Bin Laden, Catalyst for Democracy
The latest Arab dictator, Usama bin Laden, has been issuing his edicts fast and furious. Bomb the oil pipelines. Bomb the Shiites and the Americans. Zarqawi is now the “Amir of Iraq,” and Iraqi Muslims should “listen to him.”
While the US may not have gone far in promoting the ideal of democracy in the Middle East, bin Laden has done a remarkable job of stimulating forward thinking among Arabs and Muslims.
With each new diatribe and beheading video, with each car bomb and civilian massacre, al-Qaeda presents a challenge to the Arab world, an absolute vision of society and governance, and an estimate of its ultimate cost in blood. The Arab world has responded with a countervailing view and a renaissance of the Arab liberalism so hearty in the 19th and 20th centuries until the rise of Nassarism and Bathism.
Reform, elections, judicial independence, stemming corruption: these are the buzzwords on the Arab street today, and this is the essential work of the pioneering Iraqis. The transition of executive power in Egypt, Lebanese independence, minority rights in Syria, freedom of press in Yemen, youth enfranchisement in Saudi Arabia: these are the topics of modern patriots in the Middle East, their hope derived from free Iraqi labor unions and political parties and the anonymous anti-corruption hotline in Baghdad.
Opposite these concepts of reform are the nihilistic ideology of al-Qaeda and the bloody tactics of the “Amir of Iraq,” Zarqawi, who freely murders innocent children, patriotic Iraqis, and poor truck drivers.
In bin Laden’s distorted mirror, tinges of Western Islamophobia are an unforgivable crime against billions of Muslims, but Eastern Anglophobia is a great revelation of truth. Hate speech vilifying a people is no sign of enlightenment at either end of the spectrum.
Bin Laden decries the treatment of the Muslim minority in the West, and perversely he encourages the subjugation (if not annihilation) of Shiites and Hindus in the East. Minority rights are as relevant to Yemen’s garbage toting Akhdam community, to the Kurds in Syria, and to the Filipino maids in Saudi Arabia, as they are on the streets of Brooklyn. Religious pluralism encompasses Christians in Egypt as well as Muslims in the Netherlands.
Holding up one half of the equation, while denying the truth of the opposing other half, bin Laden’s ideology is logically and morally inconsistent in addition to being egotistical and just plain cruel.
The fundamental threat to al-Qaeda by Iraq’s elections is demonstrated by the murderous effort to disrupt them, by the blood pouring on the street, and the unending explosions. A self-determining Iraqi people who reject extreme fundamentalism and terrorist tactics, who refuse to ally along sectarian lines, who embrace consensus not force, may be the death knoll of both regional dictatorships and bin Laden’s cult of personality, thus both oppose a positive outcome.
Don’t vote is bin Laden’s latest decree to the Iraqi Sunnis: “Everyone who participates in this election will be considered an infidel.” According to bin Laden, who apparently believes himself the sole and rightful judge of all humanity, voting and self determination are in opposition to the correct life, as if the heart and the brain and the mouth are accidental appendages.
In his view, “a council of wise men” is the correct formulation of governance. In Iraq, he proposes trading one autocratic regime for another, Saddam for Zarqawi, a global tyranny to replace many individual ones. Yet even Zarqawi, the coward of Fallujah, knows that a successful Iraqi election will be al-Qaeda’s biggest defeat: if “the government extends its control over the country, we will have to pack our bags and break camp for another land.”
For bin Laden, democracy has long been is the “faith of the ignorant.” With more videos than Brittany Spears, more costume changes than Sir Elton John, and more rationales than George Bush: presto! Bin Laden is now a reformer, calling for elections and assuming the language of modernity without adopting the fundamental principals: “Muslims are determined to recover their rights whatever the price. Either you give them back what they entrusted you with [power], by allowing them to choose their rulers, or you refuse to give power back to them,” he says.
Allow them to choose their rulers, Usama? Since when?
Will bin Laden abort his bloody jihad if Muslims, in exercising their rights, choose a representative ruler that does not proscribe to his harsh outlook and rigid guidelines? More likely, bin Laden will flip-flop back and call them all infidels, misguided and corrupted.
It is unfortunate for civilians worldwide that bin Laden didn’t get the message when millions of Muslims failed to flock to Afghanistan to live in the Utopia of the Taliban’s regime.
Bin Laden is championing sectarian divisions just as Muslims are calling for religious pluralism. He touts authoritarian rule while Arabs risk their liberty to promote greater participation in government. He spews a wave of Anglophobia as Islamophobia is condemned by the right thinking globally.
Democracy has been chosen by humans as the structure most likely to safeguard and nurture them and has become the predominant form of governance globally. Heroic Iraqis stand for their nation and their children, but they bleed for all Arabs, and they die for the liberty of all Muslims. The Iraqi election, undertaken in the face of so much adversity, will free a region, not just a nation, a world not just a people. Bin Laden by seeking to enslave has made freedom more precious.
Jane Novak is an American political analyst regularly published in the Middle East. She maintains the website http://armiesofliberation.com This article was previously published by Middle East Transparent.
Arab Times, Kuwait