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Osama of Africa - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Was Osama Bin Laden’s most recent recorded message during in which he spoke about Islamist parties of which he approved of entering politics, really the final word despite that it contradicts what Zawahiri has said before him? Bin Laden highlighted the victory of Hamas and condemned putting pressure on the movement, even though his deputy believes that the entering of any elections is un-Islamic and is a sign of apostasy. Zawahiri’s opinion is well known from his book, ‘Hasad Al Murr’ (The Bitter Harvest). The new opinion expressed by Bin Laden is an exciting change, however it does not signal alteration as much as it does a fresh attempt to seize any pretexts to strengthen the Bin Laden view.

This is not my main concern here, however. I would rather discuss the African flavor to Bin Laden’s recent message. One could almost hear “Osama the African,” to borrow from Australian-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf’s famous book entitled ‘Leo the African.’ Only the traveling around many cities carrying a heavy burden of anxiety unites Leo and Osama. Leo the African otherwise known as Hassan Al-Wazzan in Maalouf’s novel “found purity and innocence in Granada, grief in Fes, love in Cairo and wisdom in Rome and these are all the places that he lived.” Osama the African however, has carried only anxiety between Jeddah, Riyadh, Khowst, Kabul and Khartoum. Unlike Leo the African however, Bin Laden’s concerns are not regarding his search for love or truth, but rather, to change the world even by destroying it. Bin Laden’s concern is to break not communicate, and this is the big difference between him and Leo.

Al-Qaeda’s leader spoke about Darfur in his recent video that was aired by Al-Jazeera, and called upon his sympathizers to resist the crusaders in the troubled region. He told the Sudanese people that the treaty with popular movements in the south is invalid. One must remember that Bin Laden is not Sudanese! Perhaps like the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, he thinks to hell with Sudan! Therefore, it was not strange to hear Osama say, “Tell Bashir and Bush that the agreement is not worth the paper it is written on and cannot restrict us.” (Note Bin Laden’s use of the word us, as if he is a child of Umm Durman in Sudan!)

Bin Laden referred to other issues as well. He condemned the western “crusaders'” siege on Hamas, despite their victory through democratic means. He did not forget to mention the controversial issues such as the Danish cartoons and the changes to curricula concerning religious teaching. He condemned the “mockers of religion” with reference to writers and intellects.

There have been changes however, as Bin Laden expressed his joy at Hamas’ victory despite through elections that were organized with the agreement of Israel. Bin Laden however, ignored this, as it does not serve to fulfill the desirable goal of strengthening terrorism by making religion central to the conflict.

It appears that with all the developments taking place in the region, Bin Laden realized that drawing a line between fundamentalist political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas is Palestine and harsh movements such as Al-Qaeda, is harmful.

Bin Laden’s most recent words have confirmed what many have said, that Al-Qaeda is ready to ride any wave for its own interest.

Returning to the African theme, Bin Laden encourages young Al-Qaeda supporters and members to study the tribal and geographical situations of Darfur. What is different about this discussion is that it occurred in the same week in which the Godfather of political Islam in Sudan, Hassan Turabi, spoke about the Darfur crisis. Turabi, in his discussion with Asharq Al Awsat, said that the Darfur crisis can be solved in “one session” by giving Muslim minority tribal groups some compensations and appointing them official positions. Turabi’s opinion differs to that of Bin Laden, who considers Darfur a crusade against Islam and Muslims.

The two men, Turabi and Bin Laden were once in the same boat when Bin Laden was a guest in Khartoum. According to the Yemeni Nasser Al-Bahri (Abu Jandal), Bin Laden’s guard who spoke to Al-Quds newspaper one month ago, the honeymoon period between the two was over when Turabi visited Bin Laden three days in a row “during which long and heated discussions took place to convince Bin Laden to leave Sudan.” Bin Laden had wanted to remain in Sudan as part of his plan for Al-Qaeda to move into Africa and south of the peninsula considering the Yemen war in 1994 and the Somali crisis. He also had plans for Liberia and Eritrea according to Abu Jandal. He added, “From what I learnt from Bin Laden and others, Abu Ubaidah Al Banshiri, a top Egyptian aide to Bin Laden who drowned in Lake Victoria in 1996 was designated to make use of African conflicts such as Burundi and Rwanda to facilitate the infiltration of Al-Qaeda in Africa.” Therefore, the main idea is to exploit conflicts for the benefit of Al-Qaeda.

The odd part of Bin Laden’s statement was his campaign against Arab writers. This demonstrates that some of what is said and written in newspapers is read by Bin Laden in his cave. Perhaps a daily roundup of the media is prepared for him just as it is for senior ministers and politicians. If my assumption is correct, I hope that whoever prepares the next media roundup includes my article and reads to him the following questions: Have you read about Turabi’s recent statements regarding his opinion on women, Jews and Christians, the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man? If you have, could you please tell us if you consider Turabi one of the “mockers of religion”? Furthermore, if Hamas responds to your recent statement and to your right-hand man Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s brief words by telling you that they do not need guidance from either of you, will you consider them also deluded and as people who turn away from the truth?

I hope that despite your busy schedule, you can answer these few questions during your next recording. Finally, I have one last wish that you leave Africa, Darfur and its issues as it has enough problems…

Best regards!

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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