'd like to bring up. Few days ago, in presidential compaign, a woman said to Sen. McCain that she heard Sen. Obama is Arab and in reply to that Sen. McCain said no Ma'm he is a decent man. Does that sound Arab or Muslims are not decent?

    October 24, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  7. Max

    If HE was alive????

    But it doesn't MATTER if HE is alive OR not – the notion of some LEADER is most important????

    October 24, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  8. Barb, Des Plaines

    I'm amazed that Bin Ladin's approval ratings are higher than Bush's. Hmmm.

    October 24, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  9. Dave S, Tinley Park, IL

    Nice to see something positive in the news for a change

    October 24, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  10. Gary Chandler in Canada

    some say the conflict in Afghanistan has little to do with religion and is mostly about the poppy fields. true!???

    October 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Wayne from Fullerton, CA

    This is the best news I've heard in years!

    October 24, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  12. cyn

    This is good news all around. It isn't the non-Muslims who will ultimately resolve the terrorist issue, it is the Muslims who are tired of seeing such mockery made of their religion.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  13. Johnny in SC

    If you shave Bin Lidens beard in this photo he looks like Scottie Pippen the ex Chicago Bulls star.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:31 pm |
  14. Annie Kate

    I'm glad that other Muslims don't look up to ben Laden. Maybe with their help we can finally catch that beast.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 24, 2008 at 1:08 pm |
  15. k_michael

    Very interesting article, thanks for bringing it to our attention!

    Additional links/tweets, if/when you get a chance, to more/similar information will be greatly appreciated 🙂

    October 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  16. Joanne, Syracuse, NY

    A new brand of diplomacy is the recognition of the language of music. If Middle Eastern pop stars can decry the notorious Bin Laden and gain great support for peace, what a wonderful, heartfelt and classic brand of diplomatic intervention! Not that human rights have not been immotalized by musical means from the beginning of time; however, these are indeed new times.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  17. Deborah Black

    I am so proud of them for standing up for themselves. Radicals of any kind rarely care who they hurt or kill, it's collateral damage to them. The more that non-muslims fight agaist them, the more radicals they attract to the terrorist cause.This is exactly what is needed to correct the false image, Americans and others in the world have, against all Muslims or "Arabs" meaning the same thing. We know the true followers of Islam are for peace and love among all people.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:19 pm |
  18. Cindy

    It's about time that the Muslim community stood up and kicked Osama to the curb! They should have done it long ago!


    October 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm |