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Time: Bin Laden vs. Bush: The Battle for Arab Minds
By Tony Karon
11/10/2001 2:39 am Thu
[Rencana yang dikepilkan ini memanglah agak berat sebelah dan amat
tidak menyenangkan tetapi apa yang ingin ditekankan di sini ialah peperangan
itu bukan setakat diluar sana tetapi di dalam minda yang tentunya lebih hebat
dan lagi berbisa. Bush nampaknya perlu berkerja dengan lebih masa dan menguatkan
lagi serangan medianya kerana semua serangan menggilanya melalui CNN
(dan lain-lain termasuk Time juga) telah tertewas oleh satu serangbalas
mudah dari Osama (melalui tayangan klip video Al Jazeera beberapa minit
sahaja). Sekarang Amerika sudah mula resah dengan media Al Jazeera. Perhatikan
stesen TV dan sistem komunikasi menjadi sasaran utama A.S. di Afghanistan..
Bin Laden vs. Bush: The Battle for Arab Minds
The Saudi terrorist is making a skillful pitch to the Arab political center
BY TONY KARON
Tuesday, Oct. 09, 2001
In the wake of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden has
proved just how dangerous he is - not simply because he can elude
American missiles and orchestrate terrorist atrocities on U.S. soil, but
because of his nimble use of the media to paint his atrocities as the pursuit
of widely-held Arab goals.
A second day of U.S. bombing of Taliban and Al Qaida targets in
Afghanistan Tuesday evoked reactions in the Muslim world ranging from
muted, conditional endorsement to violent hostility. Of course, many of
those governments that remained silent on the air strikes have been
actively cooperating with the U.S. effort behind the scenes. Still, the limited
public support from Arab and Muslim states may be testimony to the power
of Bin Laden's propaganda appeal.
For weeks, Western media have been agonizing over the question, "What
does Bin Laden want?" The fugitive Saudi terrorist stepped up and
answered the question directly on Sunday, releasing a taped interview on
Qatar's Al Jezeera TV network only hours before the first U.S. cruise
missiles entered Afghan airspace. And it was a remarkably shrewd
After weeks of denying authorship of the September 11 attacks, Bin Laden
essentially claimed responsibility - by attributing the atrocities to Allah. And
also, by warning that there will be more attacks until his demands are met:
"Neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before
we live it in Palestine, and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of
Muhammad." Cynical as his evocation of the plight of the Palestinians may
have been - Bin Laden's personal sense of insecurity right now is entirely
of his own making, and the Palestinian Authority were quick to rebuke his
appropriation of their suffering to justify murdering American innocents. But,
all in all, it was a crafty pitch for the Arab middle ground by packaging his
terror campaign in a wrapping of popular Arab concerns.
Osama stays on message
President Bush has been working overtime these past three weeks to
present the U.S. as a friend of Islam going to war with an apostate who
defiled that faith by butchering innocents. This is not a war against Islam,
the President has insisted. Nor are the military strikes directed against the
Afghan people, but instead against the thugs who hold them in mediaeval
bondage - a point underlined by the symbolic food drops in the wake of
the first air strikes.
But here was Bin Laden, pinching at old wounds and insisting that this was
precisely a war between the "faithful" and the "infidel." He couched his
appeal squarely in the Arab perception of abuse at Western hands dating
back to the breakup of the Ottoman empire (twice he mentioned "80 years"
of "humiliation and degradation") and draped himself in the mantle of some
of the Arab world's most popular grievances - the plight of the Palestinians
and Iraqis, and the continued presence of non-Muslim troops in Saudi
Arabia. And he attempted to remind Arab audiences that the campaign
against him is led by a nation many Arabs regard as an author of these
And so, the battle is joined for the hearts and minds of the Arab mainstream.
Bin Laden may be a vicious terrorist committed to regressive theocratic
totalitarianism that would repel many in the Arab world, but he is articulating
grievances many of them share. And the goal of his propaganda appeal is
less to win them over to his own side, than to keep them on the sidelines as
he does battle with an enemy for whom few Arabs feel much warmth or
The U.S. needs the maximum active Arab and Muslim support to wage an
effective battle against Bin Laden, not simply for appearances sake but
because beating the terrorists requires that they be isolated. To achieve it,
Washington has had to scramble to repair relations with the Arab world that
have frayed badly since the Gulf War, and particularly in the past year of
the Palestinian uprising. And while most moderate Arab regimes recognize
that Bin Laden represents a mortal threat to their own survival and are
willing to lend intelligence cooperation to an effort to take him down, the
anti-American mood on their streets limits the extent to which they can
openly support the campaign. Unlike in the Gulf War, when Arab armies
marched into battle alongside U.S. forces, there were no Arab or Muslim
leaders standing alongside President Bush in broad daylight as he
launched military action.
Containing the backlash
Indeed, many Arab and Muslim regimes will have their hands full
containing the backlash. Pakistani and Palestinian police shot dead
anti-American protestors Tuesday, and the Israeli-Palestinian flashpoint
retains the potential to destabilize the anti-terror coalition, as does Iraq.
