2 May 2011
Quilliam welcomes the news today that the US has succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, a man who is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
In response to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, Noman Benotman, a former jihadist leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and an associate of bin Laden from 1989 to 2000 (who is now an analyst at Quilliam) said:
‘Bin Laden’s death is a major blow to al-Qaeda. His death will seriously hurt the morale of many al-Qaeda supporters around the world. However at an operational level Bin Laden’s death may have no immediate effect on the group’s activities. For the last few years Osama has effectively delegated the organisation and running of the group to others such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, his deputy. More damaging to al-Qaeda is that they do not have a charismatic leader who can take Bin Laden’s place. Bin Laden’s obvious successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is highly intelligent but is also a divisive and unappealing figure who has none of the mass-market appeal of Osama.
‘At the same time, the al-Qaeda ideology is bigger than any one man. The ideology of al-Qaeda is still alive and is still attractive to many people. This is not the end of the al-Qaeda problem. In particular, bin Laden’s followers will now use his death to attempt to rally more supporters and to portray him as a martyr: Bin Laden has always sought to die in battle as a martyr and now he has achieved this.’
Maajid Nawaz, Quilliam’s director, added that bin Laden’s death comes at a time when al-Qaeda was organisationally moribund and intellectually stagnant:
‘Bin Laden’s death comes at a time when al-Qaeda is struggling to remain relevant. As events in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have also shown, the Arab world has moved on since al-Qaeda was founded in the 1980s. A clear majority of Muslims around the world have decisively rejected al-Qaeda’s vision; people’s real concerns are now about poverty, unemployment and a lack of government accountability; not about establishing a caliphate and fighting a worldwide jihad against the West.
‘Bin Laden’s death – combined with the events of Arab Spring – offers a clear chance for Muslims throughout the world to move on from the era of al-Qaeda and to find ways to achieve dignity, prosperity and social justice without resorting to violence. It is a chance too for jihadist groups around the world to reconsider their aims and methods, and to consider how they can help Muslims around the world rather than attacking them.’
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