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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.. - Editor],8599,178705,00.html

Bin Laden vs. Bush: The Battle for Arab Minds

The Saudi terrorist is making a skillful pitch to the Arab political center


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 performance.

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 grievances.

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 affinity.

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 strong.

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 more."

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 hypocrites.

According to Islam, which considers the Koran the word of God, hypocrites are doomed to a hell worse than the one that awaits nonbelievers.

"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 disbelief."

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 mountain warrior.

"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."