In his latest appearance, Osama bin Laden reentered the world of Islamic politics to give his guidance to the faithful, attempting to influence the worldview of Muslims and the focus of Jihadists? efforts. Two new themes emerging with this latest recording are his urging of his followers to open a new Jihadist front in western Sudan , and his condemnation of liberal ?Arab thinkers,? who he refers to as ?critics of the religion.? He accuses his enemies of exploiting instability in Sudan (see this WAR Report) in order to move in and steal oil in the country, and he encourages Mujahideen to gather in western Sudan to fight.
Bin Laden uses events in Sudan to support his thesis of a ?Clash of Civilizations,? a phrase he employs in this speech and in others. Bin Laden?s ?Clash,? in something of a departure from Huntington?s original thesis, envisions a world in which the West and its allies are waging a ?crusader? campaign against the Islamic world in order to Christianize it, steal its resources and land, and generally subvert its peoples. Standing in the way of this campaign are global Jihadist entities and the awareness of the Muslim peoples, who Bin Laden has been attempting to awaken and enlighten for about a decade, so that they can resist the Crusader conquest. To this end, he crafts cunning narratives to explain Islamic world tragedies in places like the Palestinian Territories, Chechnya, Afghanistan , Iraq , and now, Sudan. It may seem that Bin Laden is diffusing the energies of his supporters: urging them to fight in Iraq in one speech, fight the Saudi government in another, liberate Pakistan in yet another, and now, open a front in the western Sudan. However, the idea is to create the impression that Islam?s enemies have opened a multi-front war on the pan-Islamic nation and only by resisting this enemy can Muslims hope to counter this campaign.
Traitors and Trojan horses for Crusader aggression must be identified to Muslims so that they can also counter these manifestations and vehicles of the enemy. This is where Bin Laden and deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri hurl condemnation upon Arab and Muslim regimes that cooperate with the United States . In this recent recording, Bin Laden adds liberal Arab ?thinkers? to that category, and he mentions the ?culture raid? occurring as the West infiltrates Muslim countries via television and radio. As much as Zawahiri and Bin Laden are building lists of viable targets for terrorist attacks, they are also crafting and selling a worldview built upon the foundation of their own interpretation of the Clash of Civilizations.
How effective their efforts have been is hard to gauge. One small indication that Muslims may identify with at least part of Bin Laden?s message can be found in the results of an opinion poll that Al-Jazeera posted on their website after airing the video. The poll asked, ?Do you agree with Bin Laden that there is a Crusader campaign against the Islamic world?? As of April 25, 83 percent of respondents had answered ?yes.?
Also new and notable in this recent speech is Bin Laden?s attempt to justify any future violence against those involved, or perceived to have been involved, in the Mohammed cartoon spectacle . He equates the event to a story dating back to the time of the Prophet, in which Mohammed ordered that a man named Kab bin al-Ashraf be killed because he had recited poetry that Mohammed deemed offensive. Bin Laden said, ?according to the way of the Prophet, Kab bin al-Ashraf and everyone who defames God and His Prophet should be killed. Yes, killing such people would please God and His Prophet. It is something that God has commanded, and His Prophet (Peace and Blessings of God upon Him) has encouraged.?
Bin Laden is also critical of those who requested an apology for the cartoons. He says that an apology was insufficient, that ?the criminals must be punished.? It is not only on Denmark that he focuses, but on all those that he perceives supported Denmark on the issue, including other European countries.
In his speech, it is on this issue that he focuses the most time and expresses with the most immediacy (judging from what Al-Jazeera has posted of the transcript so far; parts of the recording may still be omitted). Bin Laden is calling for vengeance and laying out the Islamic justifications as well as Prophetic precedent for violence against people or entities identified with the cartoon scandal. It is an ominous threat toward European countries, especially Denmark, that Bin Laden is now urging Muslims under his influence to ?punish? those involved or those supportive of the publishing of the cartoons, a group that can be broadly defined. While it is debated whether Bin Laden retains the ability to send his terrorists to carry out attacks of his own design, it is clear that he still has the power to influence his followers, chiefly through his statements and pronouncements. For those desiring revenge toward European countries, publications, or individuals who insulted Islam, the sanction and the encouragement of such vengeance from the al-Qaeda leader may now make violence more likely.