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The Market of Delusions Still Exists! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In a matter of days, fundamentalist terrorism erupted in Pakistan, Yemen

and Mauritania to remind all those who had forgotten and to inform all those are unaware that the war is still at its strongest, and that it would not be rational or the correct to believe that the “cautious calm” of the past two years (to borrow from the Lebanese civil war terminology) is an indication that the battle is over, or even close to ending.

Each battlefield has its own unique characteristics; in Pakistan, Al Qaeda attacked a major hotel killing dozens of people. This time, Al Qaeda used the title ‘Pakistani Taliban’ and the pretext for the attack was revenge for Pakistani military operations conducted against Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of the country.

In Yemen, Al Qaeda attacked the US embassy, killing many ordinary Yemenis, including, ironically, a young American-Yemeni woman who was related to Jaber Elbaneh, a wanted member of Al Qaeda in Yemen. This young woman headed to Yemen from America to get married. Before the attack, the group demanded that members and leaders of Al Qaeda held by the Yemeni security forces be released.

As for the attack in Mauritania, eleven soldiers were slaughtered in the desert by members of Al Qaeda in retaliation for Mauritanian security operations against them.

Let us remember that there are those who argue that terrorism is an act of American imperialism to distract the people and attack Islam in its entirety and that terrorism was brought to a close by virtue of the efficiency of security confrontations. Moreover, [there are those who state that] Arab and Muslim nations have discovered the truth behind this deception as they are not responsible for the sins of terrorists. There are also those who claim that we must not exaggerate the problems of terrorism and the cultural and intellectual aspects related to it because this is exactly what America and the enemies of Islam want in order for us to feel guilty and abandon our identity…and so on and so forth.

This is what we have been told, especially over the past two years. We have also been told that the film has ended and that the credits have rolled, and that America was no longer capable of finishing its film. Yet here we are, watching as Al Qaeda unleashes its religious violence relentlessly and not just over the past few days but throughout the course of the past few months in Algeria, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the manner in which these operations took place was different and unlike the attacks that followed 9/11. The delusion that has blinded those who underplay [the ideology of terrorism] and those who believe in the American film theory is that Al Qaeda will never stop in its campaign of terror to spread religious violence. What has happened is that the world has realized the danger that the organisation poses and has upped the level of security cooperation against it. Even Syria, and perhaps Iran, has come to take action against it in one way or another depending on the political circumstances.

However, on the other hand, Al Qaeda, its various branches and its counterparts, have developed their methods. It is like a virus that changes its nature every time it is cured. For example, the method of online communication between members of Al Qaeda has evolved significantly and this is indicated by their ability to Arabize advanced technologies to cover up any correspondence between them.

The delusion of those who underestimate the danger of the terrorist “ideology” or terrorism in general is reflected in the false sense of security. This security however, upon which society relies, is built on sweat, toil and tension, the backbone of continuous pursuits by security apparatus and these pursuits cannot falter at any moment as that may provide the suicide bomber the opportunity to create death, destruction and terror.

Are our nations failing in the fight against terrorism? The question that we should in fact ask is whether the Arab and Islamic nation is prepared to confront religious fanaticism. It is religious fanaticism that paves the way for religious terrorism. Every terrorist by necessity is a religious fanatic but not all religious fanatics are necessarily terrorists.

There is sluggishness and weakness in dismantling the mentality of religious fanaticism, and great caution in any attempt to criticise the words of militants, as this would open Pandora’s Box that the mind or collective consciousness could not bear to be opened.

A study published recently by the Pew Research Centre in Washington showed a promising decline over the last six years in the number of Muslims who support suicide bombings, as well as in the proportion of Muslims who support the actions of Osama Bin Laden. However, we should not be too happy about this or consider it evidence of the rise of a new consciousness against Al Qaeda and its ideology. It is important not to draw misleading conclusions from such surveys, which are influenced by the current affairs at the time and the way in which the questions are formulated. I do not believe that any rational person would say that Arab or Islamic societies gain some kind of pleasure from the bombings and assassinations that they witness carried out by Al Qaeda in any of their countries or cities. At the end of the day, people only want to be safe from harm so from this angle, it is easy to see why most people have abandoned Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The real question, however, is: have these people abandoned the ideologies of fanaticism and terrorism, or have they abandoned the goals that Al Qaeda hopes to achieve? The importance of this distinction, from my point of view, is that it makes a final distinction between those who support terrorism and those who do not. Is this distinction temporary or permanent?