Washington advised the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that it may launch
military action against countries other than Afghanistan, raising suspicions
that Iraq may join the target list - a possibility likely to be strongly resisted
by both Arab and European allies.
President Bush had gone to great lengths to avoid the perception of a
Western war against Islam. Yet that is exactly the war his enemy is trying to
fight. Even as the bombs are falling on Afghanistan, the two sides are
fighting to define their conflict in the minds of the uncommitted. America's
Arab and Muslim allies, have been far from enthusiastic about the air
strikes. Even those who support the campaign appear to be wincing in
anticipation of a domestic backlash, and hoping that the visible dimension
of the anti-terror war is over as soon possible. But as Washington keeps
emphasizing, this is going to be a long war. Longest, perhaps, for those
governments in the Arab and Muslim world who stand with the U.S.
Bin Laden on TV: His Call to Battle Stirs Emotion Among Muslims
Susan Sachs New York Times Service
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
CAIRO Osama bin Laden's televised speech, broadcast worldwide,
mesmerized many Muslims with its religious and historical imagery, a
powerful combination that magnified his standing with people who
wanted to see him as a heroic spokesman for the weak against the
The taped speech, first broadcast Sunday over a popular Arabic
satellite channel, Al Jazeera, and rebroadcast repeatedly by CNN and
other stations, provided the Saudi-born exile with his most visible forum
ever to deliver his view of Muslim history and to vent a litany of
grievances widely shared in the Arab world.
Mr. bin Laden, eerily calm, educated and wealthy, recalled what he
characterized as 80 years of humiliation for Islamic peoples. "What
America is tasting now is only a copy of what we have tasted," he said.
Framed in the camera eye by barren rock and a solitary rifle, Mr. bin
Laden summoned up Islam's desert roots. He spoke of swords and
horses and the camp of the infidel enemy.
His language recalled the contained fury of passages in the Koran
where God promises Muslims that they will triumph over nonbelievers
and hypocrites who only pretend to accept Islam.
"The way he talks, his tone and his quiet voice, his vocabulary and his
logic - it's all so charismatic," said Doaa Mostafa, a student of Arabic
literature at Ain Shams University in Cairo.
"He is so convincing. This was the first time I've seen him on TV and I
felt sure he is not a terrorist. I felt his aim is to protect Islam, nothing
Mr. bin Laden alluded to years of U.S. air strikes against Iraq, as well
as economic sanctions, and images of Israeli tanks rolling into
Palestinian towns, which he listed by name. Then he complained, "We
do not hear anyone raising his voice or reacting."
But while Mr. bin Laden impressed many Muslim listeners with his
simple phrases, his championing of the Palestinians and his flowery
contempt for the United States, he also frightened others with his vision
of an apocalyptic war between Muslims and non-Muslims.
"He made me feel he is defending the Arabs' rights, since all Arab
leaders are silent," said Mohammed Ahmed, another Ain Shams
student. "But I would prefer that he stop using violence and negotiate
instead of kill. We agree with him on his point of view, but we do not
agree with his methods."
In a familiar theme, he urged Arabs to rise up against their leaders,
whom he condemned for sympathizing with Americans over the airliner
attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, calling them
According to Islam, which considers the Koran the word of God,
hypocrites are doomed to a hell worse than the one that awaits
"The hypocrites," the Koran states in one of many such passages, "will
be in the lowest depths of the fire."
"This is language that can really reach the people, especially in the
Gulf where the tension is very high," said Fahmi Howeidi, an influential
writer on Islamic politics for Al Ahram in Cairo.
Similarly, the historical episodes Mr. bin Laden chose to invoke
revealed much about his view of the conflicts that continue to simmer in
the Arab world, placing them among Islam's greatest defeats. His
remark about 80 years of "humiliation and disgrace" was apparently a
reference to the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of
Britain's colonization of the Middle East after World War I.
In the same broadcast, Ayman Zawahiri, who is Mr. bin Laden's deputy
and leader of the Islamic Jihad group, vowed that "the tragedy of al
Andalus" would not be repeated.
He was referring to the period widely considered Islam's Golden Age of
Andalusia in Spain, which ended with the Muslims being driven out of
Europe by Christian armies in the 15th century.
He also spoke of the "Battle of Jerusalem," another cherished moment
of Islamic history when the Crusaders were ejected from the city by the
legendary commander Saladdin, who is spoken about today as vividly
as if he were still alive.
Both men spoke of battle - bloody, personal struggle for a cause - as
a purifying rite that glorifies men and nations.
Such historical allusions may well tap into the widespread sense of
siege among many Muslims, who see themselves threatened by a
modern world dominated by the United States and Western secularism.
But many Muslims may also find the reliance on nostalgia frightening. In
Mr. bin Laden's vision, an apocalyptic battle looms.
The world, he declared, is split into two camps: "the camp of belief and
Mr. bin Laden was not the first would-be savior of the Muslim world to
use the language of religion as part of his appeal.
But he has the distinct advantage of having been born into one of the
richest families in Saudi Arabia, while now living the austere life of a
"Here you have a simple man who presents himself as someone who
left behind millions of dollars to defend Muslim dignity," said Mr.
Howeidi, the Cairo writer.
"He has become the symbol now of challenge to the West."