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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.
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