He had it coming

Osama bin Laden preyed on the weak-minded, ignorant and hopeless, writes Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

For ten years millions of Arabs were held hostage due to the acts of a minority. During this time tens of thousands of lives were lost in senseless violence that only a megalomaniac would be able to justify.

Even for Arabs who had not lived in the West, essential movement in this globalised world was impaired. Arabs sensed looks of suspicion at international airports. As long queues formed passengers young and old had to take off their shoes, belts, coats, offload their laptops. Mothers were subjected to tasting their own bottled breast milk to carry it on board a plane to feed their infants. Feelings of suspicion were only compounded.

Now, with Osama Bin Laden’s death, Arab and Western relations - indeed the entire world - has a chance to start anew.  And yet in many ways the Arab world moved on many years ago. Following the attacks of 9/11 Western suspicion of Arab money meant that much of it was directed into the region and rising Asian powers. In the Gulf, Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi are now capitals of culture, commerce and communication. One hundred million North African Arabs have freed themselves from tyranny in the course of the Arab Spring. Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian Ennahda Islamic party proclaimed on Al Jazeera; “Osama died in Tunisia before dying in Pakistan.”

Education, the empowerment of women, tourism, commerce and democracy are driving these nations forward in an unstoppable manner.

This is not the world that Osama was born into, and it is certainly not the world he sought to leave behind. Arabs, like any other people, want freedom from subversion under any guise. In conservative and heavily armed Yemen, Osama’s father’s own land of birth, men and women stand today in tandem on the streets calling peacefully for democracy.

For all the men he blinded, the children he orphaned, the wives he widowed and the homes he wrecked – he had it coming. It is fitting though that Osama lived to see the Arab Spring, this powerful movement that rejected the twisted ideology that he dedicated his life to. Osama, having tarnished the name of his father Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, one of the greatest Arab entrepreneurs of the 20th century, caused family members to shy away from using that last name as they have for decades with pride. This will now also come to an end.

This is an era where science and knowledge triumphs. Universities are dotting the Arabian Peninsula, from KAUST in the Hejaz to Dubai, Doha and Sharjah’s University cities. Since the devastating attacks of 9/11 women have won the right to vote in Kuwait, young men and women have forced their governments to expand democratic rights across the region and despots have been overthrown. The internet has freed the minds of Arabs. Blogging and tweeting has allowed them to express themselves as individuals and counter stereotypes that formed following the various attacks carried out by Osama’s minions.

Al Qaeda thrived on highlighting differences between people and on the suppression of individuality. Arabs today celebrate these differences as part of the common fabric that binds our identities together. We are a stronger Arab world because of the minorities among us - not despite of them, as Osama’s ideology would have us believe. Coptic, Maronite, Catholic Christians; Shia, Druze, Jewish and Bahai Arabs and Middle Easterners are just as vital to this region as any of the various shades of Sunni sects of which only one narrow strand is good enough for Osama’s poisonous ideology.

In countless ways the Arab world today is a stronger, more coherent entity. In a virtuous circle, Gulf and Levantine Arabs relate to North African Arabs and share their aspirations. We read each other’s newspapers, websites and tweets and form a deeper understanding and respect of one another’s culture.

Osama preyed on the weak-minded, the ignorant, and the hopeless while the Arab Spring radiated with the intelligent, the righteous and the brave. Millions of Arabs took to the streets chanting “silmiya, silmiya” (peacefully, peacefully) indicating the form of change they want. And yet not one of those millions of Arabs called upon his name, carried his picture or tweeted a sympathetic word for Osama.

Al Qaeda can strike again of course, but it will be the futile struggle of a drowning man, the giant wave of confident Arab youth will triumph. It is not enough to simply hope for a better Arab world now that the most notorious Arab has been killed. We must actively fight the poisonous ideas that he planted in the minds of his followers. We Arabs are just as smart, just as ambitious, and just as forward-thinking as any other people. We have the power to change the world for the better: in fact, we’ve already started to.

(Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi a non-resident fellow at Dubai School of Government. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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Posted by: Cyrus

I think what Bin Laden showed was what happens when religion and politics mixes. First, in any theocracy government the individual freedom is out the window. Of course we had seen the Shiea version in Iran, but then he showed us the Sunni version in Afghanistan. So, now we know it doesn't make any difference. Religion and Politics are just like water and oil, they don't mix. Second, it showed when religion turns into a political party, then it gets treated like one, which means constant criticism and not getting the respect that it deserve as a religion.

Looking at Egypt and Tunisia, it looks like the lessons are well learned.

Posted by: bkay

It is most unfortunate that the world has been lured into Bin Laden/Al Queda tactics. Realistically what has happened over the past decade, is exactly what Al Queda predicted, namely to disturb western economies. This is exactly what happened, trillions were expensed in security and wars at the cost of economic growth, all to battle a minority whom with minimal means exactly achieved their goal. The west (read USA) will never be freed from this trauma, but will continue what it cost to battle against better odds. From a strategic standpoint, whether you like it or not, Al Queda has succeeded a major coup over the past ten years. It is unfortunate that the west (read USA) does not have the leadership and intelligence to recognize and deal with it in a dialogical sense.

Posted by: sam

Scavangers feast last.

Local proverb : "More knives were being counted after the ox had fallen". Joining the BinLaden bashing wagon late in the game is pathetic for any academic.

Truth is it was the West which cannonized the man & elevated him into sainthood during its war by proxy against the Soviet Union, before the wind of change blew him in opposing direction.

Secondly, the man was more of a symbolic expression than an active ingredient in the political dynamics after the turn of the century, representing a point of resistance, loud & extreme as it may be, to the stresses of a historically unique convergence of interests (church, multinationals, political machinary, military) which topped its domination of the planet's resources with the placement of a malleable sympleton like GW Bush atop the US presidency.

Finally, Muslims were never treated w. favor well before any writer can trace his geneology. Pinning the East West cultural devide on BinLaden is pathetic to say the least.

Posted by: emad salem

well said Sultan. the whole world is watching the Arab spring and some nations will copy our peaceful revolutions.

Posted by: Houari

The writer seems not controlling his ideas, he has so many contradictions. On one hand he's criticizing violence on 9/11 and in another hand he is unconsciously giving compliments about the outcome of 9/11, read what he says''Since the devastating attacks of 9/11 women have won the right to vote in Kuwait, young men and women have forced their governments to expand democratic rights across the region and despots have been overthrown.'' Make up your mind dude.

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