Osama bin Laden's phenomenon

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - Terrorist number one, the elusive Osama bin Laden has become a symbol of militant Islam. On March 20, he made his first appearance this year on a radical Muslim site.

The audiotape lasted for five minutes and three seconds. It was accompanied by bin Laden's blurry image with a Kalashnikov rifle.

"The response will be what you see and not what you hear, and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," bin Laden said, pledging himself to take revenge on Europe, which again dared to publish Prophet Mohammed cartoons.

Bin Laden issued a fatwa, saying: "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country where it is possible to do so..." Michael Scheuer, appointed the first head of the CIA's bin Laden unit after the fatwa's publication, believes that this message is a serious challenge to Europe.

The Washington Post wrote in this context that all attempts by Western intelligence to infiltrate al-Qaeda's leadership have ended in failure, and that the United States and Europe have underrated the enemy in the hope to destabilize it by traditional methods.

The influential newspaper is probably right, all the more so since a number of U.S. experts, including Vice President of the Center for Security Policy Alex Alexiev, believe that the U.S. anti-terrorist strategy is far from being perfect because it rests exclusively on a military basis.

Maybe, intelligence services are looking for al-Qaeda in the wrong place? Maybe, fighting against the Taliban won't help this purpose? Bin Laden wrote what is referred to as a fatwa in August 1996(1), and was one of several signatories of another and shorter fatwa in February of 1998(2). Taliban's supreme leader Mullar Omar said that any fatwa issued by bin Laden is "null and void," and prohibited the Afghans to follow it. Afghan emissaries trading Russian weapons in Chechnya had nothing to do with the Taliban, either.

Maybe the world does not understand the threat of terrorism and does not know its source. Are there reasons to consider bin Laden and al-Qaeda the main sources of terrorism? Or is al-Qaeda no more than a symptom of a much more serious disease?

Alexiev writes about "the most radical, fascist-like interpretation of Islam that has increasingly become the dominant idiom in the Muslim world." In this case, it will pose a serious threat to the world even if al-Qaeda is totally destroyed.

Strictly military measures will not do the job. It is essential to make the very ideology and methods of terrorism absolutely illegal, and not before the eyes of the Muslim world but with its assistance.

For the time being, the Muslim world has not displayed much readiness for such assistance. Maybe, the Islamic radicals who are posting statements by bin Laden and al-Qaeda believe that this is a form of dialogue between the two civilizations?

Iranian Justice Minister Gholam-Hossein Elham was right when he told his Danish counterpart that freedom of speech should not be used to cover up attacks on moral and religious values. But it would be useful to hear an assessment of bin Laden's statements by the Iranian president or the Saudi king. Their countries have a special weight in the Muslim world.

The geography of terrorist attacks is too broad to be limited to al-Qaeda. It is enough to mention events in Pakistan, Spain, Uzbekistan (Andijan), Beslan, and Iraq, to name but a few. But no matter how these groups may be scattered, they are united by the same ideology of terror.

Many experts believe that bin Laden made his recent statement much earlier than March 20. That is, it was not prompted by the second publication of the cartoons. But its appearance coincided in time with a marked increase in the jihad-related sites.

It is quite possible that bin Laden's electronic image is kept by all terrorist organizations and is posted whenever it is appropriate. The popular Soviet slogan "Lenin is more alive than the living" may well be applied to bin Laden.

There is no guarantee that many years later his electronic image with a Kalashnikov rifle will not tell the European Parliament for turning down the demand to grant a 50% quota to a faction of the European Muslim Union: "The response will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God."

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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