Some support Al Qaeda as a way to irritate their own government or to anger America or simply to support a model of Islamic “heroism” as a result of what many minds are being fed and this champion is represented as a fighter against the infidels and a source of terror for them. Even if Osama Bin Laden does not order his men to carry out explosive and murderous operations in Islamic cities, perhaps in the hearts of many, he would be crowned as a new “Caliph” for the Muslims or a modern-day Salahuddin. This is the bitter truth that leads to overcoming Al Qaeda by delving deep within us and exploring our own psychological and intellectual weaknesses.

Arab intellectuals, and I am not referring to Islamists, are misleading Arab society by playing down the intellectual crisis that Islamic societies are enduring and they follow conspiracy theories until they have dwarfed the danger of this ideology. They focus on manipulating the energies created by Al Qaeda’s actions towards the ambitions of political debate between Arab and Islamic governments and their oppositions and claim that what is happening is not a product of terrorism but the result of the absence of democracy, despite that the biggest dream of every freedom-loving human being is a strong and permanent democracy. However, the persistence in associating terrorism to the absence of democracy is merely some kind of wrangling with Arab regimes because, in fact, religious terrorism is driven by other factors, none of which have anything to do with democracy. Fundamentalists say so themselves in a frank manner. They are democracy’s worst enemy, but our respected intellectuals do not want to listen to this and instead want to speak on their behalf!

Very few intellectuals have picked up on this delusional association between the problem of democracy and the problem of Al Qaeda. One of the few is Amr Hamzawy, a political researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who wrote, ‘In all honesty, sometimes I made television appearances in going with the demagogy of the dominant trends of Arab public opinion despite my own misgivings and confusion about it. I attacked the West, and cursed the ambitions of Americans and Europeans in our world.’ He admitted that he paid no attention to ‘opposition of any nature whether Islamic, Liberal or Leftist, its structure, its practice or its substance,’ (Al Hayat, September 18, 2008).

But mostly, we see examples of self-exoneration and boredom of “light” doses of criticism that are aimed at our fanatical discourse and these doses have no effect at all even when the ‘Management of Savagery’ book was discovered by the Saudi security authorities in the possession of Al Qaeda members. Some insinuate that the book could not have been authored by a member of Al Qaeda. Rather, it is the product of US intelligence, which strengthens the idea that Washington supported these young people in the struggle against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and became very well acquainted with them and discovered a way to achieve its ambitions through them, which paved the way for current events. Then a constitution of savagery was in place that stated that they must fight violence with violence and this is what the United States is doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What an astonishing analysis! This means that we should not curse the “curse of terrorism” according to some people who criticise terrorism and its ideology. Rather, we have discovered that the US security service secretly authored the book and forced it into the hands of the Al Qaeda youth. It is as if this is the first book in which Al Qaeda and its followers talk about numerous plans to kill and preparations to attack and designs of operational and functional methods. It is as if Abu Musab al Suri and Abdul Kader Abdul Aziz had never written their two books, ‘The Syria Experiment,’ and ‘The Master of Preparations’ respectively. These are far more important than the ‘Management of Savagery’.

There is nothing left to say except that what Al Qaeda is doing, or what it will do, is not a result of the lack of democracy in the Islamic world, or the result of a mysterious covert US plot for it to accomplish certain goals that we do not know exactly. What Al Qaeda is doing, and what it will do is a result of ideology first and foremost, and the ideological product is not met by a product to resist and compete with it that will keep resisting in order to survive like Al Qaeda but through the use of words alone.

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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